Mon, 27 Sep 2021

2021 training camp preview: Offensive line

Detroit Lions
26 Jul 2021, 20:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

On the roster: Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Jonah Jackson, Penei Sewell, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Tyrell Crosby, Dan Skipper, Matt Nelson, Logan Stenberg, Evan Heim, Drake Jackson, Tommy Kraemer, Darrin Paulo

Key losses: Oday Aboushi, Kenny Wiggins, Joe Dahl

*college statistics

Best competition: Backup roles

The drafting of Sewell with the No. 7 overall pick solidified the starting five of Decker, Jackson, Ragnow, Vaitai and Sewell from left to right.

The Lions went to Week 1 last year with 10 offensive linemen, and while this is a new regime, that's usually around the number we see teams take to the regular season coming out of training camp. So, who are the next five?

Crosby could make a run for a starting job at right guard, but if that doesn't materialize, he's a terrific swing-tackle option for the Lions with starting experience. Nelson and Skipper also offer good depth at tackle.

The Lions drafted Stenberg in the fourth round last year knowing he was a bit of a project coming from Kentucky's run-first offense. How much he's developed in pass protection will go a long way in determining if he can have a gameday role as a backup. That leaves one potential spot for the likes of Helm, Drake Jackson, Kraemer and Paulo. The Lions could opt to go light at o-line because of the talent and depth at the top, but one of those four could force their hand with a good camp and preseason.

Twentyman's take: With Sewell in the mix, Detroit's offensive line looks to be one of the real strengths. This has the potential to be a top five offensive line if they stay healthy, and Sewell is the kind of player the Lions think he is right away as a rookie.

Ragnow might be the best center in football, and Decker is a top 10 left tackle. The wild card of the group is Vaitai, who played right tackle and right guard last year, but played through injury most of the way. He's prepped for the full-time move from right tackle to right guard, and he's got the size and power to succeed there.

The two best seasons quarterback Jared Goff had in Los Angeles with the Rams, the Rams offensive line stayed healthy and ranked among the league's best units.

Teams that play well upfront along the offensive line typically have a pretty consistent offense, and that's the hope in Detroit with the talent and depth they've assembled.

By the numbers:

0: The number of sacks given up by Ragnow last year.

1: Sack allowed by Sewell in 1,376 career snaps for the Oregon Ducks.

42: Sacks allowed by the Lions last season, which ranked 23rd in the NFL.

79: Total negative plays for the Lions' offense last season. Only seven teams had more.

80.3: The overall grade out of 100.0 given to Ragnow by Pro Football Focus last year. That was the second highest grade among all centers behind only Corey Linsley (89.9).

Quotable: "It's a whole different feel," Sewell said of making the switch from left tackle in college to the right side. "It's a little bit of an adjustment, but again, I love a challenge and it's something I'm looking forward to. It takes me back to my high school days and I'm looking forward to growing in that position."

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