The Detroit Lions are seeing a random rash of injuries attack their offensive line room, and Thursday’s practice proved how nobody could be safe at this point.
Already this week, the Lions lost Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a back injury for the first four weeks of the season. Then, they watched as his likely replacement Tommy Kraemer was kept out of practice. Now, things may have reached full-blown crisis levels.
Thursday, center Frank Ragnow, who was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a groin injury, had to sit out entirely. That means the news for Detroit went from bad to worse in terms of depth along the offensive front as Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com pointed out.
“No C Frank Ragnow (groin) at open portion of Lions practice Thursday. Not good with Lions already down Big V at RG,” Twentyman tweeted.
Already down Vaitai, if Ragnow cannot go, the Lions would be in big trouble going against a stout Philadelphia front in Week 1. The team developed solid depth during a lost 2021 season which also featured a rash of injuries, but early on, the hope would have been for the entire group to be healthy. That might have to wait until another time.
The hope, of course, is Ragnow can shake off injury to play. He’s as tough as they come and played with a fractured throat a couple years ago, so put nothing past him. Still, this was a frustrating development for a Detroit front that could ill-afford it.
Ragnow Absence Would be Trouble for Lions
In terms of elite centers, there are few players in the league who are getting the kind of decoration that Ragnow is early in his career.
Coming into this season, PFF had ranked him a top three center in the NFL. Many expected Ragnow to perhaps chase down another Pro Bowl or try for All-Pro nods this season. This was on the heels of a lost 2021 season when Ragnow was forced out with a foot injury and later foot surgery.
Prior to that trouble, Ragnow had been very durable, and has 49 starts to his credit in the NFL. That’s a good total, especially considering the physicality and demand of the position he plays in the league.
Being without Ragnow, who is also the de-facto quarterback of the offensive line, would be trouble for Detroit in terms of communication and signaling as well. Evan Brown is a solid replacement, but there’s only one Ragnow in terms of a top-line starter.
Lions’ Offensive Line Will See Shakeup
If Kraemer and Ragnow can’t play, the Lions may be forced to look at shaking things up along their front this week in an even bigger way in an attempt to have the best group on the field.
Already, some new wrinkles have been discussed, including moving Penei Sewell from tackle inside to guard. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press wrote about this idea, which would allow the team to play swing tackle Matt Nelson in Sewell’s place on the right side.
Another idea that has been tinkered with? Putting Ragnow at guard, then playing reserve center Evan Brown in the middle of the line. Twentyman tweeted about that idea, which was presented at Campbell’s media availability. Also, the potential for a guard flip with Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg exists.
“Campbell said the team is going to give Tommy Kraemer a look at RG. Will also look at Logan Stenberg, he would play LG and they’d move Jonah Jackson to RG. Could also move Ragnow to G and play Evan Brown at C. They’ve got options,” Twentyman tweeted.
With Ragnow missing in practice, though, that idea might have to hit the skids. That could mean more credence to the notion that reserves such as Brown and Logan Stenberg may play bigger roles this week.
Last year, Brown did decent playing center in Ragnow’s absence, so at the very least, the Lions have a spot of confidence in their reserve center. Still, this news is frustrating for Detroit entering a new season.
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