Lions Coach Talks up Much-Maligned Offensive Lineman

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Getty Halapoulivaati Vaitai pounces on a fumble.

One of the bigger disappointments for the Detroit Lions during the 2020 season was the situation with guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

After signing a massive deal with the Lions in the offseason, Vaitai looked like a shell of himself last season. He was injured most of the year, played inconsistently as a result and was placed on injured reserve by late November. As a result, most wouldn’t project a quick turnaround for Vaitai in 2021, and many believe he should either be on the trading block or up for a release.

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That though might not carry over in terms of Vaitai’s position coach, though. Hank Fraley, who was retained by Dan Campbell and the Lions as offensive line coach, was asked about what Vaitai can bring to the mix in a recent interview. As he said, now is not the time to be giving up on Vaitai thanks to his overall talent and what he can do.

That quote seems to hint that Vaitai isn’t likely to be going anywhere, especially considering his age and contract status. The lineman is under contract for another three seasons, and it’s clear the Lions want to squeeze as much good football out of him as possible.

Fraley confirms as much with this analysis of the situation.

Detroit’s Offensive Line Suddenly Has Depth

Vaitai suddenly finds himself one of the veterans of a crowded group along the offensive front in terms of depth. Even though the Lions have Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson and Frank Ragnow in the fold as well as quality young depth pieces like Tyrell Crosby and Logan Stenberg, Vaitai is a good depth piece and could be the favorite to start at guard opposite Jackson. This will help the transformation toward this group as one of the best lines in the NFL. The team now has the makings of an elite group with Penei Sewell in the fold.

Having a successful veteran like Vaitai, no matter how much he has struggled in the past with the team, is good news for the Lions in terms of having a deep line that could turn themselves into one of the toughest offensive lines in the league.

Vaitai’s NFL Statistics

Vaitai, out of TCU, is only 26 years old and has 20 career starts under his belt from his time with the Eagles which is where he started his career. Vaitai has also played in 55 NFL games in his career, and was a former fifth round pick of the Eagles from back in 2016.

Vaitai helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII a few years back, and is an up and coming lineman in the league given these facts. A big selling point when he came to Detroit was his ability to play either tackle spot or guard, even though Vaitai is an offensive tackle by trade. In Detroit, he’s done a bit of both so far but been used at guard most regularly. The results haven’t been great thus far, but that could have plenty to do with his injury and how he’s never quite been himself this season since joining the team.

Certainly, that’s what the Lions seem to think when all is said and done heading into the 2021 season.

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