How to solve the Detroit Lions offensive line dilemma

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If there is one position group that has been historically plagued by underperformance and spoiled potential it’s definitely (with the defensive backs a close second) the Detroit Lions offensive line.

This has been the case for as long as I’ve been alive – a little over a quarter of a century – and the team’s offensive wall is still not sturdy enough to handle some of the best defensive front sevens in football (i.e. Seattle and NYG).

But there is always hope and that hope blossoms so brightly thanks to the current unit’s youthful core. Blindside tackle Taylor Decker turned in one of the best rookie seasons at his position in the league last year and hybrids Graham Glasglow and Joe Dahl are a big part of the line’s future – especially the former Wolverine of the two.

I’m not going to mention Laken Tomlinson in this article much but just know this is a huge offseason developmentally for the former Duke Blue Devil and first-round Lions draft selection. They don’t all work out, right?

For the first time since he was drafted, people are starting to finally feel good about center Travis Swanson as a starter. So presumably, that leaves three-fifths of the Lions’ offensive line somewhat solidified moving forward.

Now, if you’re not driving and sitting/standing comfortably somewhere, then slowly turn your head towards your right shoulder. Do it one more time. C’mon, play along – it’s fun. Hey, Lions’ fans, you feel that intense tingle of uncertainty when you turn your head to the right?

That’s the Lions’ possible vacancies on the right side of their offensive front clawing at your unconscious pessimism when it comes to your football team. Big time free agents don’t come to Detroit, right? Why do you think that might be? Is it the market (excellent sports history, some of the best fans, cold weather climate, rebuilding inner city)? Anyways, I don’t know how true some of that may be and I’m getting tragically off topic so let’s lay it all on the table now. The Lions may lose one or both of last year’s starting right side – guard Larry Warford and tackle Riley Rieff and “replacing” isn’t always the most comfortable word to hear in the Detroit Lions fan realm.

Rieff, in my opinion, is expendable at this point. He’s 28 and wants to play left tackle when he’s way more effective at the right tackle position. And according to ESPN reporter Michael Rothstein, he’s ready to move on and his asking a for way more than he’s probably worth.

That leaves Warford who had a strong season and is probably approaching (or mildly amongst) his prime. If word from the Detroit Free Press’s Dave Birkett is true, Warford plans on making himself too expensive to re-sign and the Lions are set on replacing him with – you guessed it… Laken Tomlinson.

So, in order to further build and strengthen the offensive line, sophomore GM Bob Quinn has some work to do. He drafted impressively well for the unit in 2016 and in 2017 he must draft well again and add some kind of impactful free agent addition to at the least – continue to add depth.

A Taylor Decker-type right tackle selection with the Lions’ 21st overall selection in the first round wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit. Quinn seems to have his head on his shoulders and if he can keep that focus, it won’t be long until we’re questioning the strength of our skill players following the blocks more often than the ones laying the blocks out.

And that my friends, is something Lions fans haven’t been able to hear it quite a while.

 

1 thought on “How to solve the Detroit Lions offensive line dilemma”

  1. FIRST – The Combine starts this week. Every NFL team has been scouting college players for a year now and they’ve pretty much narrowed down their list of who they expect to draft. The Lions are no where near having a short list at this point, but that’s the point. The Combine won’t tell them too much, except for the interviews. These interviews are intense. It’s not a meet and greet. Teams like the Lions are billion dollar corporations and they are interviewing young men who are about to become millionaires. These interviews will affirm some and eliminate others. It’s that premise that helps decide what happens next week.
    SECOND – Free Agency starts on March 9th. After solidifying a player or two and eliminating one or two more at the Combine, the Lions should know exactly what positions to target in Free Agency. Quinn is currently in maintenance mode, which means he still has more needs than money or draft picks. So, he chose to sign players last year to short term incentive laced contracts. He’ll do that again. There may be one splash in Free Agency, but the Lions are still not a destination for the elite FA or their agents. Which makes a high profile free agent looking for a long term contract to be out of the running.
    FINALLY – Bob Quinn is the key. He keeps a profile of every player in the NFL and he updates those on a weekly basis, including his own team. He was highly acclaimed while he was in New England and he hasn’t disappointed here in Detroit. His penchant for targeting real talent from the 1st Round thru the 7th didn’t go unnoticed throughout the 2016 season. What’s somewhat surprising is how little respect the Lions are receiving in light of last season’s praise. It’s as if the “experts” are expecting him to fail. His track record speaks otherwise. Jim Bob Cooter and Teryl Austin put together their shopping lists. Jim Caldwell delivers that list of needs to Bob Quinn, who’s job it is to fill that order. Of all Bill Belichick’s subalterns it seems Bob Quinn is the diamond of them all. It won’t be long and Mr. Quinn will shore up some glaring holes and other more subtle needs. He’s savvy when it comes to his Cap Space and precise in his talent evaluations. The Detroit Lions are done taking one step forward and two steps back.

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