Aug 15, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Lions center Travis Swanson (64) during the game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Lions 27-26. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
With Dominic Raiola suspended for the matchup between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, rookie center Travis Swanson was in line for the first start of his NFL career (at center). I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to highlight this year’s rookie class, and focus on the guys fortunate enough to start in a game of that magnitude (Swanson and Ebron).
I’ll be doing things slightly different this week and looking at what each player did in each offensive drive.
First play of the game is a designed run for Reggie Bush. Swanson, Warford and Sims do a great job of isolating three men to the right side, but Ebron and Reiff are unable to open up a lane for Bush.
It’s quite noticeable that Swanson still needs to get a little bit stronger to completely fill out his frame. On 3rd-and-1, Stafford leaves the pocket early after Swanson is pushed back by Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion who needed just one hand to engage and drive Swanson back a few yards.
The play ends in a sack, but this is mostly a result of receivers not getting open and Stafford holding onto the ball for too long.
Completely misses his assignment on the first run of the game and is only able to chip the defender rather than engage with him.
On third down, Stafford runs through his progressions and Ebron is unable to get open. Good coverage by the Packers.
Another three-and-out for the Lions. I could be wrong, but it appears that when the Lions run their “Shotgun” sets, Swanson gets the ball in Stafford’s hands a little quicker than Raiola has in the past.
Too many mistakes from the offensive line in the first two drives, Swanson was not one of them.
Mostly goal-line packages with Ebron on the sideline, but did manage to get open across the middle on third down. Unfortunately, Stafford threw it out of bounds towards Fuller instead.
The Lions finally start moving the ball against the Packers trailing 7-0. Swanson looks like he’s been their starting center for years. Very poised and his shotgun snaps are right on the money every time. His run blocking looks a lot better than his pass blocking right now, but that will change once he bulks up a bit more.
Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Here is a play on 2nd-and-8 that results in a seven yard run from Joique Bell. Swanson and Warford do a solid job of clearing out a path for Bell, but of course, Rob Sims gets completely shed from his assignment.
This rushing offense could be so much better with an upgrade at left guard.
Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Swanson makes his first mistake in the run game on a 2nd-and-10 when Letroy Guion blows right by him after timing the snap perfectly. The play results in a one-yard loss.
The very next play, Swanson allows his man to slip away and eventually force an inaccurate throw out of Stafford. The Lions are forced to punt for their third straight series.
Ebron could really improve as a blocker overall, but he does make some splashes here and there. Against the Packers, he was in pass protection just once. On that play, he made a huge statement.
Credit: NFL Game Rewind
Ebron pulls from the left tight end slot and delivers a nice pop to the blitzing weakside linebacker and allows Stafford to complete a 14-yard pass to Golden Tate. Nicely done.
Later in the drive, Ebron catches his first pass of the game for 22 yards. He’s able to beat Green Bay’s zone coverage and finds himself wide open across the middle of the field.
On the very next play, Stafford looks Ebron’s way again. Ebron runs an in-and-out route up the left sideline and does a poor job of selling it, but he does put himself in position for a possible catch. It’s a tough grab to make, and he loses control of the ball at the last possible second. As pointed out by Justin Simon of Pride of Detroit, Stafford actually had Calvin Johnson wide open on this play.
Detroit begins to march down the field yet again. Swanson is playing within himself and limiting his mistakes, but lack of execution from the rest of the offense causes the offense to stall right around Green Bay’s 30-yard line. The Lions turn the ball over on downs.
Not a good drive for Ebron. Dropped an easy pass on second down with the Lions finally threatening in Green Bay territory. They end up turning the ball over on downs.
Swanson’s pass protection looks much better at this point. Stafford gets plenty of time to throw throughout this offensive series, and is able to put the Lions on the board after connecting with Calvin Johnson for the first score of the game.
Ebron catches his second pass of the game on this drive. Once again, he connects with Stafford over the middle, this time for 19 yards. Ebron has a ton of talent. It’s just a matter of securing the ball and developing chemistry with Stafford at this point.