Through three games, Matthew Stafford ranks as the least sacked quarterback among qualifying passers in the NFL, having hit the turf just three times.
“Is that the deal, huh?” Stafford asked with a grin Thursday. “I didn’t even know that. That’s great. Our guys up front are fighting like crazy.”
It’s the least amount of sacks Stafford’s endured through the first three games of a seasons since 2013, when he was sacked just twice in the first three contests that season. The last four years, he’s been sacked early and often, with totals of six (2017), eight (2016), seven (2015) and seven (2014) sacks through the first three games in those seasons.
Stafford was sacked 47 times in all last year, the most in his career, despite attempting the fewest amount of passes (565) in a full season.
“I knew it was less,” Stafford said when pressed if he was aware of the fact he’s being sacked much less than in year's past. “I don’t know the numbers. I don’t check on everybody around the league. But I knew our guys were doing a good job up front.”
The Lions had a rotating door of offensive linemen play last season due to injury, which was part of the problem. It’s been more steady in that regard so far this season.
Starting right guard T.J. Lang missed the Week 2 matchup in San Francisco with a back injury, but veteran Kenny Wiggins played pretty well in his place.
Last week in the win over New England, Detroit’s starting five upfront – Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Lang and Rick Wagner – had a dominant performance. Stafford was sacked once, and that was the only time he was officially hit on the stat sheet. Detroit also rushed for 159 yards in that 26-10 victory.
“Obviously, we take a tremendous amount of pride in making sure he (Stafford) has a clean jersey,” Lang said Thursday. “I’m not going to say it’s perfect, because it hasn’t been. There’s been times where there’s been slips here and there in communication, technique, whatever it is, and he’s taken some hits.
“I think he’s doing a good job getting the ball out on time, which is important, and through the first three weeks I think everybody realizes that when you talk to him he says good protection, but you watch the film and it’s just a group of guys in that O-line room that we feel like we can always do better. Obviously, that’s really goal No. 1 is making sure you take care of the quarterback.”
The tight ends, running backs, wide receivers and Stafford all deserve credit as well. The Lions will need all hands on deck again this week against a talented Dallas defense that ranks second in the NFL with 11 sacks.
“This will be a big challenge for us this week,” Stafford admitted. “Dallas, they get off the rock. They pride themselves on getting after quarterbacks and hitting them. So, we’ll have a big challenge, and that’s everybody involved. It’s offensive line, it’s backs, it’s tight ends, it’s guys winning on routes, it’s me getting the ball out on time. All that ties into those.”
RAGNOW BACK AT IT
There’s always cause for concern when a player shows up on the practice report midweek with an injury like starting right guard Frank Ragnow did Thursday.
After not being listed Wednesday, Ragnow was a limited participant in practice Thursday with a knee injury.
It appears Ragnow has avoided any serious injury to his knee, however. He was on the field Friday, taking part in the open portion of practice alongside his fellow offensive linemen.
“Just going through practice, normal practice stuff,” head coach Matt Patricia said Friday when asked about the Ragnow injury.
Ragnow is coming off his best game as a professional last week in the win vs. New England. He was Detroit’s highest graded player on offense by Pro Football Focus, helping to plow the way for 159 team rushing yards, and not allowing a single pressure, sack or hit on Stafford in the contest.
Detroit’s offensive line has a tough matchup this week against a very good Dallas Cowboys defensive front.
The Cowboys' offense has struggled out of the gate this season, particularly with their passing game.
Dallas ranks 31st in passing, averaging just 145.0 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Dak Prescott hasn’t thrown for more than 200 yards in his last five games dating back to last year.
When asked about the passing portion of his offense, Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan eluded to some new wrinkles being put into the game plan this week to help jumpstart that portion of the offense.
"We're obviously searching for some things that will help us," Linehan told the Dallas Morning News. "I think we've got some good stuff in this week. Maybe just a few more wrinkles to it.
“I think we need that."
The Cowboys have scored 41 points, their lowest total three games into the season since 1990.
“There’s going to be some different things that I think you’ll see,” Prescott told the paper Thursday.
The Lions enter the contest allowing just 152.0 passing yards per game, the fewest in the NFL.