Detroit Lions: Could lack of chemistry hurt the offensive line early?

Detroit Lions (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

After offseason changes, the Detroit Lions’ offensive line could have a slow start

Chemistry. While it’s important to have team-wide for the Detroit Lions, no single positional unit might rely on it more than the offensive line.

The communication between each of the O-lineman and their split-second responses during every single play is extremely critical. And one miscommunication could be the difference between having your franchise quarterback under center or not.

The fact is, you need time to build chemistry. And time is something no NFL team has gotten much of this offseason due to the impact of a worldwide pandemic.

The Lions may have chosen the worst time in league history to replace a good portion of their offensive lineman. Detroit opted to move on from both starting right guard Graham Glasgow and right tackle Rick Wagner this offseason.

And, in turn, the Lions introduced three new faces that could be forced into starting roles when the regular season kicks off in less than a month. Those players being free agent tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai plus rookie guards Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg.

Vaitai figures to slot in to replace Wagner at right tackle (at least that’s what his five-year, $50 contract seems to indicate). While Jackson and Stenberg should be in contention for the two starting guard spots. But their combined lack of chemistry with the rest of the O-line is a major concern.

Here’s what second-year offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told The Detroit News recently about the importance of chemistry for his offensive lineman and how actually playing together, in-person, is simply irreplaceable.

"“You always like those five guys to be working together as much as they can. The right hand needs to know what the left hand is doing. … There’s great communication going on in the meetings. But playing next to a guy and getting used to how they come off a twist or how they hit a combination, those are things you can’t replace.”"

The Lions are attempting to potentially replace three starters along their offensive line in what has become a near-impossible situation. The whole offseason training program was shifted to become entirely virtual, the preseason was canceled, and Detroit’s first full training camp practice doesn’t kick off till Monday.

That’s a 28-day window for the Lions’ offensive line to build chemistry before their Week One matchup against the Chicago Bears. To help keep that window open longer, Detroit could look to some of their more veteran players to help buy themselves some time to build that much-needed chemistry into the regular season.

For instance, Joe Dahl started 13 games at left guard last season for Detroit and that experience could give him the edge over rookies Jackson and Stenberg. And Kenny Wiggins, who was a 16-game starter at right guard for the Los Angeles in 2017, could be pressed into service early as well. Wiggins has started a total of 13 games during his two-year stint in Motown.

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In the end, if the Detroit Lions’ truly value chemistry in their offensive line, they may be forced to look to some of their veteran players to handle starting roles early. With quarterback Matthew Stafford coming off an injury-shorten eight-game season, a sluggish start from this O-line could spell doom for the Motor City early.