Connect with us

Detroit Lions

Lions 2018 review: O-Line makes strides but has injury issues again

The Detroit Lions have wrapped up the 2018 season. Over the next two weeks, will hand out reviews for each of the team’s position groups. Previous position reviews include quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.

Offensive line

Starters: Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang, Rick Wagner

Backups: Kenny Wiggins, Tyrell Crosby, Joe Dahl

Key stats: Finished 26th in rushing yards per carry, 17th in sacks allowed, 16th in pass blocking efficiency per Pro Football Focus and 19th in adjusted line yards per Football Outsiders

Nate’s grade: B-

When general manager Bob Quinn decided to make the move to fire Jim Caldwell last year, he had one assistant coach he for sure wanted to send packing with him. That was the offensive line coach.

This was an area of the team Quinn had invested so much in, from first-round picks to high-dollar free-agent contracts, and it failed as miserably as it could under Ron Prince’s leadership. Injuries played a major role in that, partly because Quinn signed a right guard with a lengthy history of them. But Quinn knew he had to find coaches who could get more out of the group he assembled to protect his primary investment in Matthew Stafford.

And so he hired an old friend in Matt Patricia from New England as his head coach, mainly for his defensive abilities, but it also helped that he had an offensive line background. Patricia added an experienced offensive line coach in Jeff Davidson and gave him an assistant in Hank Fraley. And even then, they weren’t near done.

Patricia and Quinn spent their first draft pick together on a versatile and experienced interior lineman in Frank Ragnow to fill their one remaining theoretical hole on the line and to bring the toughness they thought the previous regime lacked. They followed that pick up with a running back in Kerryon Johnson.

Their plan was to put so much less on the shoulders of Stafford.

In that sense, the attempts only somewhat worked. Detroit did run the ball better than it had in recent years, especially when Johnson was healthy. But as skill players dropped around them, Stafford took sacks — as in 16 in the two games following the Golden Tate trade — and the offense dropped to some of it lowest levels in recent memory.

Plenty of that is not the fault of the line, which by the end of the season looked like the strength of the team. But it did have its own injury issues again along the right side, where T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner missed a combined 12 games. Given that they combine for $19 million in average salaries, those issues put a cap on what the line could be as a whole.

In the end, it was an average line, which was a good step better than it was in 2018 but not all the way to where Quinn envisioned when he built it. Graham Glasgow has settle in nicely at center and Ragnow was generally encouraging for a rookie starting every game at left guard. Taylor Decker was rather up-and-down in his first full season back from the labrum tear.

Lines build over time, and so the hope going forward will be that Ragnow’s 16 games playing alongside Decker and Glasgow can bring promise for 2019 and beyond. That much of the Lions’ line is settled.

Wagner is likely going to be the right tackle again, though he hasn’t really lived up to the biggest contract for a right tackle in history and did end the season with a troubling brain injury. If he is, that leaves right guard as the one starting spot up for grabs.

Lang has said he would like to come back. If he does, it will almost certainly not be on his current deal, which represents nearly $9 million in potential savings this spring. Lang has had a wild run of injuries but is not yet old for a lineman at 31. He could come back on an incentive-laden deal that could pay dividends given that he has been the team’s best lineman when he is on the field.

But Detroit pay up for something more steady, too. It could try for steady veterans like the Rams’ Rodger Saffold, the Steelers’ Ramon Foster or the Jets’ James Carpenter, if they’re available, but all three would require a move from left to right guard. D.J. Fluker showed some promising signs as Seattle’s right guard last year, but he’s missed 13 games in two seasons.

The Lions could draft yet another guard high, with options like Oklahoma’s Cody Ford, Wisconsin’s Beau Benzschawel and Penn State’s Connor McGovern. That would just wind up locking all kinds of resources into one part of the team, demanding i be great.

That could inspire more of a camp battle for the final spot, perhaps even with this year’s fifth-round pick, Tyrell Crosby.

Either way, the Lions need to continue the upward trend of their offensive line. It’s what they feel Stafford needs more of and what will help make Patricia’s goal of toughness a staple of the team.

Source Link

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Detroit Lions