Analysis: Lions Offensive Line Play Is Key

Offensive line key to team's chances in Sunday's contest at Chicago.

ALLEN PARK - Brian Urlacher threw down the gauntlet, now it's time for the Detroit Lions offensive line to take up the challenge.

Urlacher suggested earlier in the week that Detroit's plethora of offensive talent won't do Lions' quarterback Joey Harrington any good if they can't protect him -- and he's right.

Detroit's offensive front of center Dominic Raiola, guards Damien Woody and Rick DeMulling along with tackles Jeff Backus and Kelly Butler will be tested severely in the new Soldier Field.

Butler, a second-year player that blocked for Orton at Purdue, will be under the microscope as he faces down the challenge of pass rusher deluxe Adewale Ogunleye. Ogunleye, who had five tackles and a sack in the season opening loss to Washington has something to prove after coming off one of his worst seasons statistically as a pro (five sacks, 37 tackles). As speed rushers go, Ogunleye is among the best when he's on his game.

At left tackle, Tommie Harris (cousin of former Lions tackle Stockar McDougle) will be a handful for guard Rick DeMulling. DeMulling got pushed around a bit in the opener against Green Bay and Harris (43 tackles, 3.5 sacks) 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, is no lightweight.

Ian Scott is one of the NFL's most underrated players. At 6-foot-3, 302 pounds, his combination of size and bulk (44 tackles, 2 sacks) gives Chicago a great tandem inside. Guard Damien Woody though, is the equal of Scott and will likely draw him one-on-one, leaving center Dominic Raiola free to tandem block mostly on Harris.

Scott's college teammate at Florida Alex Brown will face off against Jeff Backus. Brown had a solid 2004 (50 tackles, 6 sacks) and will be a load for Backus.

Backus has been one of the more maligned offensive line players on the ball club. While Butler typically enjoys a free pass because of his lack of experience, the former U of M standout will not. Backus has to be spectacularly solid on Sunday, and prevent Harrington from taking any blind side hits.

The good news for Detroit is that the Bears had difficulty stopping the run last week, yielding 121 rushing yards on just 21 carries to Redskins' tailback Clinton Portis. The Lions will likely attempt the same with their own backfield weapon, Kevin Jones. If Detroit can establish some semblance of a running game, it could force the Bears into a predicament and open up passing lanes for Harrington to pick apart.

If Harrington does have the opportunity to throw, it could surprisingly be downfield tosses. Just as Green Bay blanketed the outside of the field defensively last Sunday, Chicago likes to work the middle of the field. That could lend opportunities to Lions' receivers Charles Rogers and Roy Williams, who are both yearning to make an impact after a ho-hum season opener.

If Harrington's protection fails, however, a defensive struggle against a hungry Bears team could tilt the favor towards Chicago.

Lions Report Top Stories