Detroit Lions hope offensive line changes spark rushing attack

Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions hope that their offensive line additions can spark the run game

There could be as many as three new starters along the Detroit Lions‘ offensive line to kick off the 2020 NFL regular season. And that might potentially become problematic for a team who went 3-12-1 last year in large part due to their franchise quarterback missing eight games due to injury.

Yet, the Lions clearly wanted to make significant changes to this positional unit. This offseason, the team elected to move on from both starting right tackle Rick Wagner and versatile right guard Graham Glasgow.

In response, Detroit would sign free agent Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a massive five-year, $50 million contract to presumably assume Wagner’s former spot at right tackle. They then drafted Ohio State guard Jonah Jackson in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Lions followed up Jackson’s selection by doubling up at the position, taking Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg at the start of Day Three in the fourth round.

Detroit executed a shrewd plan this offseason to reshape their offensive line. And the goal of said plan appears to be an effort to improve their rushing attack. Here’s what second-year offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told last month about the team’s newest additions to their offensive line.

"“You really want those tough, nasty grinders because that’s what it is in the run game. It’s a grown man’s type of game and I’ve always talked on here that’s something we really hang our hat on and we weren’t able to do it as well as we wanted to last year. So, hopefully some of these additions will be able to help us do that.”"

Will Detroit Lions finally make their running game a priority?

The Lions’ rushing offense was ranked 21st in the NFL in 2019, averaging 103.1 yards on the ground per game. Just two years ago Detroit had the worst rushing attack in the NFL averaging a mere 76.3 yards per contest.

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But running the football has been a low priority in the Motor City for quite some time now. Clearly, this is a narrative Bevell and company wished to change in 2020.

The additions of Vaitai, Jackson, and Stenberg will hopefully fill the gaps around their two former first-rounders, left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow. Both of whom led the team in offensive snaps in 2020. And Joe Dahl, who started 13 games last year, could face stiff competition to retain his role at left guard this summer.

But potentially adding three new starters to a positional unit so reliant on chemistry following a stunted offseason training program that’s gone entirely virtual up to this point could present a few early obstacles. That’s where Detroit could lean on some of their veteran linemen like Kenny Wiggins, Tyrell Crosby, and Oday Aboushi to step-in.

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In the end, the most significant addition to this Detroit Lions’ offense that could spark their rushing attack might be their 2020 second-round selection, Georgia running back D’Andre Swift. With starting running back Kerryon Johnson struggling with injuries over his first two seasons in Motown, having Swift in the backfield could give Detroit that reliable presence in the backfield the team has been desperately lacking.