Today’s question: Matthew Stafford has been sacked 89 times over the past two seasons -- two more times than his total rushing attempts in 2014 and 2015. The consistent pressure Stafford has faced hindered Detroit's offense as well. While the Lions quarterback has not missed a game since 2010, despite being pummeled the past two seasons, the Lions knew they had to improve on the offensive line to help both Stafford and the running game.
The Lions didn't make any huge free-agent signings along the line, although they brought in veteran guard Geoff Schwartz. During the draft, the offensive line became a major focal point, with three picks used on offensive linemen, including the No. 16 overall pick, tackle Taylor Decker, along with center Graham Glasgow and the versatile Joe Dahl.
But was it enough to help Stafford this fall? We asked the other writers around the NFC North whether it'll be enough to keep Stafford upright this year.
Ben Goessling, Minnesota Vikings reporter: I'd be cautious before I assume a bunch of young linemen are going to come in and fix the problems I saw last season, when the Vikings quite literally turned Stafford black and blue in two matchups against the Lions. He needed X-rays after both games, and the Vikings' pass rush should be formidable again this season, with Danielle Hunter turning into the kind of freaky pass-rusher Everson Griffen has been on the right side of the line. The Packers want to get Clay Matthews back at outside linebacker, and they blitz enough that young linemen will have plenty to think about there, too. Vikings GM Rick Spielman talked this offseason about how the team -- which has plenty of its own offensive line issues -- likes to stockpile young linemen, because it's as tough as ever to find good ones coming from the spread-heavy college game. The investments certainly can help, but I'm not sure I'd assume they will fix all the Lions' protection problems by Week 1.
Rob Demovsky, Green Bay Packers reporter: How much of that is on Stafford? Does he hold the ball too long? Do receivers not get open quickly enough? So often we look at sack numbers and automatically assign them to the offensive line, but it's not always the case. Obviously, the Lions need a tackle or they wouldn't have used the 16th overall pick on Taylor Decker. But it's a lot to ask of any rookie to come in and deal with the NFL's best pass-rushers right away and be successful. Just because they addressed it this offseason, doesn't mean the problem will be solved. If defensive coordinators have been successful defending a player a certain way -- in this case pressuring Stafford -- then expect them to keep sending the house after him until they prove they can stop it.
Jeff Dickerson, Chicago Bears reporter: How can it not help? Stafford went down 44 times last year. The Lions used three picks on offensive linemen -- Ohio State's Taylor Decker (first round), Michigan's Graham Glasgow (third round) and Washington State's Joe Dahl (fifth round). At least two of the rookies should start Week 1. Detroit may experience growing pains early in the season, but Stafford likely benefits in the long run. The Lions are not alone in terms of pass protection woes. Teams also sacked Teddy Bridgewater 44 times in 2015. And Aaron Rodgers was sacked a division-high 46 times. Of the three NFC teams, the Lions were the most proactive addressing the problem via the draft. That should help Stafford next season, unless Detroit completely misevaluated the prospects.