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Cold Hard Football Facts Offers Proof that Lions’ O-Line is Solid

The Lions have been featured on up-and-comer lists many times during their playoff drought. High grades from experts on their free agents and draft picks and various changes to coaching staffs always looked great on paper, but yielded horrific results.

Now the Lions are on the up-and-comer list again courtesy of Kerry Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts via Sports Illustrated.  Byrne doesn’t just name the Lions as a potential contender in 2011 for some flashy draft picks, he offers up several intriguing stats and rankings from Cold Hard Football Facts detailed statistical analysis.  One of those rankings was their Offensive Hog Index, described on as:

The Offensive Hog Index is our effort to quantify which team has the best offensive line in football.
This isn’t rocket science, folks. The Offensive Hog Index simply looks at at each team in three major, easy-to-understand categories and ranks them by average in these categories.
The top offensive line is that which posts the highest average rating across the board. The Offensive Hog Index is based upon these criteria:
YPA – Yards Per Attempt. So simple, even you can understand it. This rates a team’s ability to run the ball effectively.
NPP%Negative Pass Plays, expressed as a percentage. This is how often a team’s pass plays end in either a sack or interception. The theory is that teams with poor offensive lines generally surrender more sacks (duh!) and that their quarterbacks are forced into making bad throws more often. These negative pass plays are calculated as a percentage of attempts. So if a team suffers two sacks and throws two INTs in 40 pass plays, their NPP% will be 10 percent (4/40).
3down% – Success rate on third down the higher the percentage, the greater the offensive success and the better the offensive line.
The Lions ranked 8th in the NFL in the Hog Index for the 2010 season which backs up the claims of the Lions’ coaches and several of the Jeff Backus and Dominic Riaola “slappies.”  The Lions’ offensive line is not horrible, in fact it is a top 10 unit in the NFL.
Yes, all three of the Lions’ quarterbacks suffered injuries in 2010 but to use that a measuring stick of the line’s performance isn’t accurate.  Let’s look at the various injuries:
Matthew Stafford: Stafford’s injury vs. the Bears was a blown assignment by Jeff Backus that resulted in a 290 lb defensive end blindsiding Stafford and both Stafford and Peppers landing on Stafford’s shoulder.  Most blindside sacks don’t result in major shoulder injuries, this one did because of where Stafford was in his throwing motion at the time.  Peppers went high on him to try to force the fumble (which he did) and Peppers’ pinned Stafford’s arm at an awkward angle before landing on him.  Stafford’s second injury was a reaggravation of the prior injury and was initially aggravated on a personal foul when a Jets defender hit him out of bounds.  He reinjured it for good while scrambling  out of the endzone to avoid a safety.  We saw the same thing in 2009 with Sam Bradford at Oklahoma.  He separated his shoulder, came back too early and injured it again.  Stafford’s second injury had less to do with the offensive line than it did with him playing at less than 100%.
Shaun Hill: Hill was injured twice and niether was on a clean football play.  Hill was hit below the knees by a defender lunging from the ground against the Giants.  This was a clear violation of the “Tom Brady” rule which resulted in Hill falling awkwardly on his arm and breaking it.  Cheap shots cannot be counted as a poor reflection on the offensive line because they occur outside of the rules of the game.  Hill’s second injury, the broken finger, occured on a quarterback sneak when a defender was trying to strip the ball and broke it.  Once again, not the line’s fault.
Drew Stanton: Stanton injured his shoulder on a rushing attempt against the Bucs when he was a downfield runner and didn’t slide.  Yet another injury that cannot be assigned to poor line play.
The Lions’ offensive line has some major question marks healthwise and for the long term future at left tackle and center, but their performance was solid in 2010.  In fact according to Cold Hard Football Facts, they were better than solid, they were top 10.

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