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Lions eager to see what guard Larry Warford can do in his second season

Don’t tell Larry Warford he’s arrived.As a Lions third-round pick in 2013, Warford was among the top offensive guards in the NFL and one of five players who received a vote for Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Throughout last season, the Lions ran screen passes to the right side, and Warford was typically the lineman farthest downfield on the plays that resulted in big gains.

“Larry’s a beast,” running back Reggie Bush said. “I’m glad he’s on our side, because he’s just one of those old school, nasty offensive linemen that you love to have blocking for you.”

“Beast” is the best way to describe the Lions’ right guard, who came to training camp this year at 327 pounds, which Warford said is the lightest he can recall reporting. He was in the 340s at Kentucky and weighed 332 pounds at the NFL Combine last year.

As for Bush’s other descriptors, “nasty” only fits on the field.

“Honestly, it sounds lame, but all I do is play football, go home and play guitar or play video games,” Warford said. “I’d go fishing every once in a while (in Kentucky). … I’m not that interesting.”

However interesting Warford’s off-field life is, his on-field performance will be one of the keys to the Lions’ 2014 season. That’s part of the reason defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley ran over to the trainer’s table to check on Warford after they accidentally caused a minor ankle injury in training camp last Wednesday — and why every coach and player should’ve held their collective breath.

Warford played all 1,158 offensive snaps last season and didn’t allow a sack. According to Pro Football Focus, Warford was the third-best guard at pass blocking in the NFL, 14th-best at run blocking and fourth best overall.

Based on his one season, Warford could certainly become the best guard in the NFL one day, but even if that happens, the 23-year-old said, “I probably wouldn’t believe it, no matter what anybody says.

“I don’t know what it is, but I always have this thing about me where I just feel like I have something new to learn. Until I learn everything, I won’t be perfect. And I’ll always feel like I have something else to learn, so I’ll never be perfect.”

That approach is a key reason coach Jim Caldwell thinks Warford won’t experience the sophomore slump as many professional athletes do.

“I just think that he’s got the proper makeup,” Caldwell said. “He never gets too high or too low. He’s not full of himself.

“He has none of that (hubris), and he also doesn’t think he’s arrived. He’s working extremely hard, so I doubt very seriously that you’ll see him slip. I think you’ll continue to see him progress.”

Last season Warford admitted he wore down a bit over the course of the season, though it didn’t show in his performance.

During the offseason, Warford returned to Arizona to work with former offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley. The O-Line Performance camp features a tight-knit group of NFL offensive linemen including San Francisco’s Alex Boone, Jacksonville’s Mike Brewster and Washington’s Shawn Lauvao.

Warford spent last offseason working with Bentley, too, and the diet and conditioning program helped him reduce his body fat before his rookie season. While adjusting his body composition remains an ongoing process, Warford said this year he worked on his quickness and technique, primarily timing his punches.

“It’s not a lot, but it goes into everything you do,” he said of coordinating his hands.

Although offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is implementing a new scheme, Warford said his assignments won’t change much. The Lions will still regularly run screens, which is one of the areas Warford excelled as a rookie.

Warford was so good at getting downfield that running backs often talked about him during meetings last year, Bush said.

“That was one of the things about Larry was that he was always one of the guys finishing — 10, 15 yards down the field,” Bush said. “It didn’t matter how far the ball was. He was one of the guys that always showed up in the picture chasing the ball down, and you’ve got to love a guy like that.”

Bush remembered Warford going through growing pains during training camp last year, but after a strong preseason, he won the starting right guard job over a couple veterans. And once the regular season starter, Warford quickly became “dominant,” as Bush said.

“I think (he’s) a little more comfortable mentally than he was last year,” center Dominic Raiola said. “You’d like to see the progression from his rookie year, which was a big rookie year, to what he’s going to do this year.”

And Warford certainly doesn’t think he’s already done improving.

“I have a long way to go,” he said.

 

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140804/SPORTS0101/308040088#ixzz39XStYL4F



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