Lions: Long-armed DEs are all the rage

June, 3, 2013
6/03/13
11:00
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We've had our fun over the years with the presumed deficiencies of linemen with relatively short arms. Line play is about leverage and, the theory goes, a combatant with longer arms has a physics-based advantage.

So it's worth noting that at least one NFC North team approached the offseason with plans to capitalize on that theory. The Detroit Lions added three defensive ends of exceptional height and arm length combinations, making what general manager Martin Mayhew said was an intentional shift toward that body type if the rest of the player's resume checked out.

Mayhew told reporters earlier this spring that defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham commissioned a study on the correlation between sacks and players with certain height and arm-length measureables.

"We talked about that with our coaching staff and spoke at length with some of our guys about those guys being able to make more plays," Mayhew said. "… So, it was something that we were kind of focused on. I'm not saying we wouldn't have taken a guy who wasn't 6-7, but we like what those guys bring to the table."

The chart provides details on the players the Lions acquired to replace their 2012 starting defensive ends, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. Jason Jones, Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor are all at least 6-foot-5 and have arms longer than 35 inches. For context, consider the previous two defensive ends the Lions drafted: Ronnell Lewis (2012) is 6-foot-2 with 32 1/2-inch arms, while Willie Young (2010) is 6-foot-5 with 34 1/2-inch arms.

Collectively, the Lions' new group "changes the dynamic of where our defensive ends are right now," coach Jim Schwartz said.

"Long arms help in the position," he added, "fending off blocks, just having range to be able to tackle guys and also knocking down passes and a lot of times if you're blocked, you can shoot an arm out and affect the quarterback."

Again, if all else is equal, the tall/long-arm body type should help the Lions achieve one of Mayhew's top goals of the offseason: To increase playmaking on defense. Mayhew said shortly after the 2012 season the Lions' defense needed more players who can "impact the game." He added: "We need interceptors. We need guys that sack the quarterback. We need guys that cause fumbles, guys that make plays on third down. Those are the kind of guys that can change the game for us."

If nothing else, the Lions are banking that height and long arms is better than the alternative.

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