| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions’ Matt Patricia on how his defense improved in win
Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia on Oct. 19, 2020, discusses how his defense improved in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Frank Ragnow could have begged out of Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and no one would have batted an eye.
Ragnow suffered a groin injury in drills last Wednesday and practiced sparingly the next two days. Joe Dahl took most of the Detroit Lions’ first-team reps at center, and seemed destined to start in Ragnow’s place.
But Ragnow not only made it to the field for the Lions’ 34-16 victory over the Jaguars, he was one of just two offensive linemen to play every snap in a game where few blockers survived unscathed.
“I won’t go into the extents of the injury, but I just kept trying to prepare because I really want to be out there with the guys and I was trying to do everything I could with the guys,” Ragnow said. “Luckily, we were able to get to the point where we felt comfortable; I was able to play and get out there.”
Durability is something Ragnow has prided himself on in his two-plus NFL seasons.
Since missing most of his final season at Arkansas with an ankle injury, Ragnow has played in 36 of a possible 37 games. He missed one game with a brain injury last year, and one snap in 2018 when the sole broke loose from his shoe.
“I think that’s one of the great traits you can have as an offensive lineman is (having) I guess that physical toughness and being a guy that guys can depend on and that’s going to be there every single game and tough it out for you,” Ragnow said.
In Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker, the Lions have found two cornerstone pieces in what’s been a five-year building project upfront.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn in 2016 selected Decker, Dahl and Graham Glasgow during his first draft as general manager, and followed up by taking Ragnow and Tyrell Crosby two years later.
This year, after letting Glasgow walk in free agency, he added two more interior linemen, third-round pick Jonah Jackson and fourth-rounder Logan Stenberg.
Ragnow, Decker, Crosby and Jackson have started every game this season, with Jackson impressing while playing guard spots as a rookie. And Ragnow and Decker have played all 341 offensive snaps.
On Sunday, they were keys to a zero-sack, 180-yard rushing performance that came despite a slew of injuries upfront. Crosby and Halapoulivaati Vaitai departed with dehydration in the first half, leaving the Lions without the entire right side of their offensive line, and Dahl — in his return from injured reserve — did not finish for undisclosed reasons.
“When you go into a game and you lose three players in one position, it’s never easy,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “I thought everyone did a great job at halftime of saying, ‘Hey, what do we want to run? What do we feel comfortable with? What do we like? What’s in the wheelhouse of what we want to try to do going forward?’ Just a great job by the players just going out and being ready to go. Certainly had some moving parts, but I think those guys did a phenomenal job.”
Ragnow, in particular, stood out.
He provided a big hand in two of the Lions’ biggest plays Sunday: teaming with Jackson to seal off the right side of the Jaguars’ defensive line and open a hole for D’Andre Swift’s 54-yard run in the first quarter, and quick-snapping the ball to Matthew Stafford on a 48-yard pass to Kenny Golladay in the third quarter, when Jacksonville’s Kamalei Correa jumped offside.
Ragnow on Monday shrugged off his role in both plays, which set up touchdowns, but he said the Lions as a whole took pleasure in seeing everyone contribute to Swift’s big rushing day.
“We take a lot of pride in that upfront, but also it’s the tight ends, it’s the wide receivers, it’s the quarterback, it’s the running back. It’s really everybody,” Ragnow said. “It’s cool to see, especially with the situation we had yesterday with guys going in and out, it was cool to see Swift get over 100 and everybody else kind of pounding that rock harder.”