The Lions lost their starters at left tacke, right tackle and right guard this offseason, and they drafted just one offensive lineman while not adding any in free agency. So does that mean the Lions should expect a drop-off on the offensive line this year?
Not according to the man they’re protecting, quarterback Matthew Stafford, who said after Organized Team Activities started that he sees a lot to like about the guys in front of him.
“I don’t expect a big change,” Stafford said, via MLive.com. “I don’t expect any kind of a drop-off. I think we’re extremely talented up front.”
Two of the three veteran offensive linemen who departed will be replaced by talented young players: Longtime left tackle Jeff Backus retired and will be replaced by last year’s first-round draft pick, Riley Reiff. And guard Stephen Peterman, who’s now with the Jets, will be replaced by this year’s third-round pick, Larry Warford. If Reiff and Warford develop the way the Lions are hoping, those changes could represent an improvement. The right tackle situation, however, doesn’t look good for Detroit: Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard will compete to replace the departed Gosder Cherilus, and either way, that’s a step down.
Stafford added that he’s ready for growing pains.
“Any time you play quarterback, your dream is a perfect pocket every time,” Stafford said. “But let’s be honest, in the NFL, the defensive guys get paid to rush the passer. That’s something we’ll focus on, like we do every year, is improving the pocket and me moving in the correct ways — left, right, up, back, whatever it is — to avoid pressure. That’s something we’re constantly working on and something we’ll have an emphasis on this spring.”
With three new starters, the offensive line will need to jell in a hurry. Keeping Stafford upright is critical for the Lions.