Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
There was little to cheer about in the lifeless, listless loss to Cleveland, so the focus here is strictly on the offensive line.
As with the Defensive Backs last week (link), I’ll break them down in order of snap counts. You can find a good breakdown of all snap counts courtesy of Justin Rogers at MLive.com here: http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/2013/08/snap_counts_and_playing-time_p.html
The starters, from left to right, were Riley Reiff, Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola, Jake Scott, and Jason Fox. That unit played together for the first three offensive series, all three-and-outs.
Hilliard took over at right tackle on the fourth series. On the quick screen that Paul Kruger nearly picked off, Hilliard was too quick to let Kruger pass him, essentially whiffing on the quick chip. On a clustered look from the Browns defensive front, Hilliard got lost and whiffed on finding Sheard, who slammed Reggie Bush for a TFL. Two plays later he lost the edge to Kruger and gave up a QB pressure, unable to stay engaged with the veteran OLB as he sharply turned the corner. Hilliard created solid forward surge on a run behind RT with good leg drive. He opened the 2nd half as the left tackle and did a fine job on a wide rush on the first pass play, using a deep kick slide to seal the corner. Showed textbook form in shuffling to the edge vs. a Wide 9 rush, kept his shoulder leverage to the inside exactly as he’s supposed to.
Austin started the second half as the left guard. On his first two snaps he ran like gangbusters out into space but failed to engage anyone. On the next drive, 2 & 1 he pulled across very quickly but once again failed to engage as Bell cut back behind him. The very next play he was more patient and threw a nice punch (legally) to rock back the linebacker at the point of attack, following it with quick feet to keep the hole progressing down the field. On the play after Joique Bell cold-cocked a streaker, once again Austin couldn’t find anyone to hit. Missed a block on a delayed rusher that led to a QB pressure on Moore. He and Keyton both failed to pick up a quick rush from Armonty Bryant and gave up a sack. Two plays later he got away with hands to the face as he clocked a rusher well past the pocket. His inability to hit targets really frustrated me.
The rookie entered the game on the 4th series, playing RG. On his first snap he effectively neutralized Athyba Rubin, squaring him up and turning his shoulders outside and away from the flow of the play. He couldn’t pull fast enough to the opposite B gap on a run to the left. One play I liked: on a 3rd & 5 he saw that the ball was going to Bush on his side and he hustled out to try and get a block. Even though he was late to the point, I like that he showed awareness and effort. Re-entered the game later and quickly earned a holding penalty with a reach-around takedown of John Hughes. Warford nearly scored a pancake on a late drive as his man attempted a jump move, but Warford stayed on his feet and flared out to try and help in space.
My initial impression was that Fox played pretty well, and the more in-depth viewing confirmed it. He was often isolated against Paul Kruger in pass protection. On Detroit’s second possession he solidly walled off Kruger on a run behind right guard and looked spry out of his stance as Kruger unexpectedly dropped into coverage. Fox quickly slid tight to the formation and helped out Jake Scott. Sat out a series or two and came back at RT in the second half. Combined with Leroy Harris to create a good edge surge on a run that went to the left side. On the next play he exhibited a quick kick step to get outside and wall off the edge in pass protect. Picked up the correct rusher outside on a bunched rush look and steered his man well past Hill. Just one man’s opinion, but I felt like Fox created a little space between himself and Hilliard in the battle for the RT job with a better performance here.
Gandy took over for Raiola at center for the second half, and it was a noticeable change on the very first run play. Gandy fired out his arms and locked up the tackle quickly. He got upright while engaged in pass protect on the next rep but was able to blunt the uncreative rush. He and Leroy Harris worked a nice tandem block to open a hole for Bell. Got beat initially on a good up-and-under move by Billy Winn but kept his feet moving and steered the tackle well past Hill in the pocket. That’s a play where Raiola winds up on the ground, but Gandy stayed balanced and allowed Hill to scramble for good yardage. He and Austin both walled off defenders to create a wide hole on a run and both finished their blocks. Dug in his heels, sunk his hips and stood up Winn on a bull rush.
This was not his best night. On the first drive Jabaal Sheard bested him with a bull rush on the dropped Pettigrew pass, then used a quick shoulder dip move to cross Reiff’s face and get a pressure on Stafford on 3rd down. Both times Reiff fought hard and somewhat recovered, but Sheard’s ability to use either speed or power presented a challenge. Reiff did look good running across the formation on a quick screen to Edwards, but the play was over before Reiff could run 20 yards across the field. Sheard pushed Reiff into the backfield on a Bush run that threw off the timing and forced a TFL. His best play was blocking down on a run designed to go off left tackle, completely enveloping Taylor right off the snap and pushing him well inside. One thing Reiff consistently does well is sell the play action; he impressively fires out as if it’s a run before planting hard and assuming his pass pro stance.
Sims is at his best when you don’t notice he’s on the field. That was the case for much of his reps in this game. His pad level and knee bend both looked good, though he created little movement in the running game. Sims actually did too good a job on one rep vs. Phil Taylor, as the frustrated DT dropped back and wound up batting down a ball. He quickly got out in front of a would-be screen to the right side of the formation. He and Raiola worked well in a couple of tandem blocks.
Phil Taylor and Athyba Rubin are a real handful for any center, and Raiola struggled against them. On the first two runs, Raiola was pushed backwards behind the line of scrimmage before Reggie Bush got there, not a good sign. On the third 3rd down he got easily beaten by Hall Daivs on a simple swim move. Raiola was on his heels all night, unable to anchor against the interior rush either. He got away with a hold on a 3rd down play. However on the next play he quickly fired out and created a crease for Bush inside, a play where Warford did an excellent job. When he wasn’t helping to his flanks and had to handle someone on his own, Raiola did not look good. Another point: Raiola winds up on the ground more than any other Lions lineman.
He got into the action as the starting RG for the second half. On the awkward Shaun Hill scramble he did a great job getting into the pads of the defender and steered him well inside, creating a nice wide running lane. Harris sustained that block well after the play ended, something the coaches preach. Fired off the line and blew up a linebacker at the second level on a Bell 1st down run. Got high with his hands in pass protection but had a solid base. Found the proper rusher and even though he lost leverage a little his quick feet allowed him to keep his QB clean. One thing I noted is that he’s much more effective and confident going to his inside than outside. He’s played center in the past so that makes sense. If I were handing out grades here, Harris would earn the highest.
Waddle came in at right tackle on Kellen Moore’s first drive. His feet looked really slow on a shuffle step. On the first play of the second series he got low and drove his defender well off the point of attack on a run to his side. Very next play he kicked out quickly and extended his arms into the chest of the rusher and took him out of the play. He did a nice job anchoring the edge and extending his arms to push away a rush as Moore bled to his side in the pocket. Strong outing for the rookie against the Browns’ third team defense.
Took over at left tackle when Kellen Moore entered the game. On his second play he got burned by Winn on a pretty pedestrian move and gave up a pressure that should have been a sack if not for a nice play by Moore. A play after nicely walling off the edge, he was called for a false start. His feet looked slow on a 3rd down pass protect rep and gave up a marginal pressure. Surrendered another would-be pressure but the sack on Thaddeus Lewis was made before his man could get in on the act. Could not sustain his block as Lewis rolled to his side on the final offensive rep. He looked very much like a guard playing tackle.
Started the game but only got 10 reps. Honestly the most noticeable thing about Scott was his rat tail protruding from the bottom of his helmet. Created very little movement on two inside runs, could not sustain leverage. He did stand up Rubin on a rush but once again couldn’t sustain the block to the end of the play.
Came in at center when Thaddeus Lewis entered the game on the final drive. He quickly released down the field as soon as the ball was thrown on a couple of occasions, trying to get into the mix. Keyton had a miscommunication with Austin on an Armonty Bryant sack.
Tags: Billy Winn, Cleveland Browns, Corey Hilliard, Darren Keyton, Derek Hardman, Dominic Raiola, Dylan Gandy, Jabaal Sheard, Jake Scott, Jason Fox, LaAdrian Waddle, Larry Warford, Leroy Harris, Paul Kruger, Riley Reiff, Rob Sims, Rodney Austin, Shaun Hill