Ever since Dan Campbell became the head coach of the Detroit Lions, their offensive line has been the most consistent unit in football. Regardless of who they’ve had playing up front, the physical play from the group has become their identity. Led by players such as Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker, it has done wonders for this team.
Currently, the Lions are the 4th best rushing team in the NFL with 139.0 rushing yards per game. Overall, their 406.4 total yards per game are second best in the NFL. The only team with a better offense right now are the Miami Dolphins.
When watching the Lions against the Chargers in week 10, it was evident that their offensive line was playing some of their best football this season. Much of that is due to the return of Jonah Jackson at left guar , Frank Ragnow at center and Graham Glasgow cementing himself as a solid starter at right guard. Let’s jump into the tape from the Lions game against the Chargers to see why this offensive line is playing at such a high level.
One of the most underrated blocks from the entire game for the Lions was right here. Looking at the play above, the Lions come out in 11 personnel (one tight end and one running back) with a condensed set on the left of the formation.
Prior to the snap, Jared Goff puts Amon-Ra St. Brown on a jet-motion to the right of the formation. As St. Brown hurries across, Goff snaps the football off to Jahmyr Gibbs. Looking at the offensive line, you can see how the entire offensive line steps hard to their left and reaches left. This indicates a zone run and in the process, you’ll see Graham Glasgow highlighted at right guard.
The reason for Glasgow getting highlighted is not for what he did on a brief combo block with Penei Sewell. Instead, it’s for the heads up play he made after he steps down and gets up to the linebacker. As the inside linebacker attacks downhill and looks to fill in the A-gap, Glasgow does just enough to force the defender out of the way. This clears a path for Gibbs to gain five yards and a first down. This play had disaster written all over it but Glasgow made it a positive gain.
Moving to the next play, the Lions have Jared Goff under center. Prior to the snap, he puts tight end Brock Wright in motion. After Wright gets past Goff, the ball is snapped and is tossed to Jahmyr Gibbs. Even though this is a great cut and overall gain from Gibbs, I want to focus on right tackle Penei Sewell.
Despite having Wright in motion, Sewell is able to fire out of his stance and pulls to become one of the lead blockers for Gibbs. As Sewell gets out there, he doesn’t play too fast. In fact, his play speed is perfect. Reason being, if he plays too fast, his angle to the defender will worsen. Meanwhile, he knows the defenders have to come to him because they’re trying to tackle the ball carrier.
As Sewell is on the move, he looks inside and finds the inside linebacker trying to scrape over the top. With great power and speed, Sewell sends the linebacker away from Gibbs and helps keep an open rushing lane for some additional yards.
Going to the next play, it was one of the biggest runs of the day from the Lions. It was a 35-yard run from Jahmyr Gibbs that setup the first touchdown of the day for Detroit. Looking at the play above, the Lions come out in 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) and Jared Goff is under center.
Prior to the snap, Goff puts a tight end in motion and once the tight end gets past him, he snaps the football. On a short toss to Gibbs, there’s two combo blocks that occur on this play. The first one is with Sewell (RT) and Glasgow (RG). They double the defensive end that is aligned as a 4-technique or head up on the right tackle. Meanwhile, look at the combo block from Jackson (LG) and Ragnow (C) on the nose tackle.
The blocks from the entire offensive line is terrific but seeing Ragnow and Jackson turn a defender and drive him 7 or 8 yards downfield is magnificent. It creates a huge rushing lane for Gibbs and he makes a terrific cut to run across the field and towards the end-zone.
It’s unfortunate that Gibbs was out at the one-yard line but on the very next play, he ended up scoring. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that Gibbs gained at least three or four yards before any defender put a hand on him during this run. Per Pro Football Reference, the Lions average 2.7 yards before contact per attempt (tied for 11th best in the NFL).
The next run I want to showcase is perfect to describe the Lions and their identity as a team. The play above is the drive following the Kerby Joseph interception in the first quarter. Even though it’s 4th-and-5, it was decided by Dan Campbell that the Lions were going to roll the dice on this play.
Looking at the play, the Lions come out in a shotgun formation with 11 personnel (one tight end and one running back). On the play, they run a trap play where the left guard Jonah Jackson pulls to the play-side. As Jackson turns upfield, he meets a defensive tackle that is aligned as a 3-technique and is crashing inside.
Meanwhile, the right guard Graham Glasgow flips toward that same 3-technique aligned on his outside shoulder. This forces the defensive tackle to hesitate while trying to disrupt the backfield. This gives Jackson time to get into the A-gap and seal off the defensive tackle.
As for Glasgow, he gets out of the way and up to the second level to seal off a linebacker. This trap play is blocked perfectly by the Lions and the way it it’s blocked is key to the gain of six yards and a first down.
Lastly, I want to highlight one of my favorite plays from the entire game for the Lions. Looking at the play above, I simply want to highlight the combo block from Penei Sewell (RT 58) and Graham Glasgow (RG 60).
Once the ball is snapped, watch how they attack the defensive tackle aligned as a 3-technique between them. They drive this defender 10-yards downfield. Before the whistle, Sewell levels the defender into the dirt and looks for another person to hit.
While this wasn’t a massive gain, the block made from Sewell and Glasgow is a thing of beauty. Those types of blocks occur consistently from the Lions offensive line. The performance from this unit on Sunday against the Chargers was one of their best outings on the year so far.