The Detroit Lions could legitimately have one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and another piece of data has set that expectation for 2022.
The Detroit Lions, with three first-round picks in place, were lined up to have one of the league’s best offensive lines in 2021. But the projected starting five, left to right, of Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Penei Sewell played exactly zero regular season snaps together last year.
Most notably, Decker started the season on IR with a hand injury and missed eight games. Then Ragnow suffered a turf toe injury in Week 4, and missed the rest of the season. But all five missed at least one game, albeit just one for Sewell and Jackson and two for Vaitai.
Moving to left tackle to replace Decker then back to his original post at right tackle when Decker returned, Sewell had a mostly very good rookie season in 2021. Jackson was a Pro Bowl alternate, and ultimately got to play in the game.
Back in April, Ragnow and Jackson set expectations high for the Lions offensive line. Jackson in particular pulled no punches.
More data shows Detroit Lions offensive line expected to be great
The Lions had their best ground game in a long time last year, which is a credit to the offensive line’s work despite never having all its best pieces together. Pass protection improved, right in line with Decker’s return, helping Jared Goff to a strong finish. In his final five starts, when he 11 touchdowns and two interceptions, Goff was sacked two or fewer times four times. In his first nine starts of the season, he was sacked at least three times five times.
Ben Baldwin of The Athletic ranked NFL offensive lines based on pass protection expectations after the draft, in terms of Expected Points Added. Using the projected starting fives, of course, the Lions ranked third.
All that stands between the Lions’ offensive line being regarded as one of the best in the NFL is health. As long as Decker and Ragnow don’t miss eight and 13 games respectively again and no one else misses significant time, they’ll fulfill that promise in 2022.