Detroit Lions 2013 Review and Offseason Plan: Guard


Nov 24, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions offensive guard

Larry Warford

(75) high fives teammates prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Today we take a look at how the Detroit Lions guards performed during the 2013 season with a little help from the fine folks at Pro Football Focus.

The radar chart below shows the Pro Football Focus grades for the Lions guards who played at least 25% of the team’s snaps and compares them to the best, worst and league average ratings. PFF grades each player on each play to produce a massively useful tool for evaluating the totality of a player’s season compared to others at his position.

2013 Season Review
One of the specific problems Martin Mayhew identified after the 2012 season was the interior of the offensive line allowing too much pressure. What was an issue in 2012 became a strength in 2013 as Rob Sims and Larry Warford combined to allow just one sack and ten hits on the quarterback. Warford was particularly solid, earning a team-best pass block rating of +12.1 from Pro Football Focus. That was good enough to finish third-best in the NFL. Warford ranked 19th in the league for his run blocking according to PFF but was still solidly positive. In total, Warford, a 2013 third-round draft pick, finished with PFF’s fourth-highest overall rating for guards.

Sims has always been a better pass blocker than run blocker but he didn’t grade out with the kind of pass blocking rating that he needed to make up for a run block grade that was even below average for him. Still, Sims came out looking right about average as shown in the radar chart. With Warford looking like a Pro Bowler, the Lions had an acceptable pairing in 2013.

Offseason Plan
Rob Sims’ name has sometimes come up as a potential cap casualty if the Lions decided to make some deep cuts but that isn’t an idea I can get behind. Sims wasn’t as good in 2013 as he had been in previous seasons for the Lions but the $3.775 million cap hit for the final year of his contract ranks 25th among NFL guards according to A very reasonable sum for a dependable veteran.

With Sims and Warford returning as starters, all the Lions need to concern themselves with is depth with an eye toward the future. The Lions liked Rodney Austin enough to promote him from the practice squad after he received offers from other teams to join their active roster. Should the Lions choose to draft Dominic Raiola‘s successor, he will likely serve as guard depth as well as the backup center.

The potential move that could lead to a lot of changes is if a storm of circumstances lead to the Lions using their first pick on an offensive tackle they believe will become elite. That could set in motion a series of moves in which Riley Reiff ends up at guard, perhaps not in 2014 but in 2015.

Previously: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Tight Ends, CenterOffensive Tackle