Of all the Detroit Lions’ rookies, this third-rounder has had the biggest impact early
The team elected to part ways with the entire right side of their O-Line, allowing both starting right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard Graham Glasgow to find other NFL homes this offseason. To fill their void, the Lions looked to free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Lions signed former Philadelphia Eagles’ backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a five year, $45 million contract to replace Wagner at right tackle. Then, Detroit drafted Ohio State offensive lineman Jonah Jackson in the third round (75th overall) as the replacement for Glasgow at right guard.
While Vaitai has yet to make his Lions’ debut due to a foot injury, Jackson has emerged as the team’s most impactful rookie so far. The 23-year old has started at right guard for Detroit over the first two games of the season and played nearly every offensive snap.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson has allowed one sack and committed one penalty over his first 129 snaps, earning him an average overall grade of 66.1 (he got a 77.2 grade for his Week Two performance). Those stats look better when considering the rookie’s lack of a proper offseason training program and the fact he was unable to play in any preseason games to help gain valuable experience.
Here’s what Lions’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told the Detroit Free Press on why Jackson has seen early success this season while other rookies have struggled.
"“We saw we had something in Jonah [Jackson] and I think you’re starting to see it. He’s a physical player, but he’s also super-athletic, so he’s done a nice job of fitting in there. He’s got good leaders and guys to communicate with him, guys that are veteran players that are next to him, so I think that helps him.”"
Over the first two games of the NFL regular season, Stafford has been sacked five times. That’s tied for 10th most in the league so far. So this offensive line still has plenty of work to do when it comes to protecting their veteran passer who’s in his 12th NFL season.
The Detroit Lions have assembled an impressive young nucleus of offensive lineman with Taylor Decker at left tackle and center Frank Ragnow, both of whom are former first-round draft picks. If Jonah Jackson can continue to build on his promising start, the Lions’ offensive line could soon emerge as one of the league’s most talented positional units.