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Ragnow 'working his tail off' to improve toughness, run game

In Frank Ragnow's rookie season in 2018, the Detroit Lions finished the season ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing.

Last season, Ragnow's second in the league and his first as the full-time starter at center, Detroit finished the year ranked 21st in total rushing yards.

Detroit hasn't ranked in the top half of the league in rushing since 1998.

"I'm always excited about the thought of running the ball," Ragnow said in a Zoom call last week. "Obviously, we added some weapons. It's kind of been an emphasis of coach since I've been here with (head) coach (Matt) Patricia, and I'm definitely excited to see what we can do this year."

Patricia and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have talked about wanting to be more balanced on offense and being able to run the ball more consistently. A lot of Lions coaches over the last two decades have talked about the same thing, but Detroit put words into action this offseason when it came to addressing the rushing portion of the offense.

They signed Halapoulivaati Vaitai in free agency, one of the better run-blocking tackles in the game.

Detroit drafted D’Andre Swift in the second round of this year's NFL Draft, one of the best running backs in this class. They also selected speedy running back Jason Huntley in the fifth round to team up with Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson and the rest of backs returning to Detroit's backfield in 2020.

The team selected guards Jonah Jackson (third round) and Logan Stenberg (fourth) on back-to-back selections in this year's draft. Both come into the league with strong run-blocking reputations.

Bevell, who is entering his second season as Detroit's OC, has had his offenses finish in the top 10 in rushing percentage eight times in his 13 years as an OC. During a four-year stretch between 2012 and 2015 as Seattle's OC, Bevell's offense was top 10 in scoring each year and ranked in the top four in rushing each season. They were the No. 1 rushing team in football in 2014 behind a solid run-blocking offensive line and running back Marshawn Lynch.

Being able to run the football along with quarterback Matthew Stafford's big right arm and all the weapons they have on the outside at receiver to make plays down the field in the passing game is an ideal setup for the offense. Detroit's got all the pieces to be a really good passing offense, so if they could find better balance and more consistency with the run game, it really is scary to think where this offense can go and how it could attack teams on multiple levels.

"Running the ball is all about the toughness," Ragnow said. "It's the hard work, it's the dirty work. I'm just trying to work my tail off individually here in Minnesota, in my mom's basement, trying to get to be the strongest, toughest guy I can be, so we can pound the rock this fall."

Being more consistent running the ball is obviously an emphasis. Has Detroit finally put the right pieces together to be a top rushing offense in 2020?

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