LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions have had one of the NFL’s best offenses this season, ranking among the league leaders in scoring and yards.
A new-look offensive line has a lot to do with that.
With three new starters, the Lions’ revamped line is giving Matthew Stafford more time to throw and Reggie Bush more room to run. Entering the season, the unit was regarded as a weakness by people outside of the franchise. Through four games, it has been an asset.
“For four weeks, I guess we proved everybody wrong,” guard Rob Sims said Wednesday. “We still got a long way to go. We knew what we had. We know what it looked like on paper. I understand why everybody felt the way that they felt because we weren’t big-name guys.”
The Lions lost last year’s left tackle, Jeff Backus, to retirement. Detroit didn’t re-sign right tackle Gosder Cherilus, who now starts for the Indianapolis Colts, and released right guard Stephen Peterman, who was cut by the New York Jets in August.
Detroit drafted Riley Reiff in the first round last year and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was confident the team would have a quality player at the key position to protect Stafford’s blind side.
“Every single day of last year, nonstop going against Riley Reiff, you knew he was ready to step in at left tackle,” Suh said.
While Reiff had his job locked up well before Week 1, the Lions gave several players a shot to start at right guard and right tackle. Rookie Larry Warford, a third-round pick from Kentucky, won the job at right guard.
“Larry is going to have some ups and downs and growing pains that all players are going to have, being that young,” Sims said. “But he’s doing a great job of handling the ups and lows. He’s pretty even-keeled.”
Jason Fox beat out Corey Hilliard to start at right tackle for the opener. Fox, though, had a groin injury in his first career start against the Minnesota Vikings and Hilliard replaced him.
“We even cut some guys that I think could have contributed,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “I really like where those guys are. They do have a good personality. They protected well. They have also opened up some good holes in the running game. Rightfully so, a lot is made of Reggie and the yards he has gotten in the big plays. There are a lot of times he’s in to the secondary without getting touched. That’s credit to the offensive line.”
Center Dominic Raiola, though, doesn’t want anyone patting him or his linemates on their backs yet.
“We still believe we’re a work in progress and we’re going to stick to that,” said Raiola, who has played for Detroit since ex-general manager Matt Millen drafted him in 2001. “Our work is never done. We have big-picture goals and goals within our room that we keep in our room. There’s no satisfaction. The leaders in that room will never let it get to that.”
NOTES: WR Kevin Olgetree signed a one-year contract with the Lions, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the move had not been announced. … The Lions kept S Louis Delmas (knee), CB Chris Houston (hamstring), WR Calvin Johnson (knee) and S Glover Quin (ankle) out of Wednesday’s practice. … DE Ezekiel Ansah (abdomen) and Sims (shoulder) were limited in practice while WR Patrick Edwards (right ankle), Fox (groin) and CB Rashean Mathis (head) were able to participate in all of the practice.
AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)