Before we get into today’s Question of the Day, it’s important not to speculate on injuries. Graham Glasgow left Tuesday’s joint practice between the Detroit Lions and New York Giants, after hobbling off under his own power. That’s literally all we know. He could be back there in practice on Wednesday, it could be a much more serious injury.
But while we wait for news regarding Glasgow’s injury, let’s look at the worst case scenario. If the Lions’ starting center is out for an extended period of time, Detroit has some shuffling on the offensive line to do, and we saw last year that that can result in some unfortunate pairings. Ironically, Matt Patricia stressed the importance of offensive line cohesion before Tuesday’s practice.
“It’s one of the hardest groups to get everybody on the same page,” Patricia said. “You try to keep continuity the best you can when you kind of understand who you think maybe is in that first range or second range.”
If Glasgow suffered a serious injury, that continuity from the first three weeks of camp has already been broken, and the Lions will have to start with a brand new combination on Wednesday.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
How should the Lions replace Graham Glasgow if he is injured long-term?
My answer: As far as I see it, there are two options: Slide first-round pick Frank Ragnow to center, the position he played for the majority of his college career, or bump second-string center Wesley Johnson into the starting lineup and let Ragnow continue to develop where the Lions appear to prefer him—at left guard. Let’s look at each case individually.
Move Ragnow to center, place Joe Dahl/Kenny Wiggins/Wesley Johnson at left guard
This option allows the Lions to place their top remaining offensive linemen into the starting five. Ultimately, that’s what you want, but there are pretty significant drawbacks to this method: you’re disrupting Ragnow’s development at left guard and changing two positions along the starting offensive line instead of just one.
As Patricia mentioned, the offensive line is extremely tough to get on the same page. All of the chemistry being built between Ragnow and left tackle Taylor Decker will seemingly go to waste if you move the rookie away from him. Then you’re bringing in a completely new person to the mix who hasn’t yet repped at left guard with the first team.
You could pick Dahl or Wiggins to fill that gap, since both have played at right guard with the first team when T.J. Lang has taken snaps off, but they would be playing between two new players on the left side and it will take some time to adjust. (Another option would be to move Lang to the left and keep Dahl and Wiggins on the right, but that’s even more shuffling to undertake.)
Keep Ragnow at left guard, promote Wesley Johnson/Leo Koloamatangi to center
This method has the benefit of not changing anyone’s position, and therefore not disrupting the offensive line chemistry quite as much. However, Johnson has really struggled at camp, and Leo Koloamatangi has regularly been repping with the second and third teams.
Promoting one of those players to a position on the offensive line as important as center could spell bad news for the entire offensive line. Sure, they both have had plenty of reps at the position throughout all camp, but being with the first team is a whole different ball game.
Obviously, neither scenario is great. Graham Glasgow hasn’t been phenomenal since Bob Quinn drafted him two years ago, but he’s been solid and dependable. He was the only Lions offensive player to play every single snap in 2017.
But if I had to pick one of the scenarios to replace him, it would be the second. The less disruption you can cause on the offensive line, the better. Moving Ragnow to center halfway through the preseason is a good way to arrest his development, and that’s just something you don’t want to do this early in his career. It may be his “natural” position according to some, but because he’s barely repped there in the offseason, it’s would take a significant amount of time for him to adjust, especially since he’s still adjusting to the talent level and the offensive scheme complexity of the NFL.
For me, the less disruption the better. And while that means the Lions will have to deal with a lesser talent at center, it may be best for overall team chemistry.