As we start to look ahead to training camp, we're going to take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions roster. Next up is the offensive guard position. (The final year of each player's contract is listed in parentheses.)
Back from last season: Rob Sims (2014), Larry Warford (2016), Rodney Austin (2015)
New to the team: D.J. Morrell (2016), Alex Bullard (2016), A.J. Dalton (2016)
At this time a year ago, the Lions were penciling in a rookie as one of their starting offensive guards. That was just one of the question marks surrounding the offensive line, but that rookie, Larry Warford, ended up being one of the top guards in all of the NFL last season. He shined as a rookie on the right side, and going into his sophomore season in the league, he's viewed as the most promising player on Detroit's offensive line.
The other starter at guard is Rob Sims. He has been the starter on the left side since 2010, and he's entering the final season of his contract. Sims wants to stay with the Lions beyond 2014, but it remains to be seen if that will happen. One way for Sims to encourage the Lions to bring him back is to have a season like he did in 2012, when he was voted Detroit's most outstanding offensive lineman by his teammates.
The main backup at offensive guard is Rodney Austin. He joined the Lions in 2012 as an undrafted free agent and spent much of his first two seasons on the practice squad. Last year, the Lions added him to their active roster near the end of November after the Tennessee Titans reportedly tried to sign him. Austin, along with center Travis Swanson, should get work at both offensive guard and center this summer, and the hope is that both players will be steady backups this year and starters down the road for the Lions.
The other backups at offensive guard are all undrafted free agents who joined the Lions this year. D.J. Morrell, Alex Bullard and A.J. Dalton will likely have to beat out Austin to make the team, so they actually may end up competing for a spot on the practice squad. All three players have the ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line, and that versatility will come in handy when decisions are made about who should stick around and who should be let go.
Need going forward?
If either starter goes down, someone inexperienced will be forced into action for the Lions. In that sense, it'd be nice to have some veteran depth at offensive guard, but the Lions roster isn't really constructed to allow that right now. The two main backups for the interior offensive line are developmental players who could be future starters, and for better or for worse, the Lions will likely roll with them if a starter goes down.