The Detroit Lions might not have a bigger question mark on offense than their rebuilt offensive line. Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola are the only two starters from 2012 season to return to the team, leaving three new starters to be broken in at the same time.
The only starter set in stone is Riley Reiff at left tackle. His quiet camp means he has been going about his business without cause for concern, that is, until Friday night. I pointed out in my quick thoughts post after the game that I was disappointed in Reiff’s performance. Pro Football Focus is already in mid-season form grading the performance of every player on every play and they back up my observation that Reiff simply wasn’t very good. His -1.9 overall rating for the game was the team’s second worst, only better than Theo Riddick’s -2.4. Of particular concern is that the bulk of Reiff’s negative rating (-1.5) comes from his pass blocking rating. Not a good first impression as the starting left tackle for a team who likes to throw the ball as much as the Lions.
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves – after all, Reiff may have just had a bad start without the benefit of playing time later in the game to make up for it. However, this is something to keep an eye on as the preseason progresses. Reiff’s one start at left tackle last year also happened to be his worst game score from PFF on the year at -2.7. The difference there was that Reiff primarily struggled in run blocking while coming out slightly positive in pass protection.
The game graders at PFF leave us with much better news at the two spots where position battles are in full force. No one played more snaps than Larry Warford and he was very good, earning an offense-best +2.3 overall rating (+1.5 pass block, +0.6 run block, +0.2 penalty). A group of guards vying for the starting job has made first-team reps in practice hard to come by. Warford earned his share leading into the first preseason game and his play should have him set up to take many more – perhaps even a start this week against the Browns.
One of the other Lions to earn a decidedly positive rating was Jason Fox. His +1.6 looks especially good compared to the -1.2 PFF gave Corey Hilliard. Fox was already the presumed leader and each players’ performance on Friday night only serves to reinforce that belief.
While we shouldn’t put too much stock in one outing, we now have a few more things to watch as the Lions 2013 offensive line takes shape throughout the rest of the preseason.