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The offensive line is expected to be one of the Detroit Lions’ strengths in 2021, and Pro Football Focus sees it that way too.
Detroit’s offensive line came in 10th in PFF’s ranking of all 32 offensive line groups heading into the season. Cleveland ranked No. 1, followed by Indianapolis, New England, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Kansas City, Los Angeles (Rams) and San Francisco.
“It’s fair to be optimistic about Detroit building one of the best offensive lines in the NFL,” PFF wrote.
Left tackle Taylor Decker is coming off career highs in overall grade (82.0) and pass-blocking grade (85.8), ranking 12th overall among tackles last season. PFF noted that Decker is ranked above average in both pass blocking and run blocking since entering the league in 2016.
No. 7 overall pick Penei Sewell is expected to start at right tackle. He was the top offensive tackle on PFF’s draft board. Sewell posted the highest PFF grade from a true freshman and the highest overall grade for any offensive tackle since 2014 prior to opting out of the 2020 season.
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“Sewell has the tools and production to become one of the better all-around tackles in the league very soon,” PFF wrote.
Frank Ragnow’s 80.3 overall grade last season was the third best among centers as he earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2020.
Guard is the only question mark heading into the season for PFF.
“2020 third-rounder Jonah Jackson started at left guard last year, but his 57.0 overall grade ranked just 58th out of 84 qualifiers,” PFF wrote. “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.”
Detroit also appears to have pretty good depth upfront with fourth-year tackle Tyrell Crosby playing some good football when given the opportunity, and the team also employing veterans Matt Nelson and Dan Skipper.
PFF concluded, “The Lions appear to have built the foundation of an excellent offensive line for the foreseeable future.”