Today, our 2017 Detroit Lions roster review turns to one of the more popular underdog stories on the roster. Many fans have placed their hopes in 2016 fifth-round pick Joe Dahl to develop and one day take over a starting role on the Lions offensive line. Let’s take a look at his development thus far and his future going ahead.
Expectations for 2017
Going into the 2017 season, Dahl wasn’t expected to realistically compete for a starting job. The Lions had their starting five offensive linemen set, and although Graham Glasgow and Travis Swanson had struggled, Dahl was just expected to be the first off the bench.
Then Taylor Decker tore his labrum and all hell broke loose. They briefly tried Dahl at tackle, before completely abandoning those plans and opting to trade for first-round bust Greg Robinson, instead. Dahl entered the regular season as the top backup offensive lineman on the roster.
Actual role in 2017
2017 stats: 6 games (3 starts)
PFF grade: 66.3 (below average)
It was a rough year for Dahl. After playing in just a few special teams snaps through the first three weeks of the season, he was placed on injured reserve with a mysterious leg injury.
However, Dahl returned from injured reserve in Week 14, and when Travis Swanson suffered a concussion a week later, Dahl was pushed into the starting role at left guard. In the first three starts of his career, Dahl didn’t really do anything notable as a positive nor a negative, though he did play in every single offensive snap in those final three games.
Outlook for 2018
Contract status: Signed through 2019
Most consider interior offensive line as one of the biggest needs for the Detroit Lions this offseason. Guys like Andrew Norwell or Josh Sitton have been targeted as possible additions through free agency, and the draft is filled with talent at the position.
If the Lions add one of those players in free agency or spend a Day 1 or 2 draft pick on a guard, Dahl will certainly slide down back into his backup role again. But if the draft doesn’t fall their way and they decide not to get into a bidding war in free agency, it’s perfectly realistic that Dahl gets his shot as a full-time starter in 2018.
Is Dahl likely best served simply as a reliable backup? Probably. But remember that Dahl is a small-school prospect with all the physical tools to be a decent NFL player, and he’s still only 24 years old. With a new offensive line coach in town, Dahl should provide some competition at left guard regardless of what Detroit decides to do with their roster over the next few months.
What will Joe Dahl’s role be in 2018?
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Off the roster/practice squad