With the news that starting left tackle Taylor Decker is expected to miss four to six months due to a shoulder injury, can the Detroit Lions tread water long enough until his return?
By all accounts the 23-year old lineman had a terrific rookie campaign, starting all 16 games at left tackle protecting Stafford’s blind side. Decker was also named to the Pro Football Writer’s of America’s All-Rookie team.
Unfortunately, Decker’s presence alone on the Lion’s offensive line wasn’t enough to elevate the unit to premier status. Pro Football Focus ranked Detroit’s O-Line the 19th best in the league in 2016. And that was after ranking 24th the year before.
Stafford was sacked a whopping 37 times last season, tied for the sixth most in the NFL. And the Lions’ rushing offense was the third worst in the league.
Now it’s being reported that Decker is expected to miss the next four to six months due to a shoulder injury (torn labrum) he suffered during practice last week. That puts his estimated return sometime between October and December during the upcoming regular season.
The absence of Decker, arguably the Lions’ best offensive lineman, doesn’t bode well for the immediate future for a team who made the postseason last year after posting a 9-7 record.
According to Lions’ head coach Jim Caldwell, it’s really a matter of next man up.
"“You’ve got to adjust,” Caldwell told the Detroit Free Press earlier this week. “That’s one of the things that I think our personnel office does a great job of, I think our players do a great job of. We’ll adjust and keep moving.”"
Currently, Lion lineman Joe Dahl and Cornelius Lucas are the favorites to replace Decker on the first team offense. But Detroit could also look to free agency in order to fill the vital left tackle role.
Former 2014 second round selection and offensive tackle free agent Cyrus Kouandjio visited the Lions earlier this week. But so far, no signing has been announced.
Can the Detroit Lions tread water and find success until Taylor Decker returns? The fact is, they have no choice but to do so. Unfortunately, it may be Matthew Stafford who pays the biggest price.