Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola find themselves in different roles in 2013

Posted Jun 5, 2013

With the average age along the offensive line going from 31.4 to 26.6, Sims and Raiola now carry roles of even greater importance

Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola were just one of the guys upfront for the Detroit Lions last year. They were two pieces of a veteran offensive line that had a collective age averaging 31.4 years.
Dominic Raiola, Rob SimsDominic Raiola and Rob Sims (Photo: T. Altman/

Boy, how things can change in the NFL in a blink of an eye, or in this case, one NFL season.

Gone are Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus and Stephen Peterman. In their place, the Lions could potentially start a second-year pro (Riley Reiff), a fourth-year pro with no career starts (Jason Fox) and a rookie third-round pick (Larry Warford).

If that's the way the lineup ultimately works itself out after training camp, the average age upfront would drop to 26.6 years old. That would make Sims, 29, and Raiola, 34, the elder statesman of the bunch.

With age though, comes experience, and the younger linemen on this roster are going to look to both Sims and Raiola to lead the way.

"I think all of that stuff develops as training camp goes on, as the offseason goes on, preseason and all those things and even over the course of the season," said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, when asked about the leadership roles of Sims and Raiola.

"Like I said a couple weeks ago, I don't think you necessarily appoint anyone a leader or expect anything different out of it. They just sort of naturally grow into roles like that.

"So it's a role that all those guys have played before. Rob Sims has played a leadership role for us and Dominic Raiola certainly has."

But those roles come with greater importance now. Sims and Raiola have some help in that regard with the recent additions of veteran guards Leroy Harris, 29, and Jake Scott, 32, but Harris and Scott are trying to learn a new system and new teammates on the fly. It'll be Sims and Raiola, for the most part, the younger players will count on to lead them.

Cohesiveness is the name of the game upfront and Sims and Raiola have played every game in this scheme the last three seasons. Raiola has started every game at center since this coaching regime took over in 2009. Combined, the two have played in a total of 281 NFL games.

There's a comfort level that comes with that and the natural ability to coach on the field and in the meeting room.

"I've always been a lead-by-example guy," Sims said. "I've always told (younger players) my stories in the league and how cut-throat it really is up here.

"You can't play (around) if you want to be a part of it. I've told them all those stories and just trying to show them things that helped me along the way."

On paper, the Lions offense looks like it can be one of the best in the NFL. But in the end, a lot of the success the Lions have on offense will depend on how quickly and effectively the offensive line can become a cohesive unit with Sims and Raiola helping to get them there.