Detroit Lions: Joe Dahl makes his case at right guard

As the least heralded member of the Detroit Lions’ 2016 offensive line draftees, Joe Dahl has yet to make an impact in the NFL. Some added pounds and a roster opening could change that.

Joe Dahl played almost exclusively as a tackle in his last two years of college as part of Washington State’s air-raid attack. However, Dahl’s frame showed that his NFL future was clearly as an interior offensive lineman when he was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the fifth round of the 2016 Draft. As the Lions search for a 300-plus pound plug to fill their hole at right guard, Dahl could be an under the radar solution as training camp slowly approaches.

This offseason, the Lions have retooled their roster to the point of essentially having no glaring holes at any specific position, save for that right guard spot. Veteran guard T.J. Lang‘s release and subsequent retirement earlier this offseason meant that the Lions would be in the market for a replacement.

After making some low-key additions in free agency, the Lions chose not to address the position in the draft. This essentially created an open competition between a number of candidates, including Dahl, who has started just four games in his three years with the Lions.

Dahl also appeared in several games towards the end of last season as an oversized fullback, with adequate results. Added weight and muscle, though, along with more experience and confidence, could give Dahl an edge when it comes to getting a longer look at guard in 2019.

Speaking last week to Tim Twentyman of the Lions’ official website, Dahl commented that he can already see the difference in his performance thanks to his added muscle and strength:

“I definitely feel the difference. I feel the strength difference. I can see myself moving better on film and just being stronger.”

Could that change be the distinction in him becoming a serious option for the Lions at right guard? It’s almost impossible to determine right now, with pad-less practices. Dahl though, has set himself up nicely with training camp less than two months away, and with a year under offensive line coach Jeff Davidson behind him.

The other main competition for the position comes in the form of two veteran journeyman, and a collection of younger, inexperienced options. With 67 career starts between them, Oday Aboushi and Kenny Wiggins would figure to be the other main contestants for the job.

The two journeymen however, are just that – journeymen. Although Wiggins and Aboushi both have the experience that Dahl lacks, their aberrant career paths and average performance on the field offer some trepidation as well.

Younger hopefuls for the spot could also include second year man Tyrell Crosby, and undrafted free agent Beau Benzschawel. Crosby had a solid rookie season, making a few starts late in the year at tackle and hardly looking out of place doing it. It’s likely that the Lions want to keep him at that position moving forward.

Benzschawel was a run blocking force during his college career at Wisconsin, but concerns about his athleticism and pass protection caused him to slip all the way out of the draft. He is talented, but has a steep hill to climb to gain a roster spot in Detroit.

Right guard promises to be one of the most hotly contested position battles in Lions training camp, and Dahl will be in the middle of it. Should he manage to beat out the aforementioned competitors for the spot, he would be the third member of the Lions 2016 draft class to become a starter on the offensive line, along with guard/center Graham Glasgow and left tackle Taylor Decker. That would be a win for everyone involved.

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Do you think that Joe Dahl has a chance to become the starting right guard for the Lions in 2019? Let us know in the comments section below.