Detroit Lions 2020 season-ending report cards: Offense

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions
Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports) /

Offensive Line

Years and years of dedicating significant resources to the offensive line finally yielded some positive returns in 2020, and the Lions have three-fifths of their front occupied by rock-solid starters. The other two spots were problematic all year, however, and held this unit back for large portions of the season.

At left tackle, the Lions have one of the best bookends in the game in Taylor Decker. He made good on his recent four-year, $60 million contract extension, which will likely look like a bargain in the near future. Upon initial glance, Decker allowed just two sacks all season, while playing every single offensive snap for the Lions.

At the other tackle spot, things did not unfold as swimmingly. Career-backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai was given a large free-agent contract to man the right side, but It did not go well.

He battled injuries all season, and was ineffective at tackle when he was healthy enough to play. So much so, that he was moved to guard at various points, where he wasn’t much better. Overall, he played in just ten games and less than half of the Lions’ offensive snaps. His contract hints that he will get another shot in 2021, but a repeat performance would be disastrous.

Swing tackle Tyrell Crosby remains a solid relief option, but his chance to grab hold of a full-time starting position has probably passed. He missed the last four games while injured, but was passable when he was thrust into action. Converted defensive end Matt Nelson played 242 snaps on offense, and looked every bit of a project. He’s worth keeping around next year as a developmental piece.

In the middle, the line was anchored by Frank Ragnow at center, whose strong play was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl selection. He’s as tough as they come, evidenced by him fighting through a frightening throat injury in Week 14 and returning to play in a meaningless season finale. He was called for just three penalties all year.

At guard, rookie Jonah Jackson was a day one starter and never looked back, making all 16 starts while shuttling between both guard spots. He was too often swallowed up by blocks and couldn’t help elevate the Lions running game, but his durability was impressive. He should continue to be an important piece of the offensive front.

The other guard spot was a revolving door consisting of oft-injured Joe Dahl, veteran Oday Aboushi and Vaitai when he was booted from his tackle position. None of them did much to improve the unit’s performance. Aboushi’s brutal Week Two showing, including a pair of costly penalties, was somewhat emblematic of the trio’s overall struggles.

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Overall, the line as a whole did a decent job of giving Stafford enough time to make downfield attempts; he took his fewest sacks for a full season since 2016. However, the struggles at right tackle and the uninspiring rotation at one guard spot, combined with the group’s lackluster run-blocking (third fewest rushing yards in the league) drag this grade down slightly.

Grade: B-

Note: All salary cap figures courtesy of Spotrac.