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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Don't sleep on Detroit Lions OT Riley Reiff




Lions offensive tackle Riley Reiff has looked good in training camp, even holding his own -- and then some -- against star defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

From Kyle Meinke's "Don't sleep on Detroit Lions OT Riley Reiff"
August 19, 2015

ALLEN PARK — There's this running joke among reporters that someone should start a segment called "Pulling teeth with Riley Reiff."

Because the man doesn't say much.

The Detroit Lions' left tackle has a strong aversion to the media — he has yet to speak to a reporter since the start of camp — and from all accounts isn't much of a talker behind closed doors either.

Even on the field, Rieff has a quiet way of going about his business.

Think about it. How many stories have you seen about Rieff since the start of camp? And this man plays left tackle, among the most important positions on the team.

That's due in part to his reticent nature — but also to his quiet efficiency on the line.

While Detroit figures out what it has at left guard, and center, and right tackle, it already knows what it has in Rieff, who is entering his third season as the full-time starter at left tackle. And it likes what it sees.

"He's performed well," coach Jim Caldwell said. "He's done a nice job in his pass protection, nice job of run blocking and he's playing like you would anticipate him to play. He doesn't make many mistakes."

Reiff has had a strong camp, despite his low-profile. That includes some titanic clashes with defensive end Ezekiel Ansah during one-on-ones.

Ansah is one of the best young pass-rushers in the game. He has more sacks (15.5) than anyone else in his draft class. This guy is an athletic freak who has gotten the best of a lot of offensive linemen the past two years.

Yet Reiff has stoned him again and again and again during one-on-ones.
He's lost a handful of those battles, but won the majority.

"That's a clash of the titans," right tackle LaAdrian Waddle said. "Reiff is a brawler, and battles to the end, and every time, especially going against Ziggy, that's what you have to do. Because Ziggy is a freak athlete coming off the edge, and he's going to pack some power.

"And Reiff is still doing his thing."

Their battles have a way of getting heated, and sometimes seem almost personal. In fact, Ansah and Reiff appeared to nearly come to blows during one sequence in OTAs.

So they're definitely not taking it easy on each other.

Yet Reiff is winning most of the battles.

"The old saying in the Bible says, 'Iron sharpens iron,' and I think you get that from Ziggy and Riley," Caldwell said. "They look forward to working against one another, they challenge one another and I think obviously it makes them better."

Reiff doesn't seem to be doing a whole lot differently this season. He hasn't made a significant physical leap, like Caraun Reid, or a significant mental leap, like Darius Slay last year.

Larry Warford, and Reid, and Waddle, and even Caldwell, could not point to one major improvement since last season. They all echoed a similar refrain: He's just kind of improved everywhere.

The biggest improvement seems to be one of the smallest things, which is his handwork.

"With Reiff, I think one of the problems he brought up he wanted to work on was how he drops his hands at contact," Warford said. "And with this practice we've been having in training camp, he's carrying his hands a lot better. He's striking a lot cleaner, and that's just improved his game so much.

"His sets have always been great. It's just the way he carries his hands. It's sometimes the smallest things with offense line play that can screw up your game. And the way he carries his hands has improved his game a ton."

All he's done is put his head down and done his job — and from all accounts, done it very well through training camp.

To the point where some are wondering whether he could still mature into a top-tier left tackle.

"Hell ya he can do it," Warford said. "There are a few guys on our team who could do it, and he's definitely one of them. He has all the makings of a great tackle. He just needs to keep progressing.

"Like you said, he's out here battling Ziggy every day, and that's one of the better pass-rushers in the league. What better way would there be to get to that level?"

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