Detroit Lions Positional Analysis: Offensive Line Rushing


In the same way we previously found the effect that protecting the quarterback has on winning, today we’ll delve into what can make the Detroit Lions offensive line win from a rushing standpoint.

In the analysis, I found some things that were not necessarily surprising. For example, the St. Louis Rams lead the league in average yards per carry, but have only 5 wins on the season.  The Cowboys are 5th in yards per carry but only have 4 wins.  Getting chunk plays on the ground is not directly correlated to success and both of the above teams have struggled mightily in the pass game, which indicates balance is necessary for success.

Digging further into the numbers, it became apparent that one single stat fit best with regards to winning. Also not necessarily surprisingly, that statistic is rushing touchdowns. Below is a scatterplot that shows the apparent effect rushing touchdowns have on winning.

Data Source:

Where do the Lions rank on this list? The Lions are tied for 3rd last in touchdowns and are tied for 2nd last in wins. You might combat that notion with the statistic that Detroit’s red zone conversion rate is the best in the NFL this year, which is correct. However, what does that say about balance?

To me, that indicates that the team’s passing game is exceeding in the red zone beyond reasonable expectations that could continue. So, they should step up and balance the other side of the offense. This will keep defenses guessing and help the red zone conversion rate remain the league’s best as teams increase their focus on covering the Lions’ pass attack in the red zone.

There is another reason that developing the killer instinct in the run game with regards to touchdowns will help out where the Lions have failed miserably this year. That reason is closing out big leads. At least twice in 2015 the Lions have forfeited victory by trying to run out the clock with one of the league’s worst rushing attacks. These infuriating games were against the San Diego Chargers to begin the  year and in a must-win game against the Green Bay Packers at home.

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I along with many fans must wonder how it would feel to have a formidable running game that would allow the Lions to explode out of the gate and not have to worry about in what distinct fashion the Lions would eventually lose. Building and holding big leads would also eliminate the impact that referees could have in game-deciding situations, situations which have spurned the team for about a quarter of the past year.

Along the offensive line, the Lions have some personnel that will help contribute to this goal. Laken Tomlinson, Larry Warford, and Riley Reiff are all guys who have displayed power in the run blocking game throughout their careers and would benefit from coaches and management who believe in the same. However, the revolving door at right tackle, the revolving protections and schemes, and center Travis Swanson’s below average strength hold the team back in this area.

Between the analysis on pass protection and this analysis on run blocking it is apparent that the Lions need to add a couple of pieces on the offensive line. In my next article, we’ll look at several ways the Lions can address the issue and build upon the current talent through the regime change and in free agency and the draft.