It seems like every year there is a lot of turnover and a surplus of skepticism as it relates to this group. With Graham Glasgow departing, Rick Wagner getting cut, and back-to-back guard picks in the middle rounds, this year will bring much of the same for the Lions.
In Glasgow’s absence, the line now belongs to Frank Ragnow. Ragnow made significant strides as a second year starter in 2019 and figures to be a centerpiece (literally and figuratively) of the unit for several years. Which of his comrades can also be difference makers in 2020?
X-Factor: Halapoulivaati Vaitai
As they did with Rick Wagner in 2017, the Lions raised a few eyebrows with the amount of money spent on Vaitai in free agency this spring. The initial speculation was that his versatility would allow him to play at both the tackle and guard spots, increasing his value to the team. Then they selected guards with two consecutive draft picks and that theory was tossed out.
So it looks for all the world like Vaitai will be playing right tackle full time. He has spent time at both tackle spots, including left tackle when the Eagles won the Super Bowl a few years, so if Taylor Decker gets injured, that could also be a possible use of Vaitai’s versatility. On the whole, he’s been mostly a backup and will now be expected to be a reliable starter (and is being paid as such). Ragnow is the leader as a whole, but the line will likely only be as good as Vaitai in 2020, for better or worse.
Overall: Who is the biggest X-Factor on offense?
The injury status of Matthew Stafford is a pretty easy call for this one, based on how last year ended up. Assuming everyone stays healthy though, for me it has to be D’Andre Swift. Whether or not he supplants Kerryon Johnson is a big question mark, but if Swift plays to the level of his talent, the offense becomes multidimensional and the field opens up that much more for everyone else.