Due to injury, the Detroit Lions’ offensive line failed to live up to expectations. With another offseason to build chemistry, will 2018 be any different?
When the Detroit Lions kicked off free agency last offseason, their focus was clear. General manager Bob Quinn was intent on beefing up the Lions’ offensive line. Not only would improving this area of the roster help protect quarterback Matthew Stafford, but it should have also lifted what was a lackluster rushing attack in the Motor City.
A year later and the Lions’ offensive line was one of the bigger disappointments on a Detroit team that failed to make it back to the postseason. And the head coach that was in charge of leading this team in 2017, Jim Caldwell, is currently standing in an unemployment line somewhere.
Prior to the start of the regular season, the Lions signed two premium free agents to substantial contracts. Right guard T.J. Lang inked a three-year, $28.5 million deal, with $19 million guaranteed and an $8 million signing bonus. The 30-year old Lang had spent the last eight seasons playing for Detroit’s divisional rivals, the Green Bay Packers, and was coming off his first Pro Bowl nomination.
Right tackle Rick Wagner was a fixture of the Baltimore Ravens offensive line for four seasons prior to coming to the Motor City last March. The 28-year old signed a whopping five-year, $47.5 million contract with $17.5 million guaranteed and an eye-popping $14.5 million signing bonus.
With Wagner and Lang joining youngsters like left tackle Taylor Decker, guard Graham Glasgow and center Travis Swanson, the Lions’ revamped O-line appear to have a chance to be highly competitive, and maybe even elite, in 2017.
Unfortunately, injuries destroyed any chance for this positional group to build the much needed chemistry that is a “must” for effective offensive line play. With Decker being the biggest loss, missing half the season after he suffered a shoulder injury during an offseason practice session. The Lions’ 2016 first round selection, 16th overall, would end up missing the Lions’ first eight games of the year before returning to the lineup.
But Decker wasn’t alone. With the exception of Glasgow, every starting offensive lineman played banged up and missed several games due to various injuries. The constant shifting lineup resulted in Stafford being sacked a whopping 47 times, the second most in the NFL last season. Poor line play also contributed to Detroit bolstering the league’s worst rushing offense.
Lang himself even admitted it was a rough season for the O-line in the Motor City in 2017. But he also believes this unit can be special with more time.
"“It’s been an up and down year for us,” Lang told the Detroit Free Press earlier this week. “That’s no surprise. I think we’ve all been disappointed at certain times of the year with the production that we’ve had. But I think that we’ve also had a few games here and there where all guys have been healthy and we’ve started to show what we’re capable of … I think we’ll definitely benefit from having everybody healthy in the offseason working together.”"
There is a silver lining for Detroit Lions’ fans here. Despite the issues along their offensive line last season, the Lions were still able to finish the year with a winning record of 9-7. With a new head coach at the helm and another offseason to build some of that precious chemistry, Detroit should perform even better in 2018.