Monday, August 01, 2016
Lions offensive tackle Riley Reiff, shown at left, was a big star once the pads went on during training camp on Sunday. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)
By Kyle Meinke
July 31, 2016
ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions strapped on pads for the first time in training camp on Sunday, and all eyes were on how the reworked offensive line would fare.
All told, not that well.
But there was one notable, violent exception: Riley Reiff.
The veteran is being asked to learn a new position this offseason, bouncing from the more prestigious left tackle position to the right side just as he's entering a contract year. Coach Jim Caldwell has raved about his dedication to learning the position, and the hard work was evident once the hitting picked up.
Detroit ran a one-on-one drill where offensive linemen tried to prevent defensive lineman from reaching a hanging bag in the backfield. And not only did Reiff stalemate projected starting defensive end Devin Taylor in his first rep, he put Taylor on his butt on the second, driving him into the ground.
He wasn't done either.
"He broke two facemasks today out there (during team drills)," coach Jim Caldwell said after practice. "So it was a pretty rough day. I know one broke, I'm not certain what happened to the other, if it was a malfunction or not. But I told him he broke two."
Reiff typically doesn't talk to reporters unless he has to, and he politely declined comment again to MLive after practice. But his play made a loud statement.
However he feels about being asked to learn a smaller-money position as he heads into a contract year -- a spot some players would balk at -- doesn't matter. He is here to hit people.
It was just one day, and it was one day against a new full-time starter. But it was an encouraging step in his transition to the right side, and affirms Caldwell's glowing remarks about how professionally he has handled his new assignment.
"Riley is a warrior," Caldwell said. "Riley does not care about anything other than wanting to play his position, and play it well, and he doesn't care about where he plays. He's a talented guy that's tough and hard-nosed -- the exact kind of guy you're looking for to lead your group. And obviously that's a reason why they voted him to the leadership council as well."
Reiff's performance also stood out because so much of the rest of the line drills went to the defense. DT Haloti Ngata plowed through RG Larry Warford on their first rep, then got good push on the second (though Warford at least managed to stay in front of him this time). DT Tyrunn Walker blasted through LG Laken Tomlinson with a bull rush, then got good leverage on the next rep.
C Travis Swanson stoned DT Gabe Wright, but was beaten the second time around by DT Khyri Thornton.
And Ezekiel Ansah got the best of Taylor Decker, particularly on their second rep, blowing him away off the ball.
Detroit has talked all offseason about the importance of improving the line, which has allowed Matthew Stafford to be sacked 89 times the past two years and paved the way for the league's worst rushing attack in 2015. And after striking out in free agency, it has pinned its hopes on Decker being ready from Day 1 to protect Stafford's blind side.
Decker replaced Reiff right away at left tackle and has looked comfortable throughout the offseason, though once the hitting picked up, he got an education in NFL football from Ansah. For now, it looks like there is work to be done there.
But the good news is, Detroit already looks better on the right side, which is certainly a step in the right direction for that embattled unit.
"You can tell, from a physical standpoint on paper, there's no question (we're better)," Caldwell said. "Both sides of the ball, we're bigger, we're stronger up front. We have to go through a few battles, but I think overall, if we can keep them healthy, it's going to be a pretty good group on both sides of the ball."
Lions training camp notes: Riley Reiff shines, breaks two facemasks
By Jeremy Reisman
August 1, 2016
A look back on reports from Sunday's Detroit Lions practice.
Riley Reiff was the star of Sunday's Detroit Lions training camp practice. According to Mike Rothstein of ESPN, the entire offensive line struggled in their first padded practice, but Reiff managed to separate himself from the pack.
According to head coach Jim Caldwell, Reiff broke one, maybe two facemasks with his violent play.
Here's more of Reiff's dominance from Sunday:
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