By Chris Morgan
Name: Riley Reiff – OT – #71
Weight: 313 lbs.
Hometown: Parkston, South Dakota
Experience: 2 years
The Detroit Lions have played through the worst. It’ll take some time before Lions fans will be able to rejoice during the season and celebrate when their team makes the playoffs, especially with the talented rival cheese-heads hogging the spotlight in the postseason.
The Lions are one of the most beloved teams in the league––their fan base is notorious for being overly passionate.
However, not all was well with the team and the fans. The winless season is still a touchy subject among diehard fans, however the results of a poor season translated over into draft picks. And it does help that the Lions now have the greatest active wide receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson. They also have former number one pick quarterback Matthew Stafford who, when healthy, is absolutely incredible.
Stafford and Johnson have already teamed up to break one major record: most receiving yards in a season with 122 catches for 1,964 yards. What prompts Lions fans to brag even more is that Johnson played the 2012 season with broken fingers!
The Lions signed free agent running back Reggie Bush, and you can guarantee that Detroit will have one of the most explosive and exhilarating offenses in the league. That is, if Matthew Stafford can stay healthy. This is where Riley Reiff comes in.
Reiff played high school football at Parkston High in Parkston, South Dakota. As you might have guessed, he didn’t get very much recognition from the major powerhouse football programs. However, Iowa offered a scholarship and Reiff accepted. He didn’t let them down.
Reiff played 11 games his freshman year. What is unique was that during his first season, he played three games at left tackle, seven as left guard, and one game as right tackle. That flexibility earned him a spot on the third team Freshman All-America.
Previous left tackle at Iowa Bryan Bulaga declared for the NFL draft after that season. He is now with division rival Green Bay. With his departure, Reiff stepped up to the starting left tackle position and was named to Second team All-Big Ten his sophomore year and an All American his junior year. He later decided to declare for the NFL Draft after some scouts ranked him as one of the best offensive tackle prospects in the nation.
Not bad for a former South Dakota high school football player, huh?
Reiff fell to the Lions in the 2012 NFL Draft, where they took him 23rd overall. He was expected to go higher than that by most scouts, so when the Lions saw an extremely talented player at one of the most important positions in the game, they had to take him. They certainly need him now, as he has to step in at left tackle to protect Matthew Stafford and to try and get the running game going. Will Reiff be up to the task?
He showed some blocking prowess last season in limited action, but playing every week against the strongest, fastest, and stealthiest pass rushers is another story. One that Reiff has yet to react to.
Additionally, Detroit won’t likely be able to help him too much with tight ends or extra blockers, considering that there is a big question mark at right tackle currently. Opposing defenses know this, and you can bet that they will execute whatever schemes, calls, and strategies they can think of to exploit the weaknesses on the offensive line.
The NFC North used to be dominated by the Bears a few years ago. Power has shifted to the Green Bay Packers, who are always championship contenders. If that wasn’t difficult enough, the Vikings and their unstoppable running back Adrian Peterson are hungry for a bite of the playoffs.
Although records in the NFL are fun to brag about, any Lions fan would rather have a division title and a shot at the Super Bowl. For the sake of putting up high statistics and recording W’s, Reiff needs to be ready. It’s about time the Detroit Lions start winning.
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Chris has been a diehard Detroit Lions fan through the good (Barry Sanders) and the bad (Matt Millen) and that love has led him to take jobs writing about sports, including as a fantasy sports “expert.” His work can be found on Examiner.com.