Frank Ragnow has been the rock in the middle in the restructuring of the interior of the Detroit Lions’ offensive line, but a three-man rotation at guard has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
The entire unit has begun to showcase an identity with solid performances that were key to the Lions reaching their bye week with a 2-1-1 record.
After an overall spotty performance in the opening-game tie with Arizona, the offensive line did not give up a sack in wins over the Chargers and Eagles, and it opened the way for a season-high 186 yards rushing in last week’s loss to the Chiefs.
Running back Kerryon Johnson led the way with his season high of 125 yards on 26 carries.
Except for the Game 2 win over the Chargers, when Tyrell Crosby started at left tackle because of a back injury that made Taylor Decker inactive, it’s been a six-man operation up front.
Ragnow, Decker and right tackle Rick Wager have gone the distance, but there has been a rotation at guard.
Left guard Joe Dahl and right guard Graham Glasgow have taken the majority of the snaps, with relief from Kenny Wiggins at both positions. Wiggins has played 92 snaps in the rotation as part of a plan to keep fresh legs in the interior. It’s also because Wiggins had earned the opportunity to get playing time.
Wiggins started 10 games at right guard last year because of injuries to T.J. Lang.
“It’s something I think is helping us,” said offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. “I feel comfortable with him being in the game, just as much as I feel with the other guys.
“To me, it was clear who owned the starting jobs, but I also believed that Kenny Wiggins earned the right to be on the field. It’s just a way to get that done. And as a bonus, it also helped the legs of those guys a little bit – and hopefully create a little longevity for the rest of the season.
The offseason decision to move Ragnow back to his college position of center from left guard, where he played every snap except one as a rookie last year, has been a key to the offensive line’s development.
Davidson likes the potential flexibility Ragnow provides, but moving him out of center does not appear to be in the plans.
“He’s kind of grasped the role,” Davidson said. “I like the way he works, regardless of what position we put him in. I don’t see any reason for moving him from the position he’s currently holding.”
Davidson made that statement with emphasis. And based on how Ragnow has played – along with the entire unit – there’s no reason to make a change.
Ragnow has spoken about his preference in playing center, and how much he enjoys the responsibility of making calls. He’s already learning to self-correct mistakes.
That ability, along with his natural skills – strength and agility among them – add to his value. And it’s happening at a faster rate than might have been expected in his development.
“It’s actually happening exponentially faster,” Davidson said. “Earlier, he wasn’t even sure what he didn’t know at the time. He felt like it was fairly slow to come to him, and there were a lot of things we had to talk about on the sideline.
“I use the adage, you’ve got to kind of see the shell of the defense and the entire front. It’s a very difficult concept to get, and it’s hard to do from your first snap at center. He starting to get that now. Again, he has not arrived.
“He knows what he has to see. It’s starting to sink in, and the game is slowing down.”