Sunday, Feb 25, 2018
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Lions’ offensive line sets bar ‘pretty high’

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions should have time to throw and room to run with their collection of talented playmakers, thanks to what looks like a solid offensive line.

All five starters are back up front from last year.

Matthew Stafford was sacked just 23 times last season, a low number considering he attempted 634 passes to Calvin Johnson and other targets. Reggie Bush ran for more than 1,000 yards for the second time in his career and Joique Bell had 650 yards rushing.

“We set the bar pretty high as a group last year and we want to build off that level and become great,” guard Rob Sims said Wednesday after practice.

The Lions, though, did not have success as a team in 2013. They slumped to a 7-9 finish after a 6-3 start last year in large part because of turnovers after the offensive line did its job.

Now, the same group is back and determined to be even better.

Center Dominic Raiola and Sims, with a combined 21 years of NFL experience, lead the line. Left tackle Riley Reiff, a 2012 first-round pick, has started 24 games. On the right side, Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle are back after being first-string players as rookies.

“We’ve taken the young guys under our wing,” Sims said. “They come over to my house or Dom’s house once a week. I think that kind of bond off the field can help you on the field during games.”

Raiola is simply happy the Lions still want him around, entering his 14th season with the team. He signed a one-year deal during the offseason, giving him another chance to chase team success that has been elusive.

Detroit is 60-148 in the regular season, 0-1 in the playoffs, since drafting Raiola in 2001.

“I feel like I’ve been desperate every year,” he said. “But with this group of guys, with this coaching staff, with this organization, there’s nothing more I want to do right now than win.”

The Lions seem set up to move the ball through the air and on the ground while scoring a lot of points. Stafford will be passing to Johnson, Golden Tate, a trio of tight ends and a pair of running backs. Running the ball on the ground appears to be a good option, too, with the speedy Bush and powerful Bell. First-year offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi will be calling plays, a task that he said is “comforting” because of the offensive line.

“I like the continuity,” Lombardi said. “I like the skill sets of those players. I like the attitude. I’m very confident in that group.”

NOTES: Johnson is expected to make his preseason debut Friday night at home against Jacksonville. ... Detroit DT Nick Fairley has been demoted to second string, behind C.J. Mosley, on the depth chart.

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