2 New Injuries Could Alter Lions’ Potential Plan Along Offensive Line

Tommy Kraemer

Getty Tommy Kraemer runs on the field before a Lions game in 2021.

The Detroit Lions have seen a frustrating development in recent days for their offensive line with Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s injury, and now another ailment could leave the team in a further pinch.

On Wednesday, September 7, the Lions were down Vaitai’s expected replacement at guard in Tommy Kraemer with a back injury. After news of Vaitai’s injury, Kraemer had been elevated to the top spot on the team’s depth chart.

“No Tommy Kraemer (which further complicates Big V replacement decision), John Cominsky or Levi Onwuzurike at open portion of Lions practice today. Ifeatu Melifonwu was taking part, however,” Twentyman tweeted.

In addition to Kraemer, Frank Ragnow was limited in practice with a groin injury. That would put extra strain on Detroit’s line if he couldn’t go.

When the team’s injury report and final designations get revealed the rest of the week, it will be interesting to see who is where. Without Kraemer or Ragnow, the Lions would certainly be in a depth pinch at guard and center, no matter how the team would line up offensively.

At this point, it’s likely folks will have to hold their breath on another one of Detroit’s guards early in the season.

Lions’ Offensive Line May See Big Shakeup

If Kraemer can’t play, the Lions may be forced to look at shaking things up along their front this week 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.

Last year, Brown did decent playing center in Ragnow’s absence, so the pair could co-exist on the field if the Lions want to go in that direction. Whatever happens, the idea is to put the best team on the field.

Injuries Hurting Lions’ Offensive Line

No matter who plays where, losing Vaitai this early in the season represents an early direct blow to Detroit’s potentially elite offensive line ahead of the 2022 season.

Last year, Vaitai enjoyed a solid bounce-back year and is looking forward to continuing to impact the game in a big way for 2022. He’s a solid player in the ground game and also against the pass. If he is lost for a long stretch in 2022, the team might see a slide in productivity given his importance.

The hope for the Lions is that they can avoid more injuries up front, even if Kraemer is healthy and the team elected to simply shuffle players around based on quality or necessity. The last thing the Lions need at this point is an injury to a depth piece up front on top of injury to a starter.

Until Week 4 and beyond, the team will be holding their breath and hoping things don’t trend poorly for Vaitai and his recovery goes well in the meantime.

They will also now have to hope whomever they select to play can fill their roles in the best possible way in Week 1.

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