Sports Illustrated recently came out with an article ranking the top offensive lines in the NFL.
The Lions came in at No. 3 on the list.
It’s no surprise, really. The Lions ranked towards the top of the league last season in every major statistical category that measures offensive line play, including giving up just 23 sacks, second fewest in the NFL.
Offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn doesn’t get too deep into statistics, however. There are just two numbers he used to measure the line's performance last season – seven and nine -- and he's tailored his entire offseason message around it.
The Lions won seven games last year and lost nine and did not qualify for the playoffs.
“As a group, we need to be better,” Washburn said. “We weren’t good enough last year. That’s something that we all recognize in that room. We weren’t good enough. We were a 7-9 offensive line and that’s that.
“We need to be better collectively and that includes Larry (Warford) and everyone else. It includes everyone in that room. It includes myself, (coach) Bobby (Johnson) Hef (coach Terry Heffernan) through every man in that room. We need to be better because we clearly weren’t good enough.”
When people start listing off reasons why the Lions fell apart down the stretch in 2013, the offensive line isn’t likely to be high on anyone’s list, but Washburn’s message has resonated with the players and they’ve ran with in.
“It’s a pretty straight-forward message,” veteran
“If we were a better offensive line we would have made the playoffs.
The Lions return all five starters from last season but there’s still plenty of competition in training camp.
Third-round draft pick
“It’s big group, they’re physical, they’re smart,” head coach Jim Caldwell said of his offensive line. “They have a great chemistry amongst them and great leadership within that group. Obviously, (Dominic) Raiola does a tremendous job and (Rob) Sims, and then you’ve got young guys that are really coming along and galvanizing that group.
“They’ve done some outstanding things. I think you can see that they have the potential to create some holes for us and creases, which I think without question they’ll be able to do. The other thing is, I think they’ll be able to pass protect well. I think one of the things that they probably ranked us on is the fact that last year there were only 23 sacks. A lot of that is both protection and the quarterback getting rid of the ball on time. I think those two in conjunction with one another, because Matthew (Stafford) did a nice job there, are very important.”
Caldwell has stepped into a good situation in Detroit in that he’s inherited two terrific lines on both side of the football. He’s made their performance in 2014 a huge factor in the overall success of the team.
“Coach Caldwell is committed to starting the team from inside out and he certainly practices what he preaches,” Washburn said. “He sat in our meeting room and he’s definitely a presence for our guys. His message is certainly being heard by our guys.”
The message of never being good enough is a good one for this unit to hang their hat on.