A Film Review Of The Detroit Lions’ Rushing Touchdowns From The 2016 Season.
Detroit Lions’ Running Game Down In 2016
If there is one thing Lions fans and the national sports media can agree on, it is that the Detroit Lions’ run game in 2016 was abysmal. Many point to poor blocking, especially at the left guard position. The left guard season starter Laken Tomlinson struggled to the point that rookie center Graham Glasgow had to come in and play left guard the stop the bleeding.
This helped the Lions as the season went along as the majority of their rushing touchdowns came later in the year. But the Lions need to improve in this area in 2017. The Lions only scored nine rushing touchdowns in 2016, three of which came from a combination of Matthew Stafford and Eric Ebron. The Lions only had one running back score more rushing touchdowns than either Stafford or Ebron, and that player was Zach Zenner.
Fortunately, the Lions acquired two veteran offensive linemen to fill in for the holes left by Riley Reiff and Larry Warford departing from the team via free agency. The Lions opted for two new linemen who fit their running style much better with off-season signings of TJ Lang and Rick Wagner.
While Wagner has had less experience with the zone blocking scheme the Lions have been running under Jim Bob Cooter, he is a better fit for this scheme than Reiff. Wagner is better in space and relies more on technique versus Reiff’s more power-centric approach. Lang should showcase the same improvement over Warford, as Wagner should with Reiff. Lang is a zone blocking technician who moves very well in space and is always in the right position. While Warford showed promise as a power blocker, the Lions have since moved on from that scheme.
Swanson And New Signings Bring Optimism 2017 Season
The Lions have to be happier about their offensive line situation in 2017 than they were at this same time last season. Lang and Wagner were signed for the pass block prowess but they should also bring an improvement to the running game on the right side of the line where the Lions really struggled to run the ball last year.
Another reason the Lions should be excited is their starting center from 2016, Travis Swanson should be healthy and ready to go in 2017. Another off-season to get better acclimated with the system should help Swanson build on an impressive 2016 season in the run game.
Almost all of Detroit’s 2016 rushing touchdowns came through the A gap. This is the primary gap responsibility for center Travis Swanson on most plays. Whether it is Stafford running a QB Sneak at the goal line, Theo Riddick breaking off a shifty midfield run, or Zach Zenner powering through the middle, Swanson was the man leading the way. Swanson rarely gives up ground in the red zone and really mauls defenders in the red zone. He plays angry in the run game and fights for every inch on the goal line. And in a game of inches, the Lions have a great tool in Travis Swanson to use in the run game for the 2017 season.