It’s a fair question to ask of this Detroit Lions team: will the upgraded offensive line have a positive impact right out of the gate? The group has a couple of vets in center Frank Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker mixed with an injection of young talent from left guard Jonah Jackson and right take Penei Sewell. Add right tackle turned right guard Halapoulvaati Vaitai and you’re looking at a solid group of expected starters.
Without making any further assumptions about rotations and situational lineups with tight ends helping block, how high are the expectations for this group? They appear to be pretty high according to Pro Football Focus’ ranking of the offensive line position groupings by team which was recently released.
Optimism was a keyword in their analysis. They’re so optimistic, they ranked the Lions unit at 10 of 32. That might be the highest-ranking Detroit has seen in quite some time. Those of you that have been following along at home during the past few seasons might still be skeptical (rightfully so) of any national ranking being so high for a team with low overall expectations. But it’s good for business to be optimistic. You play to win the game, right?
Speaking of optimism, this offensive line sure has a lot of it right now. Tim Twentyman broke down the PFF story for DetroitLions.com and started out by saying …
“The offensive line is expected to be one of the Detroit Lions’ strengths in 2021.”
While that’s certainly true, the offensive line still needs to come together and not put too high of expectations on a rookie starter, no matter how high he was drafted. And then, the line needs to work together with the rest of the offense to actually put points on the board. This brings us back to the original question, will the offensive line breed instant results?
The answer depends on your measuring stick. Team wins? Probably not. Time of possession? Maybe. Points scored? Maybe. These all have other factors that are not dependent on the offensive line themselves. And a good offensive line also puts pressure on the skill positions to perform.
Even the running game will be dependent on one other big factor – are the Lions playing from behind? If yes, then you can’t use the total rushing yards as a measuring stick of offensive line success. And by most accounts, expectations are for this team to be behind in most games.
Then you can look at the wide receiver corps and realize the expectations of that group aren’t high out of the gate either. Even quarterback is a mixed bag of expectations. But if the offensive line is solid, it gives everyone else a chance to perform well and maybe even surprise a few people.
There’s nothing wrong with the high expectations and optimism surrounding these Detroit Lions and their offensive line for 2021. But, just maybe, 2022 would be a better measuring stick for their success after general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell have had a year under their belt and two offseasons of developing this team the way they’d like it to be.