Analysis: Lions Offensive Line Lacking

Late last week at Allen Park, Lions guard Rick DeMulling warned that the Lions offensive line would need time to gel together as a unit. He was right. Analysis of the Lions' offensive inside from Lions' insider Mike Fowler.

ALLEN PARK - Late last week at Allen Park, Lions guard Rick DeMulling warned that the Lions offensive line would need time to gel together as a unit.

He was right.

In Friday's preseason 10-3 loss to the New York Jets, DeMulling and his teammates allowed four sacks of Lions quarterbacks and had some running plays blown up as a result of missed assignments.

Still, their were some bright spots. Second-year pro Kelly Butler, seeing his first action as a pro showed some real potential and upside. Butler held his own in one-on-one blocking, at times against pro bowl defensive end Shawn Ellis. Butler showed nimble feet and a good punch out of the three point stance. But at times, he got too erect in his stance and allowed opponents to get under his pads and lost leverage.

But there was enough there to believe that Butler can be an effective opening day starter at right tackle. The results were a little more mixed for left tackle Jeff Backus who allowed two sacks.

After a mixup on a sweep to back Kevin Jones where DeMulling appeared to miss a block for a five-yard loss, Backus allowed a sack of Harrington when the Lions signal caller failed to step up into the pocket, which likely would have taken away the angle pursued by Jets' end Bryan Thomas.

Facing 3rd-and-long, New York came with a "jail break" blitz and Harrington was nabbed again, this time by right tackle James Reed and Ellis. Adding insult to injury, Detroit lost lead blocker Cory Schlesinger to a fractured tibia. He will be lost for about two months.

But Detroit's front buckled down and stifled the Jets pass rush until the fourth quarter. Late in the game, with substitutes in on both sides, Lions rookie third-string quarterback Dan Orlovsky was sacked on a 3rd-and-11 situation and again on a 2nd-and-7 at the Jets 36-yard line. Despite the sack, Detroit marched to the Jets 7-yard line before Orlovsky's pass intended for Mike Williams fell incomplete ending the game.

While the pass blocking seemed to improve with each play, the run game was slowed by the absence of Schlesinger. Detroit managed just 50 yards on 21 carries. Artose Pinner carried seven times for just 19 yards. Jones, by design, got just three carries before making an early exit. Contrast that with the Jets rushing for 100 yards on just 21 carries.

Those statistics might lead to concern about how the line's play would effect the team's running game. Detroit's Jones was unable to get untracked last year until about week ten when he finished the last six weeks of the season as the league's leading rusher during that period.

Detroit doesn't want a repeat and hopes the line can gel together quickly.

"I do believe offensive lines need time to gel, but I don't think you can ever put a timeline on it," advised DeMulling. "I think that all it is, is repetitions. You get in there as much as you can togther and [it will] start coming together on its own."

The offensive line will get a chance to show its week-to-week improvement this Saturday at Ford Field.

Detroit enters their final week of training camp before breaking and entering regular season mode. They will host the Cleveland Browns Saturday afternoon. The game will be televised locally on UPN50.

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