During the NFL Draft I must admit I was bit clueless when the name Joe Dahl was announced as the Detroit Lions 151st pick in the fifth round. All I knew at the time was that Bob Quinn is incredibly serious about building the Lions up in the trenches through the draft.
After talking with today's guest, I can say that my clueless mindset has turned into an excited mindset. To get this great information, I had to run over to Pullman, Washington; former home of NFL legend John Elway and legendary NFL bust Ryan Leaf, as well as their beloved Washington State Cougars. Our pals over at Coug Center knew exactly who to connect us with. WSU expert Brian Anderson jumped at the chance to teach us a thing or two about Dahl. Here's what we learned.
POD: What are your overall thoughts on Joe Dahl's time at WSU?
CC: "Dahl transferred over from Montana in the spring of 2012 (and had to sit out that first year due NCAA transfer rules) as a 272 pound project, to fill depth on a paper-thin WSU offensive line in the first year of current head coach Mike Leach. Leach was basically accumulating bodies at that point and Dahl was a local Spokane kid, so nothing was really thought of his addition. Dahl added 18 pounds that off-season and started every regular season game at left guard in 2013. He moved out to left tackle for the bowl game that season, which he made his permanent spot for the next two years.
He added another 20 pounds over the next couple years and became the foundation for an offensive line that went from not having FBS-level talent at any position, to a group that could produce 100 yard rushers in several games and allowed one of the lowest sack rates in the conference, all in an Air Raid system that throws upwards of 50 times a game. The O-line branded themselves the "Goon Squad" and Dahl was a major part in that mentality shift; tougher, meaner, nastier, more physical. A consistent leader in both his production and work ethic, who gained a lot of respect from his low-level beginnings and constant effort. He's a big reason why -- both in his skills on the field and his leadership off it -- WSU was able to go from a bottom-dweller in the PAC-12 to a nine win season in just a few years. "
POD: What is Dahl's biggest strength?
CC: "Dahl is about as good as you could ask for in vertical set pass protection, and that's 95 percent of what the Washington State offense does. In his first year at tackle, Dahl surrendered just one sack in 750 pass attempts. A lineman great at pass protection means you'll get a couple foundational skills; footwork and athleticism. His footwork is probably his biggest asset. Dahl is extremely quick on that drop-kick vertical set, he held his own against the speedy pass rusher and Top 10 draft pick DeForest Buckner in the win against Oregon. Some scouts are noticing this in "change of direction" observations. I know a scouting service had "plodding" footwork as an issue, but that doesn't really fit what we've seen out of him for a couple years or what his combine footage demonstrated during the O-line drills. All that said, he's probably a best fit for guard at the next level, but he could slide over to tackle or even center -- if things go sideways with roster depth -- he's a really versatile lineman.
Dahl is a pretty decent athlete for a big guy. The sheer volume of plays an Air Raid teams runs per game make conditioning a major focus. He'll have above average conditioning for a lineman. He utilized that attribute frequently in games, never being idle. WSU would typically use "Big On Big" five-man blocking schemes in their pass pro, and Dahl would regularly crash down to help a guard or pick up a stunt if he wasn't being challenged on the edge. Protection isn't packaged into an offensive play call either, the big guys up front would work things out on a play by play basis. Dahl is very adept at recognizing defensive fronts and assessing pressure."
POD: What is his biggest weakness?
CC: " Run blocking. Contrary to popular belief, Air Raid teams do run the ball, however their schemes are fairly basic. WSU has essentially three run plays; middle iso, inside zone, and outside zone. Dahl's experience in run blocking is real vanilla, there isn't a lot of variety to it. That lack of experience counts as a demerit. When WSU did run the ball, he was as physical and tough as they come. I wouldn't anticipate any problem for him transitioning inside to guard and getting good push on run plays."
POD: Is Dahl NFL ready or a project?
CC: "If he's a project, it won't be a long-term one. He's added good weight each of the last three seasons at WSU, and I'd guess the Lions will want him to bulk up a little more for the move inside. If he can do that quickly, he could probably make a push for the two-deep this fall. Learning the offense, and in particular run blocking schemes, shouldn't be a problem for him, and minor technique coaching points on run blocking should get him to where he can compete for a starting job. "