Detroit Lions: Is a position switch the key to offensive line improvement?

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Frank Ragnow #77 of the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Frank Ragnow #77 of the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions have dedicated serious resources to improving their offensive line. Will a recent position change really help improve their play?

When Detroit Lions‘ general manager Bob Quinn arrived in 2016 after a long stint with the New England Patriots, his first draft pick for the Pride was offensive tackle Taylor Decker. The following year, Quinn used free agency to sign expensive veterans like Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang and current starting right tackle Rick Wagner.

Last year, Quinn and company once again targeted their offensive line with their first round selection, taking Arkansas center Frank Ragnow with the 20th overall pick in the first round. Ragnow started at left guard last season was seen as the final piece to the O-Line puzzle in Motown with veteran Graham Glasgow shifting to center.

Despite the investment, the Lions’ offensive line still struggled last season. That was due in part to a lack of chemistry as Injuries sidelined Lang for 10 games and ultimately led to Detroit releasing him this offseason. Lang opted to retire afterwards.

As a result, quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 40 times last season, which was tied for 10th most in the NFL. And Detroit’s rushing attack, despite some significant upgrades, was only able to post 103.8 yards per game on the ground in 2018, 23rd in the league.

But this offseason was very telling when it came to Quinn and his normal focus on offensive line play. Despite having nine selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, Detroit did not select a single offensive lineman. Instead the Lions brought in an impressive class of undrafted rookie free agents who could compete for roster spots.

During free agency, the Lions signed guard Oday Aboushi. A former member of the Seattle Seahawks while new Lions’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was also there, Aboushi is expected to challenge Kenny Wiggins for the starting role at right guard, Lang’s former spot.

But the real key to unlocking Detroit’s O-Line potential might be a minor change in the interior. Here’s what Around The NFL Editor Gregg Rosenthal wrote on about the Lions’ shifting their top selection from 2018, Ragnow, from guard to center this offseason during early OTA’s.

"“Playing center was the expectation when Detroit made Ragnow its first pick under head coach Matt Patricia. While the Lions made strides in their running game … their offensive line looked better on paper than it did on the field. This switch could be a big step in justifying all the resources general manager Bob Quinn has poured into getting better up front.”"

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Although Frank Ragnow played well enough last season, he did not have the impact you’d expect a first round selection to have. Shifting him to center could boost his play and, therefore, the entire offensive line’s as a result. But staying healthy and building some much needed chemistry will be key. With a new starter at right guard and Ragnow shifting to center, there may be some early growing pains. But the changes could also result in Bob Quinn’s heavy investment finally being justified.