Lions O-Line Hoping For Big Performance Against Eagles
By David Noto
The Detroit Lions’ matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday is an important one - not only because both teams are trying to solidify a spot in the playoffs, but for the reason that they’re looking to build positive momentum at the end of the season. Following a complete dismantling of the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving Day, Detroit wants to keep playing with confidence. The Eagles are already on a high, having won their last 4 games with second-year quarterback Nick Foles’ 19-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. And Philly’s defense has played well enough lately, coming off a 5-sack, 3-turnover performance against the Arizona Cardinals last week. So Detroit will have its hands full at Lincoln Financial Field.
With the Lions’ defense ranked 3rd against the run and 26th against the pass, it’s going to be even more important for the defensive line to get after Foles and create some turnovers. There is great potential for this game to become a shootout, especially because Philadelphia is 32nd in pass defense. However, the weather report is calling for frosty temperatures with a high chance of precipitation. So one of the big keys for Detroit’s success will be controlling the line of scrimmage, making key blocks for Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in the running game. And the team can do that with an offensive unit that has performed astonishingly well over the last 13 weeks. It’s been blessed by the addition of rookie right guard Larry Warford and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who both came in at a time when general manager Martin Mayhew was in desperate need of putting together a cohesive group of players.
Former players Jeff Backus (T) and Stephen Peterman (RG) left the Lions after the 2012 season and there was definite uncertainty among NFL analysts as to how well a new unit could protect Matthew Stafford. But this group has been a big bright spot for the team with the two high-impact rookies. 3rd round pick Warford has played “lights out” all season and has even been mentioned as a candidate for NFL offensive rookie of the year. And the undrafted free agent Waddle is a diamond in the rough. He originally stepped in to play in the Dallas game because of injuries to the starters. But the 315-pound “wall” snagged up the job with very dependable performances and has never looked back. An honorable mention would be 13-year veteran center Dominic Raiola, a player who is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career. So with an o-line playing this well, the Lions have a big advantage. Last week, the Eagles were able to hunt down Cardinals QB Carson Palmer at will. But if Matthew Stafford has sufficient time to find his receivers, it could be the deciding factor in Sunday’s game. Though, Detroit’s offense will still need to have a balanced attack to stay on the field. Running the football, controlling the time of possession and keeping the ball out of Nick Foles’ hands would allow the Lions to maintain momentum during critical moments in this game.