Detroit Lions Midseason Grades: Offensive Tackle Report Card
By Dean Holden
Aug 29, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Detroit Lions tackle Riley Reiff (71) blocks Buffalo Bills linebacker Jamaal Westerman (93) as quarterback Shaun Hill (14) passes during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Lions beat the Bills 35-13. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
It’s only fair to start with the guy considered most important on the offensive line, who took over for Jeff Backus after 12 seasons. Reiff has been… okay. He’s doing his predecessor proud, starting all eight games this season and missing only 29 snaps (against Cincinnati when he strained his hamstring). He has given up three sacks and five hits on Matthew Stafford, but he has remained generally free of penalties. Pro Football Focus (PFF) has him graded at a respectable +2.5 on the season.
Predictably, Reiff has been a better run blocker than a pass blocker, but he has only really had poor games pass blocking against Minnesota (Jared Allen), Green Bay (Clay Matthews), and Cincinnati (Michael Johnson/Carlos Dunlap). Those are the kinds of bumps a young player like Reiff needs to go through. For his first half-season starting, he’s doing just fine.
There were a lot of calls for the Lions to draft an offensive tackle with the fifth overall pick back in April, and they may have, had the top three tackles not been drafted in the first four picks. Much of the reason for that was the concern that Reiff wasn’t ready to start at left tackle, and would be better suited to right.
Reiff isn’t playing at a Pro Bowl level or anything, and he has struggled a bit against the league’s best pass rushers… but doesn’t everyone? As a former first-round draft pick, it’s hard to outdo expectations, but he’s one of the players that has taken the offensive line from a unit to panic and complain about to one that is generally ignored.
Reiff needs to improve his work against the pass rush, and other than that, he’s on the right track. There’s very little to complain about in Reiff’s play, especially when you consider this is his first year starting and he’s at the offensive line’s marquee position. He’s only going to get better from here.