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Former Lion Geoff Schwartz weighs in on o-line, run game

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Geoff Schwartz isn't like most NFL analysts who look and assess the Detroit Lions from afar.

Schwartz was signed by the Lions as a free agent in 2016, but was part of the team's final cuts after training camp. Those five months of OTAs, minicamp and training camp in Detroit give him a unique perspective and first-hand knowledge of Detroit's scheme and personnel.

When it comes to fixing Detroit's rushing offense this offseason, Schwartz thinks adding another runner will be a priority of GM Bob Quinn and Co.

View photos of the Detroit Lions offensive line in 2017.

"I would imagine a running back will be very high on their offseason priority list, maybe in the first round, and then that might fix a lot," Schwartz said between interviews on radio row at the Super Bowl.

"I think (Detroit) has two running backs in (Theo) Riddick and (Ameer) Abdullah who are the same type of guy. They're really not first- and second-down backs. They're not guys you would say, 'These guys are first- and second-down between-the-tackles running backs.'

Schwartz believes Detroit's ineffectiveness running the ball last season was a combination of not having the right backs for the scheme, along with injuries and inconsistencies upfront.

The Lions will have a new offensive line coach next season after the team relieved Ron Prince of his duties after the season ended last month. General manager Bob Quinn already said he plans to add talent at running back, so expect changes when it comes to the running game this offseason.

Schwartz said there's a lot of similiarites between Detroit's scheme the last couple seasons, and the one run by the Indianapolis Colts in the early 2000s.

"When that system worked it was in Indianapolis with Edgerrin James, kind of a bigger back, a downhill back," Schwartz said. "(Detroit) needs that. They need someone to run downhill."

Staying healthier upfront and avoiding the 10 different starting offensive line combinations the Lions had this season is another key Schwartz says will help a ton next season.  

"If you look at the best offensive lines in the NFL, all their guys play every week," he said. "That's the way it is. The Eagles are a rarity where you take out (left tackle) Jason Peters and just put in (Halapoulivaati) Vaitai and it kind of works out. It doesn't just happen that way.

"It's tough. When you bring in T.J. (Lang) and you bring in (Rick) Wagner, you expect those guys to kind of solidify your offensive line because you have (Travis) Swanson coming back and Graham (Glasgow) and Taylor (Decker).

"Taylor gets hurt, putting in Greg (Robinson). It's all just moving parts and guys don't get comfortable. And then when the run game is struggling it almost makes it worse because you start pushing trying to find ways to make it work, rotate guys in and out."

Besides finishing last in rushing, the Lions gave up 47 sacks, seventh most in the NFL, and ranked 18th overall in STATS, INC.'s yearly protection index.

But Schwartz thinks the addition of a downhill runner, to go along with the new coaching those guys upfront will get starting this offseason, could be enough to vastly improve Detroit's rushing offense.

"Talent-wise, it should be better," Schwartz said. "Maybe they'll be able to bring it out this year."

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