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Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez make their picks for Sunday’s Lions-Saints game. Recorded Friday, Oct. 13, 2017.
Detroit Free Press staff

The Detroit Lions spent $76 million to upgrade the right side of their offensive line this off-season, and their shiniest new addition hasn’t lived up to his billing yet.

“I got to play better,” right tackle Rick Wagner told the Free Press after practice Friday. “I’ve had kind of an up and down year so far. I’ve just got to be more consistent. That’s the name of the game when you play O-line is consistency. You can’t be one guy one week and one guy another week, so just got to work on that.”

Wagner, the highest-paid pure right tackle in football at $9.5 million per season, has had some uncharacteristic struggles in the Lions’ 3-2 start.

He has given up 3.5 sacks in the past four games, according to a Free Press film review of his play, after never allowing more than 2.5 sacks in any of his previous four seasons.

Long considered one of the best pass-protecting right tackles in the NFL, Wagner did not pinpoint one reason for his troubles.

He said he and new right guard T.J. Lang have good chemistry on the field, and he said he doesn’t feel any extra weight from his five-year, $47.5 million contract.

“I just got to do a better job of practicing and let it carry over to the game,” Wagner said.

The Lions’ offensive line has struggled as whole, with 18 sacks allowed, and Wagner’s issues have come against some of the game’s best pass rushers.

He gave up one sack to Jason Pierre-Paul in a Week 2 win over the New York Giants, and got beat for two sacks by Danielle Hunter in a Week 4 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

This week, Wagner faces another top pass rusher in the New Orleans Saints’ Cam Jordan. Jordan, who plays primarily at left end, leads the Saints with three sacks.

“There’s no easy week in the NFL,” Wagner said. “They have elite rushers on every team so this week is Jordan so it’s going to be another tough week.”

Contact Dave Birkett: dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Download our Lions Xtra app for free on Apple and Android!