It’s been the biggest Detroit Lions’ debate all week on the heels of a solid debut from Penei Sewell at left tackle: should the team move Taylor Decker to the right side when he heals up off injury?
At this point, everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter, from former players to fans. The only opinions that will count, however, belong to those within the team.
The latest Lions news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lions newsletter here!
Detroit offensive line coach Hank Fraley spoke with the media on Thursday, September 16 in an interview posted to DetroitLions.com and was asked about Sewell’s future in the league. Where does the coach see the solid rookie lineman playing as things move forward?
“Right now this week, it’s at left tackle. He’s done a nice job. He’s done a nice job all camp. I know outside of the building there’s always a lot of speculation on everything and that’s where it stays, outside the building,” Fraley said definitively.
Specifically, with regards to any talk of moving Sewell and Decker, Fraley admitted that the discussion hasn’t been happening, and the focus is more on the immediate future including the game against the Green Bay Packers.
“I’ll just be honest, there’s been no discussion on that stuff. Right now, in my mind, Taylor’s our left tackle and Penei’s our right tackle and when Taylor’s not playing, Penei’s the left tackle and Matt Nelson’s the right tackle. So that’s how we’re doing things and he’s done a nice job,” he said.
Detroit will have a few more games at the very least to see Sewell on the left side, as Decker remains sidelined on injured reserve with a hand ailment. It’s clear the team wants him to rest up and be completely ready whenever he does come back.
For now, Sewell is staying on the left side and will move back to the right side when Decker returns. That seems to be the way things are going to be listening to the coaching staff.
Could Taylor Decker Eventually Volunteer to Play Right Tackle?
Decker, like Sewell and all of his teammates is the ultimate team player. So could that lead the Lions’ veteran to make a move for the betterment of the team and slide to the right side if he sees it fit? As Chris Burke of The Athletic hypothesized on Twitter, Decker’s status as a team player might lead him to make such a decision in the future.
Fraley didn’t close the door on that notion completely when he spoke thanks to the fact he knows players will do whatever it takes to win, even as he said it’s not a topic of conversation with the team at this point.
“I know this, I haven’t ever seen Taylor play right tackle. (But) I know this, if you ask any of our guys to do whatever, they will go out and compete wherever they go. But that’s not even been brought up and right now, like I said, it’s about the five that are playing and getting the guys ready that are behind them if they have to step in. There’s always a next-guy mentality and it’s always been that way, especially with offensive line,” he said.
Decker has long been a player with a team-first mindset, so it will be interesting to see if this move is considered in the future. Right now, though, the biggest goal for the Lions is getting Decker healthy off his early-season hand injury which is set to cost him some time.
Former Offensive Linemen Proclaim Penei Sewell ‘Left Tackle’ for Lions
In terms of former linemen, the opinion seems to be concrete about what the Lions should do. NFL Network analyst and former league offensive lineman Brian Baldinger hopped on Twitter and provided a quick analysis on what makes Sewell so good up front. Specifically, he said he believes Sewell looks more comfortable on the left side than the right side thanks to his play against Bosa and the 49ers.
“Penei Sewell looks just so much better on the left side than he does on the right side,” Baldinger says in the clip. “He’s going agains Nick Bosa here and he had some rough moments in the game but this is Penei Sewell at his best right here. Bosa’s got a little leverage on him but he’s got his hands in the right spot, digs them out. (Jared) Goff is throwing the ball and look where Bosa’s at. He’s got him on the Lions logo right there and he stays with him. Sewell, I know they got him on the right side and I know why he’s over to the left. But that natural kick, athlete, using his strength right here, dropping the anchor. No doubt he had some rough moments, but he also had some good moments like that one.”
Baldinger is far from the only one who believes Sewell should be playing the left side of the line in Detroit. In the opener, Lions had to move Sewell over in an emergency to left tackle, his natural position in college. According to former offensive lineman and analyst Geoff Schwartz, they may have found something with this switch. After a mere quarter played out for Sewell, Schwartz had seen enough to say that he believed the team had their new left tackle of the future in the former Oregon Duck.
What the Lions decide to do with Sewell will remain a question, because the team does have Taylor Decker entrenched on the left side, and Decker just signed an extension with Detroit last year and played well in 2020. Decker has only played the left side since being picked by Detroit in the 2016 NFL draft, so whether or nor he would move at this stage of his career remains to be seen. It is an interesting thought to remember nevertheless, though.
Some believe it’s time for the Lions to think seriously about moving their rookie back where he started, but at this moment, that doesn’t seem to be completely in the cards.