How does Larry Warford follow up on rookie success?

Pro Football Focus rated Larry Warford as the fourth-best offensive guard in the entire league last season.

Tim Fuller

Larry Warford far exceeded expectations last year for a third-round draft pick.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a total of 634 passes, but not once was his rookie right guard responsible for giving up a sack in 16 games.

The question now is whether Warford can avoid falling into the trap like many athletes who excel in their first year only to regress the next season.

How does he follow up on his rookie success?

"Nitpicking is one of them," Warford said. "I don’t want to be consistent. I want to be better. If I’m consistent, I’m not getting better.

"There’s a lot of things I want to improve on.  It didn’t look the way I wanted it to look. I know I can do better. Whether or not I do, that’s up to how hard I work this offseason and how prepared I am.

"It will be all up to me. That’s why I have to be really critical of myself. Sometimes in college, I felt myself getting complacent and I didn’t have my best games.  That’s why I’m really on my own butt about it."

Pro Football Focus, which analyzes every play in every NFL game, rated Warford as the fourth-best offensive guard in the entire league last season, behind only Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis, Green Bay’s Josh Sitton and Denver’s Louis Vasquez.

Warford and Rob Sims, the left guard, were the only Lions to play all 1,133 offensive snaps last season.

It was quite an impressive transition made by Warford, who was the 65th pick overall coming out of the University of Kentucky.

But Warford (6-foot-3, 333 pounds) sounds as if he’s far from satisfied.

"Coming into this year, I have everything I did last year on film," he said. "I get to pick apart what I did wrong and improve on it."

Warford, who turns 23 in less than two weeks, has spent a lot of time doing that nitpicking during the offseason.

First of all, he said he wasn’t pleased with his pass-protection sets.

"It put me in some awkward situations every once in a while," Warford said. "They were a little bit too aggressive. I was flipping my feet a little bit coming off the ball. I was actually stepping up. It wasn’t even a real pass set to be honest. I’ve changed that up to where it’s looking more efficient in what I’m doing."

If I’m consistent, I’m not getting better.

Larry Warford

Warford also found problems with his run-blocking technique.

"I was falling off blocks a little bit too much," he said. "I was getting a little too leaned over in my toes. That was getting me thrown around a little bit. That’s one of the bigger things I’ve been trying to work on."

Warford is hoping with this type of attention to detail that he will avoid the dreaded second-year slip.

"I have to be that way," he said. "If I get complacent with what I did last year, I’m never going to get better. I have to find things that are not just quite right, the way I wanted it.

"It wasn’t terrible last year. When I did do things the way I wanted it to look, it turned out great. I was comfortable. I felt like I was in college again almost.

"So I am nitpicking — but that’s the only way I can get better."