Lions Biggest Roster Strength Named Significant Offensive Position

Frank Ragnow

Getty Frank Ragnow calls out a play.

The Detroit Lions have a roster in-flux, and even though that’s the case, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some spots that are poised to impress during this new season coming up.

Over the past few years, the Lions have thrown money and time at their offensive front, and it seems to be paying off in a big way. The team has developed one of the top lines in the league after drafting and developing players, and 2021 could be the season the fruits of their labor pay off.

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Recently, Pro Football Focus writer Ben Linsey looked at ranking every roster in the league, and looked at some strengths and weaknesses anticipated for 2021. As he wrote, a major positive is the team’s offensive line, and it’s the best part of the line this season.

As for why, he wrote:

“The Lions have made it clear that they plan to build through the trenches, and they’re off to a good start along the offensive line. Frank Ragnow projects as one of the best centers in the NFL this season, coming off a career-high 80.3 overall grade in 2020, but rookie right tackle Penei Sewell has the potential to be the best offensive lineman in this starting five. Sewell ended his 2019 true sophomore season at Oregon with a 95.8 PFF grade, which was higher than any offensive lineman in the PFF college era at the time.”

The offense will be a major plus for the Lions this season if the line can protect Jared Goff and get the ground game going. That’s the plan for the Lions both in 2021 and moving forward, and creating a solid line seems to be the wisest place to start.

PFF Loves Lions’ Offensive Line Development

Earlier this offseason, PFF rated the Lions offensive line received some major love from Pro Football Focus as well and after years of being seen as one of the worst lines in the league, perhaps surprisingly, the Lions have now surged to near the top of the NFL in terms of line talent. Recently, PFF writer Steve Palazzolo ranked every line in football, and Detroit placed a very respectable 10th for 2021.

As for why, he wrote:

“Left tackle Taylor Decker is coming off career-highs in overall grade (82.0) and pass-blocking grade (85.8) while ranking 12th overall among tackles last season. He’s ranked above average in both pass blocking and run blocking since entering the league in 2016.

The Lions will trot out rookie Penei Sewell at right tackle after drafting him with the seventh overall pick. He was the top offensive tackle on the PFF draft board. Sewell posted the highest grade we’ve seen from a true freshman and the highest overall grade for any offensive tackle since 2014 prior to his opting out of the 2020 season. Sewell has the tools and production to become one of the better all-around tackles in the league very soon.

Center Frank Ragnow has improved in all three of his NFL seasons, headlined by an 80.3 grade last season, the third-best mark among centers. Ragnow allowed half as many pressures last season as he did in 2019 on just about the same number of snaps.

Guard is the biggest question mark for the Lions’ offensive line. 2020 third-rounder Jonah Jackson started at left guard last year, but his 57.0 overall grade ranked just 58th out of 84 qualifiers. Jackson showed plenty of potential as a pass protector in college, so the hope is that his 67th-ranked 51.2 pass-blocking grade will improve. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the starter at right guard, where he performed well on 282 snaps a year ago. Vaitai has spent most of his career at right tackle, but his power is a better fit at guard, which should mitigate some of his pass-blocking woes.

The Lions appear to have built the foundation of an excellent offensive line for the foreseeable future.”

Interestingly enough, after years of problems, it seems the Lions’ offensive front might be the most stable part of their roster looking forward to the 2021 season on the field.

How a Powerful Line Would Benefit Lions’ Offense

On paper, the Lions might have a weaker offense as a whole considering some of the major losses they have take, but a stronger line can help them make up for that in a big way. Protecting Jared Goff and allowing him time to survey the field will be huge, as will be allowing what figures to be a solid ground game a better chance at flourishing. A solid line will give the Lions a shot at play action passing and give Goff a better chance to survey the field and make confident throws for his team.

If the Lions are indeed a top 10 line in the NFL and play like it and have that group lead the way, that could go a long way toward helping them surprise in 2021.

READ NEXT: Lions Breakout Candidate for 2021 Revealed

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