Quietly, the Detroit Lions have improved a porous offensive line over the past four seasons. The group has come together nicely and was a huge reason for the success and health of Matthew Stafford in 2011. The group is constantly improving, and if they're able to take another step forward during 2012, that will lend Detroit's offense an even bigger helping hand.
The big uglies are getting put under a big microscope today. What's the outlook in the trenches for 2012?
Who's The Guy? Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola. In Detroit, it's always going to come down to Backus, the man in charge of protecting Stafford's blind side, and Raiola, the center calling out the defense. As they go, so does the offensive line, passing game and quarterback play. If each stay healthy and consistent, this group will always be alright.
Second In Command? Godser Cherilus and Rob Sims. The much maligned Cherilus has a big season ahead of him. He's got to continue improving to hold off a push by young Riley Reiff . Sims looks even stronger this year than he has in the past, which is saying something. He's lost a bit of weight and gotten stronger. His play will likely help the running game. Each is very important in their own way to the strength of the Lions line.
Others Worth Noting: Reiff, Stephen Peterman and Jason Fox. These contributors can be seen as role players, and Reiff might see time in limited moments. Fox's play has been improving thanks to his health, and his healthy return will help provide additional depth, which is the most important factor for a physically demanding position.
Biggest Key To Positional Success? Health and improved run blocking. If one or more members of the offensive line go down, the Lions will be in a bind. Keeping on the field and pushing through injury is a big key in 2012. Last year, the Lions were able to stay together which helped them. Also aiding the position would be a more consistent running attack and improved run blocking. If the Lions' line can do better here, they'll be much better off.
Best/Worst Case Scenarios: Best? The group stays consistent and avoids injury. As a result, Stafford has another good season. The rushing attack improves thanks to better run blocking, allowing the Lions' offense to evolve. Worst? Injuries hit and the Lions are forced to operate with a patchwork offensive line, which hinders Stafford. The running game stays non-existent in part because the line doesn't help out.
Outlook: Consistency will rule the season, and the Lions offensive line will quietly remain a strength of the team. They'll keep the pressure off Stafford and limit sacks. The run game might not take off, but minor improvements will be made which will help the offense.
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