In his first career start at left guard, Joe Dahl showed some promise. The Detroit Lions could have a hole at that position in 2018.
Dahl was taken in the fifth round out of Washington State in the 2016 draft. His major position in college was left tackle but had experience at left guard.
Before being sent to injured reserve (lower leg) after the first three games, Dahl was the replacement for left tackle Taylor Decker (shoulder) initially. That hole was quickly filled, more like the Lions found a body, in the form of a trade with the Los Angeles Rams for Greg Robinson. Cyrus Kouandjio was promptly signed off the street to compete for the job, ultimately being cut before the start of the regular season.
It worked out better the way it did because of the injury to Dahl. Losing a sixth round pick and taking the worst replacement possible still doesn’t make it feel any better.
After several injuries across the offensive line, Dahl was immediately thrust into action, and did very well. In his first start, he was the highest graded Lions player with a 85.3 rating, according to Pro Football Focus. Usual starter at left guard, Graham Glasgow, filled-in for the concussed Travis Swanson at center.
I don’t personally live and die by PFF, but based on the tape, I liked what I saw. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford bailed him out a few times by beating the pressure. Overall, it was an encouraging start.
With the way he played against an impressive defensive front of the Chicago Bears, it gives the Lions hope for the future. Swanson most likely doesn’t re-sign and leaves via free agency.
Glasgow can replace him at center, leaving the left guard spot vacant.
If Dahl plays like many in the Lions’ organization think he’s capable of, he could earn himself a starting gig come 2018. He battled Glasgow for the left guard spot this preseason.
Having players like him are hard to come by. All preseason he played everything but right tackle. I think it’s hard for any guy to excel if you have him lined up all over the place.
Detroit would be better off if they limited his role to a few positions. Left guard, left tackle then right guard is where I think his skill sets best translate.
Whatever happens these last two games, and potentially more in the postseason, will determine how ready and capable he is of starting. His play could help solidify a position that would otherwise require addressing in the draft or free agency. It wouldn’t hurt to add more competition given the many injuries the Lions had so far.
More playing time and likely another start, against a scary defensive line of the Cincinnati Bengals, will test Dahl once again. Convincing this regime he is the future at left guard will be further validated with a strong finish to 2017.