With young and inexperienced pieces in place on the Lions offensive line, head coach Jim Caldwell seems rather encouraged by the play he has seen from the youngsters, most notably Laken Tomlinson and Taylor Decker. He is also quite understanding that not every play will be perfect, but expects both players to continue to improve.
“I think it was up and down. I think there were some really good stretches of football between those two guys, they’re both young guys,’’ Caldwell told the Oakland Press on Monday. “I think there were times Laken did a real good job, I think there were some times when Decker did a nice little job.”
Although they are young, both will need to do better than a “nice little job” if the Lions offense is going to consistently stay on track. Through three games, the team has rushed for a total of 303 yards (101 per game) while also allowing eight sacks. Their 303 rushing yards rank 16th in the league at this point. Although that is better than the 83.4 rushing yards per game that the team averaged last year, they will need to continue to improve that clip, which all begins at the offensive line.
“I think there were some times when they had some problems — that’s expected that’s going to happen,” Caldwell said. “Was it enough to completely stall us? Could we still move the ball absolutely.”
The Lions ran for a meager 50 yards in Sunday’s 34-27 loss to the Green Bay Packers, and the offensive line had a hard time pushing forward throughout the game. Although running back Ameer Abdullah‘s absence could understandably be a part of the issue, there is no room for excuses.
Despite the bumps in the road, Caldwell has high hopes for both Decker and Tomlinson. “I think you’re going to see particularly as Decker goes, Decker is going to continue to get better and Laken will continue to get better,’’ he said.
“I think in the line of work we’re in, it’s not going to be all on the upside consistently, it’s not going to happen. There are just too many good players you see week in and week out,’’ Caldwell said. “They’re going to have some bad plays but consistency is what matters. I think those guys will get to a point where they’re functioning at a real high degree of consistency.”
Decker was the Lions first round pick in the 2016 draft (16th 0verall), while Tomlinson was selected by Detroit in the first round of the 2015 draft (28th overall).