DETROIT -- Eight months ago, the Lions were considering moving Riley Reiff to guard, and if the draft had played out a different way, Reiff might be an interior lineman today.
But offensive tackles went flying off the board on draft day, and the Lions are just fine with the way things shook out.
Rookie third-round pick Larry Warford has solidified the right guard spot and been one of the Lions' best blockers all season, and Reiff, quietly, is having a good year at left tackle, the position he was originally drafted to play.
"I think Riley's played very well," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said Friday. "He always gets probably the toughest matchup each week, especially in our division, and he's played really consistent. The whole group has.
"I think the offensive line is really judged on how the group performs. Individually sure, but as a group you look at some of the things statistically that we've improved on from a year ago as far as our ability to run the ball, our pass protection, that's all that whole group, and Riley's certainly a part of that."
Reiff ranks 21st among qualified left tackles in Pro Football Focus' advanced grading system for offensive linemen, and the Lions (7-6) are the least-sacked team in the NFL.
Reiff has performed slightly better as a run blocker than in pass protection this year, where he has allowed five sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. But he also played through a hamstring injury before the bye and has held his own against a series of good pass rushers.
This week, Reiff will face one of his sternest tests of the seasons against the Terrell Suggs (nine sacks) and the Ravens, though he played some of his best games against fellow 3-4 defensive teams the Steelers, Browns and Cardinals already this year.
"We've been happy with Riley and what he's done," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "(Two weeks ago) he got Clay Matthews quite a bit and I thought that he did a good job. We took one sack, he gave up a sack to Nick Perry, but I thought that his ability to contain Clay Matthews had a lot to do with the success that we were able to get."
Though Reiff was considered close to a finished product when the Lions took him 23rd overall out of Iowa last year, Schwartz said Reiff still has plenty of improvement to make.
"He's still a young guy and physical maturity comes," Schwartz said. "His technique has been good, he's tough. His competitiveness has been good. He's good in run game, but just any talented player, you just see more experience going against guys multiple times. ... There's always improvement that guys can make that way."
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