Detroit’s success or failure in the 2015 NFL season hinges on the performance (or lack thereof) of their re-engineered offensive and defensive lines. Both units will be tested in the second preseason game of the year as the Lions face Washington Thursday night at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
The offensive line of the Lions features a number of new players. Gone are center Dominic Raiola and guard Rob Sims. Travis Swanson, a second-year player from Arkansas, is the new center. Former Denver Bronco Manny Ramirez is the new left guard.
In the preseason opener against the New York Jets on August 13, Detroit’s offensive line provided enough room for their running backs to rush for 193 yards in 40 rushing attempts. It is a 4.8 yard per carry average, which matches what the best running backs are capable of doing behind a sold line.
The offensive line also did a good job of protecting the Lions quarterbacks. All four of the QBs on the roster played against the Jets. They combined for 235 yards passing, two touchdown passes and were sacked only once.
Washington’s defensive line should be a tougher test in tonight’s game, but their secondary is dealing with injuries. Detroit may find it easier to pass than to run the ball.
Detroit’s revamped defensive line held the Jets to 67 yards rushing and an average of 3 yards per carry. Defensine end Corey Wooten led the linemen in tackles with four. Defensive end Devin Taylor and defensive tackle Caraun Reid shared the Lions’ only sack of the quarterback. But the most important number was the “3” on the scoreboard highlighting the Lions’ one-sided 23-3 win over the Jets.
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III (aka “RG3”) will probably stir the most interest in the game. While Lions fans wonder if rookie running back Ameer Abdullah can provide another breakaway run, the home crowd of Washington fans will be focusing on their talkative QB.
Griffin drew national attention on Monday after he said in an interview with TV station WJLA: “I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league, and I have to go out and show that. Any athlete at any level, if they concede to someone else, they’re not a top competitor, they’re not trying to be the best that they can be. There’s guys in this league that have done way more than me. But I still view myself as the best because that’s what I work toward every single day.”
RG3’s statistics in his first preseason game suggest that he has some work to do to compete with QBs like Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. He finished third in offensive efficiency among the three Washington quarterbacks that played in the 20-17 preseason win over the Cleveland Browns.
Former Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins was the most effective QB. He completed 12 out of 14 passes for 154 yards and ran for a touchdown. His quarterback rating for the game was 112.5. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy had an 80.6 QB rating and RG3 posted a 62.5 rating.
Washington running back Alfred Morris and wide receiver Pierre Garcon will test the Lions defense. If Detroit can contain the opposition’s offense for the second week in a row, the Lions will beat Washington in a road game on Thursday night.
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