Perhaps the biggest bright spot and surprise of the Detroit Lions 2013 season was the fantastic play of the young offensive line.
Many however, maybe hesitant to buy into the fact that there is finally a reliable group of guys blocking up front. It was only one good season and tides tend to shift quickly in the NFL.
There is reason to expect good things again next season though.
“Each of these guys were kind of put through the paces from a strength and conditioning standpoint, all during the spring,” Caldwell said. “We take measurables at the beginning, then at the end. The improvement among the group was extraordinary.”
“You can tell they’re taking care of their bodies, watching what they eat, because our strength gains were great,” Caldwell continued. “Guys that needed to gain a little more muscle, gained the muscle that they needed. Guys that needed to trim down a little bit, did so. It’s an ongoing process, but these last few months have been incredible.”
With starting left guard, Rob Sims unable to participate during organized team activities due to injury, youngster Rodney Austin has made the most of the opportunity. Austin spent the last season and a half on the teams practice squad, but has caught the eye of quarterback Matthew Stafford since getting first team reps.
“He’s gotten a lot stronger, which is scary to think because he was already a strong guy,” Stafford said. “He did a great job in the weight room, was here every day working hard.”
Detroit finished 22nd in the league last season in the run game, averaging just 4.0 yards per carry. They did however only allow 23 sacks all year, good for second best in the NFL.
Matthew Stafford has also not missed a game in three plus seasons going into 2014. A vast improvement from his first two years in the league. Keeping him off the ground is likely to have attributed to keeping him on the field.