HBO Max’s Hard Knocks premiere, featuring the Detroit Lions, is right around the corner. August 1st marks the date of episode one, so it’s important for Detroit Lions fans to dial in on the roster. While Hard Knocks is a great opportunity to get to know the team, we’ve put together a series of articles for the Detroit Lions superfans who want to know the roster heading into the show’s premiere. This article is dedicated to the Offensive Line.
The Detroit Lions’ Offensive Line is by far the best unit on the team. It’s widely considered one of the best O-lines in the NFL. Their upside for the 2022 season is to finish as the best offensive line in the league, which is without a doubt a reachable goal. Considering that Detroit Lions fans haven’t seen all five starters play together, it’s with good reason that fans should be excited.
In the Meet the Detroit Lions: Weapons edition, we discussed the blueprint for the Lions to have a much better offensive than expected. However, it’s the offensive line that is the engine of the offensive. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible for our weapons to shine. We would be banging our heads into the wall, contemplating our fandom after watching Jared Goff throw a check-down on third and 16 for the ninth time of the afternoon. Luckily for our mental health, the O-line is going to allow this team to surpass everyone’s expectations.
Right Tackle: Penei Sewell
According to PFF, Penei Sewell had the best rookie season of any offensive tackle in over ten years. One of the greatest tackle prospects we’ve ever seen, the former Oregon Duck, was selected 7th overall in the 2021 draft. In his rookie season, Sewell finished with just 11 penalties, for the second least in the NFL. After only allowing five sacks all season, it was easy to see how special Sewell was. Assuming the Hawaiian native’s progression lives up to his draft potential, he is what gives the Lions’ offensive line its ridiculous upside. His 6’5″, 330-pound frame and nimble feet make him a people mover. He could be the league’s best right tackle as soon as next season.
Left Tackle: Taylor Decker
The former Ohio State Buckeye may not be one of the elite level Tackles in the league, but he is certainly in the second tier. Two seasons ago, his last full season played, PFF had him ranked as the ninth left tackle in football. In the same season, Decker gave up just two sacks over the course of 16 games. Unfortunately, injuries kept him out of the lineup for the majority of 2021. Upon his return, Lions fans hope the 28-year-old, 6’7″, 320-pound beast can continue to dominate.
Center: Frank Ragnow
Frank, The Tank, Ragnow is arguably the best player on the roster and the best Center in the NFL. The former Arkansas Razorback was the first-ranked Center in the NFL in 2020. He allowed just eight pressures and zero sacks the entire season. After having just two penalties the entire year, Ragnow was elected to the Pro-Bowl and to the All-Pro second team. An injury kept Ragnow out of the lineup for the majority of the 2021 season. The 6’5″, 310-pound monster will be just 25 years old in the 2022 season. Watch him enough; I assure you’ll see him lay someone flat on their back. On this trajectory, Ragnow could be a possible Hall-Of-Famer.
Left Guard: Jonah Jackson
Jonah Jackson was named a Pro-Bowl injury replacement in his second season in the NFL. Another Ohio State Buckeye, Jackson was graded 22nd of 82 qualified Guards in 2021, according to PFF. He competed in 16 games in both of his first two seasons in the league, proving his durability. The third-round pick will be playing in his third NFL season in 2022. Jackson may not be the star of this unit, but having a Pro-Bowler as the fourth-best player on the line shows how scary this unit could be in the trenches.
Right Guard: Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Vaitai is the “week link” of this offensive line, but only because the other four starters are high-level players. In 2021, the former TCU Bullfrog was only responsible for 5 QB hits and 23 pressures in his 15 games played. Where Vaitai really proves his value is his snap count. Last season he managed to be on the field for 96 percent of the total offensive snaps, by far the most of his career. Vaitai will be going into his 7th season in the NFL. Playing between Frank Ragnow and Penei Sewell should make life for the 28-year-old easier than most right tackles.
As previously mentioned, Detroit Lions fans haven’t seen this unit fully healthy playing together before. If everyone can stay healthy this season, they could truly impact winning on the field. As much as receivers, running backs, and Quarterbacks are praised, it’s the battle in the trenches that allow the skilled players to thrive. With Jared Goff throwing the pigskin, giving him as much time as possible is more essential than ever. But with these monsters up front, the Lions are more than capable of being a run-it-down-your-throat team.
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