Lions O-line potential sky-high, just ask D’Andre Swift

No doubt, months away from opening day the Lions offensive line has the potential to be one of the league’s best. 

Of course, there’s a big if. Unlike last season, can they stay healthy?

Lions running back D’Andre Swift said it crosses his mind at least once a day about what could happen next season if the offensive line remains healthy.

The line is set up so that GM Brad Holmes doesn’t need to draft an offensive lineman to make it work.

While all five “starters” O-line starters never played in one game last season, they are healthy and, of course, optimism radiates. It’s that time of year.

“I said it last year, I’m going to stand on it. I think we can be the best in the league, I know we can be the best in the league. We just have to come out to work everyday,’’ left guard Jonah Jackson said.

Projected starters from last year will all return with left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Jonah Jackson, center Frank Ragnow, right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai and right tackle Penei Sewell (last year’s first-round draft pick).

Due to a slew of injuries they never played in one game together. Decker missed the first six games, Ragnow played in the first four and then hurt his foot and missed the rest of the season.

The good news is that Ragnow is back and participating in offseason workouts which started this week.

“I think being hurt, that was horrible. You just gain a lot of respect for dudes who have had to deal with injuries. It’s a gut-wrenching, man you really don’t realize. Obviously you’re still part of the team but you don’t really feel part of the team,’’ Ragnow said on Thursday.

“When you’re out on the field on Sundays and you’re in your gear, you’re like a gladiator. I’m walking out there in a T-shirt and shorts walking around, it’s a humbling feeling,’’ he added.

Sewell was one of last season’s highlights.He spent training camp at right tackle but when Decker went down before the first game he shifted to the left and did a respectable job.

“He looks the same. He’s a freak show. He’s still a freak show,’’ Ragnow said of Sewell. “Big, strong kid, great energy.”

Having the same guys return is huge.

“Obviously, we would love to all stay healthy, just off-the-field wise and mentally chemistry wise people don’t understand how big that is for offensive lines in particular,’’ Ragnow said. “You have to really know how these guys think, trust these guys and the relationships we’ve developed over five years with me and Taylor and the other guys trickling in here.’’

Five things to know about Lions’ tie with Steelers

Well, at least the Lions won’t finish the season 0-17.

In the strangest of strange games the Lions and Steelers tied at 16-16 after a scoreless overtime in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Detroit now owns an 0-8-1 record.

The Lions best chance to win it in overtime was blown when kicker Ryan Santoso was not even close on a 48-yard field goal attempt.

The silver lining was that the running game finished with 229 yards.

On the other hand, quarterback Jared Goff played possibly his worst game this season. He appeared to be injured in the first half, but stayed in the game. Usually an effective running game can open up the pass game, but that did not happen on Sunday. 

“Like I told the guys, I was upset we didn’t win but I was also proud of them because we put ourselves in position to win that game in overtime, it didn’t work out, then our defense has to go back and take the field,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “They’re driving and we force the turnover which I thought was big and that kept us from losing is what it did. We want to win, looking for our first win but I know this, we were better than we were two weeks ago.’’

If you’ve forgotten — or wiped it out of your memory — two weeks ago the Lions lost 44-6 to the Eagles and had to chew on that debacle during the bye week.

Five things to know about Sunday’s tie:

1. Campbell said on the sidelines they discussed Goff’s ability to play with his injury. “We all felt like he was good — he was good enough to go. … We all felt like he was good enough to stay in there, so that’s why we stuck with him,’’ the coach said. Goff finished 14 of 25 for 114 yards and was sacked four times.  Was there a way to get the ball to tight end T.J. Hockenson. It’s unexplainable that he didn’t have a single catch and just one target.

2. Much of the run game was on the shoulders of D’Andre Swift with Jamaal Williams out with an injury to start the game and Jermar Jefferson forced out after he was injured on his 28-yard touchdown run. Swift carried 33 times for 130 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and caught three passes for 5 yards. Godwin Igwebuike came up big with a 42-yard touchdown run. It was Swift who did all the dirty work, though. 

3. On the first possession the Steelers took the ball downfield with ease because the Lions secondary looked like they weren’t quite ready to go. The defense redeemed itself after that drive to finish the first half but there were still too many errors and penalties.

4. The tie can’t be all pinned on Santoso but the Lions really missed kicker Austin Seibert who is out with a hip injury. Santoso also missed an extra point which was costly. Other than that, special teams had a decent day with solid returns. Igwebuike had a 29-yard kick return and Igwebuike returned a punt 48 yards. 

5. After the loss two weeks ago, Campbell and the coaches examined the first half of the season. Apparently one of their decisions was to give Campbell more involvement on game day in the offense. He was the one communicating with Goff through the headphones although Anthony Lynn, the offensive coordinator, was also involved. Another change that seemed to work was putting offensive lineman Matt Nelson in at tight end to provide extra protection. It was a move that worked well, but Nelson was injured in the first half and missed the rest of the game. 

Up next: Lions (0-8-1) at Cleveland on Sunday, Nov. 21. The Browns (5-5) lost 45-7 to the Patriots on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of the Detroit Lions)

Dan Campbell had no tears to shed after the Lions’ 34-11 loss to the Bengals on Sunday at Ford Field. Instead he was angry, frustrated and everything in-between.

The targets? Everyone including himself.

His first words when he took the postgame podium: “We got whipped, that was brutal.’’ 

This Lions coach did not sugarcoat.

“We didn’t do anything right. (I) thought we played a little defense early in the first half other than the shot play we gave up, but we were in it. We couldn’t sustain,’’ Campbell said. “Offensively we had no rhythm, we had no tempo, we couldn’t execute on third down, missed opportunities and that’s the story of the game. That was a beatdown.’’

Five things to know about the beatdown:

  1. Jared Goff is an easy target. He missed wide-open receivers and most of the yardage came late with the Bengals in prevent Cover-2. He was 28 of 42 for 202 yards and one interception. Like everyone on offense he had a brutally bad day. Yet Campbell said at no time did he ever think about pulling Goff for backup David Blough. “I will say this, I still don’t feel like we can accurately judge (Goff) one way or another. I don’t feel that way yet. I will say this, I feel like he needs to step up more than he has. I think he needs to help us, just like everybody else,’’ Campbell said. “He’s going to need to put a little weight on his shoulders and stand up and do some things but he needs help. I told him out there, he knows this. Some of that stuff we’re getting these holding calls because he’s drifting back in the pocket 10 feet deep …. I’m want to see him step up. I do it because I think he can do it.’’ Campbell also mentioned that the wide receivers need to know where and when to be in the right position

2. The defense played well in the first half, just giving up 10 points. But appeared to be just bystanders during the second half. Campbell said if the offense is going to struggle the defense has to step up. “If that’s the way it’s going, the defense can’t allow the opponent to score then, so be it. That’s life. If you’re the ones who are playing best, you’ve got to hold them and keep us in the game,’’ Campbell said. “Keep it to where we can score maybe one score and find a way to win the game. It’s not good.’’ Cornerback Amani Oruwariye intercepted Joe Burrow for his third pick in the last four games. “We’ve got to find a way to get a win, play our best football we can do. I still don’t think we’ve played our best football yet,’’ Oruwariye said.

3. Running backs Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift had been fine in the first five losses, but couldn’t get it going against the Bengals defense even in the first half when they were only down 10-0 at the half. It’s not all on them, the makeshift offensive line (due to injuries) has to do its part too. Swift had 13 carries for 24 yards and a touchdown, along with 5 catches for 43 yards. 

4. Penalties were a killer — 9 for 77 yards. The offense opened the game with back-to-back penalties — illegal formation and false start — on their first drive. This is one area that is definitely fixable but they’ve got to focus on it 

5. Coaching is indeed at least in part to blame for the 0-6 record. “The focus wasn’t there. I told the team this I’m going to look at everything, that’s my job. But when you get whipped like that, that’s on me there is no way around that,’’ Campbell said. “Of course we’ll look at everything that’s a reflection on me. You don’t play like that. We don’t have a team – that team isn’t 30-something points better than us, there’s no way,’’ Campbell said. “We shot ourselves in the foot, we could not execute. We had some plays that were there to make, we didn’t make them. It’s brutal, it’s on me.’’

UP NEXT: Lions (0-6) at Los Angeles Rams (5-1). It will be a reunion with Matthew Stafford who will likely be the one walking away with a smile. The Rams defeated the Giants, 38-11, on Sunday.

THIS AND THAT: Fumbles were an issue last week, against the Bengals the Lions did not fumble. … Jack Fox punted six times and averaged 55.5 yards per punt with a long of 64 yards. … Tight end T.J. Hockenson caught 8 passes for 74 yards. … In the first half the Lions had 51 yards of offense and just four first downs. They finished with 15 first downs but only because of garbage time in the fourth when there was no way they could come back. … The Lions were 5-14 (35.7%) on third downs and 1-2 on fourth-down attempts. … The Bengals finished with 398 net yards while Detroit had 228. … Cincinnati won the time-of-possession battle with 35:52 to 24:08. … Julian Owkara had his first NFL sack and Austin Bryant also sacked Joe Burrow. … Derrick Barnes led all defensmen with 8 tackles.