First off, from all of us here at DraftKingsMaster, thank you very much for being so supportive of our 2016 Detroit Lions NFL season preview. Without you crazy Detroit fans, we are not around.
With those pleasantries out of the way, let’s go back to talking football with the next part of our 2016 preview by looking at an area that definitely needed to be upgraded this offseason – offensive line. After being sacked a career low 23 times in 2013, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 44 times & 45 times in 2014. Obviously, when you have a franchise-level quarterback that the Lions are putting all of their money & resources into, you have to keep him upright for 16 games.
The Lions made the commitment to the offensive line by drafting Taylor Decker from Ohio State with their first round NFL Draft pick back in April. There are big rumors that Decker could be a possible starter at either right tackle or left tackle by the time we get to week 1. Most likely, he will play significant snaps at right tackle as he is a much more effective run blocker than pass blocker at this point in his development, which signals that the Lions are going more balanced in the offense with trying to develop a more powerful running game.
Current left tackle Riley Reiff looks to be a solid return to the line, but he will definitely need to have a big year & make sure that Stafford has enough time in the pocket to make throws since he doesn’t have the big time wide receiver making plays at the current moment. Some rumblings have Decker possibly getting some time at LT, but that is going to be a position that will have to be earned in training camp & through the preseason.
At center, the Lions made another draft pick by bringing in Graham Glasgow from right down the road at Michigan. Glasgow will come in having great technique & knows what its like to lead an offense and have success, coming from the Jim Harbaugh coaching he received last season.
This coming season has to be a big year for second year guard Laken Tomlinson. Tomlinson has to be better in the run blocking game & picking up blitzes much better, as teams definitely took advantage of the rookie trying to pick up different blitz packages & strugging at times. He has to be able to push piles much better & the running game needs to be able to average 4.5 to 4.7 yards per carry for the passing game to be effective in play-action situations & to keep the defenses honest and not having Stafford under siege each play.
Tomlinson, right tackle Michael Ola, Larry Warford, Travis Swanson, Lamar Holmes & the newest offensive linemen Geoff Schwartz will be competing for time on a rotational basis. This decision is going to be important for the Lions in terms of getting the lineup right because Stafford is up for an extension after this season & the organization – most importantly new GM Bob Quinn – need to know if Stafford is truly going to be the guy who will get one of the biggest contracts in the history of the NFL next year.
The one offensive lineman we have not mentioned is guard Joe Dahl, a sixth-round pick out of Washington State. Dahl is a solid lineman, but his problem could be that he needs time to learn how to play out of the three-point stance. Washington State ran a very uptempo spread offense that was very easy on the linemen due to not needing to protect the quarterback for more than three seconds at any time. Dahl has solid potential & could very well improve in training camp, but may need an entire season to just sit & get better through training and many reps in practice.
Overall, this looks like an offensive line that is definitely going to be better, but we don’t know if this is a line that is ready to be a top 15 level offensive line in terms of sacks allowed & rushing yards. The Lions have not had a consistent year to year running game that was consistently reliable in many years, but with a young Decker, Dahl, Reiff becoming better, and another year of Tomlinson getting smarter in the league as a whole, the Lions should be able to move the football decently, but not sure if the team is going to be able to protect Stafford enough to find his new set of receivers.