Penei Sewell has played practically every snap at left tackle for the Lions this season, so he should stay there when Taylor Decker is back in the lineup.
The Detroit Lions could have gone any direction with the seventh overall pick in the 2021 draft, but they went with Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. With Taylor Decker theoretically entrenched at left tackle, the Lions have the enviable makings of two offensive line bookends for years to come.
But Decker suffered a finger injury, and surgery just before Week 1 has cost him all eight games to this point. He began practicing in mid-October. But a setback has delayed his return, to the point it was easy to question the decision to start the 21-day window to activate him from IR when it was done.
Faced with the deadline to activate Decker last Wednesday, the Lions made the move last Tuesday. Head coach Dan Campbell said putting Decker on the 53-man roster before he was actually ready to play was an option. But it’s definitely possible Decker makes his season debut in Week 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when the Lions return to action off this week’s bye.
Penei Sewell should remain at left tackle when Taylor Decker returns
As has been asserted by Campbell, Decker is slated to come back to his post at left tackle whenever he’s ready. Then the Lions can have their original plan at tackle, with Decker on the left and Sewell on the right side.
Sewell had a couple rough games in Week 4 and Week 5 against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. But over the last three games, via Pro Football Focus (h/t to 97.1 The Ticket/Audacy.com), he has not allowed a single sack with just one quarterback hit allowed over that stretch. The four sacks he allowed against the Bears and Vikings (two in each game) are the only sacks he has allowed this season, and PFF graded him as a top-20 run blocker among all offensive tackles through Week 8.
Switching sides of the offensive line is difficult for tackles and guards. It has been compared to learning to write with the other hand, since everything is opposite (steps, hand movement, etc.). But Sewell was a left tackle in college at Oregon, and a darn good one at that. He was not particularly good at right tackle during the summer.
Moving to right tackle won’t be easy for Decker. But he is effectively starting fresh at this point, with no game reps since the preseason. If he hasn’t been doing some work on right tackle movements in what practice work he has done lately, the team is doing it wrong.
Moving Sewell off a spot he’s more comfortable at, and is playing well at more importantly, would be a bad decision for the Lions. Decker is potential offseason trade bait anyway, so let him try his hand on the right side as a present accommodation to the team’s future left tackle.