What’s the Lions’ biggest question left in the trenches?
The new regime in the Motor City believes the rebuild must start in the trenches. And nothing proved this point more than the recent results of the 2021 NFL Draft for the Detroit Lions.
With their first three draft selections, the Lions focused entirely on players who could improve their trench play. With the seventh overall pick in the first round, the team drafted Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell.
With their second-round selection, the Lions drafted Washington defensive tackle
Levi Onwuzurike. And with their first to two third-round picks, Detroit again looked to address their defensive line needs with Alim McNeill, the defensive tackle from NC State.
Heading under their first season in Motown with general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell at the helm, the Lions’ trenches are brimming with talent.
Already having defensive end Trey Flowers along the D-Line, Detroit re-signed 2020 sack leader Romeo Okwara in the offseason to continue to pair the two. The team also traded for veteran defensive tackle Michael Brockers to help secure the interior of their line along with their talented draft class.
But the positional group that might just be the envy of the entire NFL is the offseason line. With the addition of Sewell, the LIons add a powerful bookend at right tackle to pair with starting left tackle Taylor Decker. With center Frank Ragnow coming off his first Pro Bowl season, the O-Line has a talented anchor as well.
Here’s the biggest lingering question Pro Football Focus has about the Lions’ offensive line and why they weren’t ranked higher than 10th in their recent list titled Ranking all 32 NFL offensive line units ahead of the 2021 season.
"“Guard is the biggest question mark for the Lions’ offensive line. 2020 third-rounder Jonah Jackson started at left guard last year, but his 57.0 overall grade ranked just 58th out of 84 qualifiers … Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the starter at right guard, where he performed well on 282 snaps a year ago.”"
Jonah Jackson was the only rookie from the 2020 draft class to start all 16 games last season. He’s been hard at work this offseason trying to improve in preparation for his second season. As for Halapoulivaati Vaitai, injuries robbed him of a real chance to show why the Lions signed him to a massive five-year, $45 million deal last offseason.
If both Jackson and Vaitai can improve this summer, the Detroit Lions’ offensive line should be a dominant force come the regular season. And with a new offensive coordinator in Anthony Lynn and a new quarterback under center in Jared Goff, strong O-Line play will benefit both tremendously in their first season in the Motor City.