Ranked currently as the #2 center in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, and having played all of his 13 seasons in Detroit, meet Dominic Raiola. A fixture here on this Detroit team, Raiola is one of the primary reasons why Matthew Stafford has been sacked so little these past few years. Born in Honolulu, Raiola exudes blue-collar football. He trains hard, he loves the team and he’s the keystone to one of the most effective offensive lines in the league.
Raiola’s thirteenth season was considered his best. Of course, the previous two seasons had their moments. Few people will forget the Titans game in 2012, or the snowy game in Philly last season where some snaps were off, and one was blatantly early. These examples are the exception to Dom’s play, however. When a player only has two or three notable botches in a 13-year career, that’s pretty darn good. It happens to be easy to get angry at a player when he messes up a play, yet otherwise his solid play goes unnoticed and expected. When one looks at the number of times Stafford has been sacked, only 23 last season, we can see that the good of Raiola’s play definitely outweighs the ‘bad.’
Prognosis for the offensive-line this coming season looks good. Raiola is the oldest member of the line, and the overall youth this season should bode well for keeping Stafford’s protection healthy. Larry Warford and Riley Reiff have both played incredibly well and have afforded Matthew Stafford excellent protection. Lions fans can expect more solid play in 2014.
The run-game in Detroit has also had a helping hand from solid offensive-line play. 2013 saw the best rushing season for the Lions since Barry Sanders. Solid blocking and open running lanes gave teeth to the Lions run-game for the first time in years. Detroit fans should be looking forward to another year where teams are forced to respect a well-rounded Lions offense, and much of this new-found respect can be attributed to guys like Raiola.