Grading the Detroit Lions: Offensive Line


This post is part of a series of posts in which I review the Lions position groups based on their play in the 2010 season. I assign a letter grade and give you a chance to have your say with a poll at the end.

There is no more polarizing position group for the Detroit Lions than the offensive line. Left tackle Jeff Backus and center Dominic Raiola have become poster boys for the decade of losing. The guard position has been a position without any semblance of consistency for a number of years. Right tackles Gosder Cherilus was bordering on first round bust status heading into the season.

Even with this season over and done with there is no consensus among fans. Whats more, it feels like the side that wants to run the entire line out of town AND the side that feels like the line is serviceable both feel like they have stronger arguments with 2010 behind us.

Some of the problems the running backs faced can be attributed to the offensive line. They routinely failed to move the line of scrimmage up field and individual breakdowns often allowed opposing defenders into the backfield.

Lions quarterbacks were sacked 27 times on the year, tied for sixth fewest in the NFL and eight fewer than league average. The offensive line gave up a sack on 4.1% of passing plays, fifth best in the league. The overall sack numbers look good but Jeff Backus gave up the big one that knocked Matthew Stafford out in week one. That is a big negative on Backus’ record but it didn’t stop a panel of NFC North personnel executives from naming him the top left tackle in the division.

Gosder Cherilus started playing with more consistency this season until an injury cost him the final few games but it will take another step forward to inspire more confidence from fans. Cherilus has been prone to mental mistakes and hasn’t shown an ability to know when to walk away from a scuffle. He has the physical tools to be successful but needs to continue to get a grasp on the mental side of the game.

Stephen Peterman played well a year ago and the line really fell apart after he was lost to injury. This year, Peterman battled foot problems that hampered his ability to hold his ground against the rush. The Lions don’t seem concerned with him when healthy but a lack of depth may have forced them to continue playing Peterman when it may have been in his and the team’s best interest to rest.

Rob Sims was steady but unspectacular at guard. Another year with the Lions should go a long way to help him settle in as chemistry within an offensive line unit is vastly underrated. At the very least, Sims’ contributions allow the Lions to look elsewhere when they consider their greatest team needs.

Ah, finally to Dominic Raiola. He is either too small to play center or too valuable as the guy making the line calls to replace. Which is it? Depends on who you’re talking to. In my opinion, the Lions have bigger issues than Raiola. Yes, he can have trouble handling a bull rush but he also seems to have the stamina to hold up later in the game while the big guys that present problems earlier in the game wear down. I suppose I would rather have a guy that is capable of winning the battles in the fourth quarter as opposed to the first. Can the Lions do better than Raiola? Probably. Do they absolutely need to in order to reach the playoffs? Probably not.

Overall offensive line grade: C-

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