Position Preview: Guards and Centers

Posted Jul 21, 2013

Tim Twentyman says the Lions have a tough decision to make amongst a lot of quality players if they’re going to go with the same formula as last year

When Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told media members back in January that quarterback Matthew Stafford faced way too much pressure up the middle last season, everyone in that room knew changes were coming.

Right guard Stephen Peterman was released shortly after Mayhew made those remarks and the Lions will be looking for a new starter there come training camp, which is less than one week away.

We continue our preview of the Lions roster by looking at the interior of the offensive line.


Darren Keyton C 6-3 305 22 R Central Michigan
Dominic Raiola C 6-1 305 34 13 Nebraska
Dylan Gandy C 6-3 295 31 8 Texas Tech
Rodney Austin G 6-4 311 24 1 Elon
Derek Hardman G 6-6 300 26 3 Eastern Kentucky
Leroy Harris G 6-3 303 39 7 North Carolina State
Bill Nagy G 6-3 308 25 3 Wisconsin
Jake Scott G 6-5 292 32 9 Idaho
Rob Sims G 6-3 312 29 8 Ohio State
Larry Warford G 6-4 333 21 R Kentucky


64: Percent success rate for the Lions in 2012 on 3rd- and 4th-and-1 conversions. That ranked 15th in the NFL and just above the league average of 63.1.
30.6: The average age of the Lions starting five offensive lineman Week 1 last year. If Riley Reiff (24), Jason Fox (25) and Larry Warford (21) win starting jobs this season, that average drops to 26.6.
333: The listed weight for guard Warford, making him the biggest player on the Lions roster.


The good: Durability. Center Dominic Raiola has played in every game since 2009. Starting left guard Rob Sims hasn’t missed a game since the Lions traded for him before the 2010 season.
The bad: The Lions struggled at times last year to run the ball up the middle and keep the middle of the pocket clean for Stafford. Too many times, Stafford was forced to change his delivery or was flushed from the pocket, which interrupted the timing on plays. It’s one of the reasons the Lions drafted Warford and added veteran players like Leroy Harris and Jake Scott to the mix.
The fix: The team identified a weakness and did not retain Peterman's services. They drafted a mauling-type guard in Warford, who weighs 330-plus pounds. Raiola has gained 10 pounds since last season in hopes of bringing more power to his game. The Lions have opened that starting center job up to competition and Raiola will have to win the job in camp. The Lions have brought in some new pieces and are promoting competition. That can only made all involved better.


"A couple guys like (Leroy) Harris and (Jake) Scott were available this time of year. A chance to add veteran players that have played a lot of football. Both of them have experience and the more depth, the more guys in competition we can add, the better. It’s absolutely not an indictment on anybody. It’s just a fact of being able to add quality players and keep adding them."

-- Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz on the late offseason additions of guards Harris and Scott.


Sims seems well entrenched at that left guard spot. The eight-year veteran has been one of the Lions steadiest performers the last three seasons.

Larry WarfordG Larry Warford

The competition for the other right guard spot is wide open, though. Warford might get the first crack at it given his draft status, but don’t count out Rodney Austin, who has a nice combination of size and athleticism.

Dylan Gandy, Bill Nagy, Harris and Scott will all be in the mix, too. It’ll be one of the better competitions in training camp.

The center spot is Raiola’s to lose. He ran with the first team all offseason and someone would really have to impress to knock him out of the spot. Gandy, Austin or Nagy are the best candidates, but Raiola probably snaps the ball Week 1.

The team kept one true center and three guards – one being a swing guard/center – last season. Sims and Warford are in at guard, which means the Lions have a tough decision to make amongst a lot of quality players if they’re going to go with the same formula as last year.