The Detroit Lions went down to Jacksonville over the weekend and controlled the Jaguars from start to finish for the most convincing win of the season. It helps that the Jaguars are terrible, but road wins are tough to come by in the NFL so any road win is important.
The offense seemed to gel and looked good outside of some errant Matthew Stafford throws in the first half, which is a concern going forward. But the running game looked good, the offensive line looked very good and Ryan Broyles continued to look good filling in for Nate Burleson.
What is even better to see is that Riley Reiff, the teams first round pick last year is earning more and more playing time with his hard work and success when he is put onto the field. Scott Linehan, the Lions offense coordinator, seems to have fallen in love with the unbalanced line and bringing in Reiff as a TE/Extra Tackle on running plays and the success on them is astounding.
Reiff is becoming a dominating run blocker and if he can develop his pass protection skills, he could anchor the left tackle position for the Lions for years to come. This would be a major haul for Martin Mayhew as Reiff is signed to a 4 year, iron clad deal that could see the team save a significant amount of money the next 3 years on a position that is usually a cap eating spot.
As much as this team depends on the arm of Matthew Stafford and the big plays of Calvin Johnson, teaming them with a dominating left tackle could be as valuable to the franchise as finding other play makers to take attention away form Johnson or a shut down corner.
With the play of Reiff and Broyles so far this year and once Mikael Leshoure was finally able to get onto the playing field, once again, Martin Mayhew looks like he knows what he is doing. He is able to get good value in the mid rounds of the NFL draft and those players are becoming quality contributors to pair with what should be at least starters out of the first round.
If Reiff can continue to get on the field and help out the run game, this will provide quite a bit of value in some key games late in the year that could mean making the playoffs vs. going home early, especially the season finale against the Bears in Detroit.
When Reiff hits the field everyone knows a run is coming, but the key is still being able to move the ball in that scenario, and that is what they team has been able to do by utilizing his crushing blocks. If he continues to be effective, look for this team to be pushing for a playoff spot again this year.