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The Detroit Lions' offensive line needs to be more aggressive in 2015

4/20/2015

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They broke things down too much last year. They analyzed things too in-depth.

As Larry Warford looked back at what went wrong with the Detroit Lions' offensive line in 2014, that’s what he saw. The extra analysis took away some of the aggressiveness.

And that won’t happen again.

“We have to be more aggressive,” Warford said Monday after the first day of offseason workouts. “We can’t be as technical as we tried to be. The biggest thing is we tried to break everything down. We tried to focus on a bunch of stuff at once, down to the smallest detail and in offensive line play, that’s cool, but at the end of the day you have to whoop somebody’s ass.

“We weren’t necessarily being the players we were trained to be from the start. We became somewhat robotic in a sense and that biggest thing coach [Jeremiah Washburn], the first thing he said is we’re coming off the ball. We’re running off the ball. There’s nothing else to that. We’re going to set the pocket and run off the ball. He said that today and that’s what it has to be.”

This was an issue for the Lions last season, a group that went from being one of the better units in the NFL in 2013 to one that contributed to the No. 28 rushing offense in the NFL in 2014. It contributed to the Lions allowing 45 sacks last season, the most in quarterback Matthew Stafford's career.

All of that led to changes on the offensive line, where longtime center Dominic Raiola was not brought back and no decision has been made on what to do at left guard, a spot held since 2010 by Rob Sims.

They are two of four veteran players who are gone from the offensive line along with veteran reserves Corey Hilliard and Garrett Reynolds.

“They are huge, huge personalities in the room. That’s 14 years with Dom and what was it, nine, 10 for Sims,” Warford said. “It sucks that they’re gone because they come from a different era in football and that era was, mentally, they were stupid tough, you know.

“It sucks that we don’t have that type of leadership with us, as far as gone, but the biggest thing is carrying on what they taught us and the mentality that they brought and take it upon ourselves to instill that mentality to everybody in the room.”

The Lions are looking to three players to do that -- left tackle Riley Reiff, second-year center Travis Swanson and Warford. Taking over a leadership role is different for Warford, who spent the first two seasons of his career learning from Raiola and Sims.

It is also part of what he focused on this offseason with his trainer, former Pro Bowl offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley. They worked more on the mental aspects of the game than the physical. They tried to make sure Warford didn’t reach too much in trying to find something that would work for him -- preferring to stick with the consistency in his game that brought him to where he is now.

In the past, if Warford wasn’t playing to the level he wanted to, he would sometimes become quiet. He knows he can’t do that anymore -- and that he needs to stick with what works instead of pressing and trying too many things.

“This guy is going through the process of he wants to be the best player on the football field every single snap,” Bentley said. “Every single snap. When you play at a certain level and you come back the following year, you want to do better.

“All I’m saying Larry Warford has to do is stick to his process. He has a plan. He has a blueprint. He can just follow it and he’ll be fine. There’s nothing more to it than that.”

Warford focused on his consistency and his process throughout the offseason. Now that the Lions are back working voluntarily during the offseason, that’s what they need to work on as a group, too, even as the position group as a whole is going through a change.