Now that the Detroit Lions are a couple weeks into free agency, here is an evaluation of how their offense line stacks up from a season ago.
In the 2019 season, the Detroit Lions‘ offensive line provided a massive boost to the team’s offensive unit. Not only in the first half of the season but also stood their ground after quarterback Matthew Stafford’s injury.
Pro Football Focus ranked Detroit’s offensive line at 12th when regular season week eight was completed. At the end of the season, their ranking was pushed up to 11th. Overall a very impressive showing from the unit as a whole.
During this offseason, general manager Bob Quinn made a few moves that will shake up the starting five. A change at right tackle with the signing of Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Including a hole at right guard, due to losing Graham Glasgow to the Denver Broncos. The question to ask ourselves is, did the Lions improve in this area?
Naturally, the left side of the offensive line will consist of the same starters. Left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Joe Dahl, and center Frank Ragnow should all be penciled in as starters. Any concern should be placed on the two starters of the right side.
The first evaluation is found at the right tackle position. With former right tackle Rick Wagner heading to the Green Bay Packers, it would be best to compare. Vaitai is younger than Wagner by four years, which leaves more room for development. Although, how does their play stack up.
Wagner played 277 more snaps over what Vaitai produced. That equates to four or five games depending on how you look at it. In pass protection, Wagner gives up three sacks and a total of 32 pressures. Vaitai surrendered two sacks and totaling 21 pressures.
Now, using math to hypothetically call for a scenario where Vaitai played the same amount of snaps as Wagner. It potentially puts Vaitai giving up three sacks and 33 pressures. So, at a pass protection stance, Wagner and Vaitai are at a similar level.
Run blocking what’s expected out of Vaitai. Out of all right tackles in the NFL, he ranks eighth when it comes to run blocking. In Rick Wagner’s case… that ranking falls to 31st. A common question that arises is why does the Lions’ offensive line rank so highly when they struggle to run the ball? Here’s your answer, as a football team, Detroit ranks 30th on run plays to the right.
An upgrade at right tackle is coming to the Motor City, that’s for sure. However, what about the situation at right guard? Losing Glasgow will surely hurt the team and they have failed to replace him so far.
If you are waiting for Bob Quinn to sign a right guard in free agency, I’d advise you to stop. There’s a small chance that Detroit could receive a compensatory pick by letting Glasgow walk and not signing a guard. The Lions will likely be using the NFL draft to replace him.
Overall, with three returning starters entering their prime, confidence in progression will be shown. Also, a better and more promising player is coming at right tackle. The missing piece is a player that can play at either the same or higher level than Glasgow last season. When we see Detroit do that, their offensive line has improved from last season.