2011 NFL Draft: Why QB Matthew Stafford Sees No Need to Upgrade on Offense

Brenda SummersCorrespondent IIApril 19, 2011

DENVER - AUGUST 21:  Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions runs the offense against the Denver Broncos during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 21, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Lions defeated the Broncos 25-20.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Matthew Stafford doesn't see any reason to upgrade the Detroit Lions offensive line. 

This is the same line that many fans have been worried about not being effective at protecting Matthew Stafford. It seems to me that if Stafford isn't worried about them, then maybe we shouldn't be either. 

After all, it is his body that has been dropped and stomped on.

Actually, Stafford may be making a statement about how much the line progressed last season and is taking some of the blame off of them for his injury plagued two years in the league.

Or he may simply be a "team" player who believes in the guys they already have to get the job done.

Many people have speculated about the way the Detroit Lions will approach the draft this year. There is an offense contingency and a defense contingency regarding the highest need. 

One of the positions that has come up for an upgrade of the O-Line is an offensive tackle. It is true that initially there were many who blamed LT, Jeff Backus, for Stafford's injuries but the statistics on Backus show otherwise. 

Backus was ranked 13th by ProFootballFocus for left tackles in the NFL. If you take out the ones who played in less than 16 games, Backus becomes the tenth most efficient tackle in the league. 

It only gets better for him once you look at the NFC North division, where he was only bested by Minnesota's Bryant McKinnie. Then again, if you look at total snap counts, Backus outplayed everyone, period.

No one is going to be able to stop every defender on ever snap.

Still, there are people suggesting that Backus be replaced. But there are fewer suggesting this than were at the beginning of the year, probably due to hearing that the Lions were tied for sixth in the league for sacks allowed. 

Backus only gave up four sacks on the year.

Interestingly, there has been some shifting in focus on which tackle actually needs attention. 

Is it Gosder Cherilus? He is just coming off of microfracture knee surgery and it is uncertain whether he will be able to play at right tackle in the first few games. 

He stepped up his game last year and was 14th in the league for efficiency. If you take out the five who played in fewer games than Cherilus (who played in 12), he becomes the ninth most efficient. 

If we take it to the same level as Backus, no one beat Cherilus in the NFC North.

Certainly his surgery has raised concerns and one of his back-ups, Jason Fox, has limited time on the field. However, last season the Lions put tackle, Corey Hilliard, in to help the injured Cherilus and felt good about his ability to step in. 

If the Lions choose to pick OT in the draft it will be to give Fox some competition.

The other place that gets attention for a position of need on offense is at Center.  Dominic Raoila has been considered an "undersized" center since he began playing ten years ago.

He has been a morale leader on the Lions line, however, and the staff may not be eager to replace him. 

Dylan Gandy is currently Raoila's primary back-up and unproven, Dan Gerberry, is waiting in the wings.

I can see that Center may be a place where the Lions, again, just want to bring pressure to the guys they have. They may find a player in the draft who can motivate Raoila to step it up even more or be replaced.

Stephen Peterman is the Lions' starting Right Guard. He struggled last year, but started in all 16 games. He was part of the offensive line that ranked fifth in the NFL in sacks per pass play (4.19 pct.), giving up just 26 sacks on 620 pass plays.

The primary concern about Peterman last year was how many flags he drew. He had at least 11 penalties that hurt the Lions. 

Thankfully, that number of penalties has not been typical of Peterman in other seasons.  He played on a bad foot and other suspected injuries that have hopefully healed up this off season so that he can get back to form without drawing penalties.

Other than that, the Lions do have need for a second or third running back who will compliment Jahvid Best and a third wide receiver who can compliment Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson. 

These positional needs just provide more weapons for QB, Matthew Stafford.

I am in agreement with Stafford that our offensive line did well, particularly as the season went on. I'm very happy that he believes in his team and in the players who are there to protect him. 

I'll go with Stafford, with just a couple of minor adjustments (Raoila and maybe Peterman).

This Lions team is so ready to have a break-out season, who am I to try and second-guess our franchise QB who is finally healthy and ready to take the Lions to the next level?

Mayhew and Schwartz will get it right during the draft and our Detroit Lions will be in the playoffs.

Wait and see, my friends. This team will rise and surprise all but the Lions faithful. 

We already know where they are heading.


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