The Detroit Lions offensive line has been under construction for several years now. Though general manager Bob Quinn has made the front five a priority in nearly every offseason, it just hasn’t come together as it should yet.
This offseason was different, however. The Lions didn’t go out and get a top-tier free agent. They didn’t draft a single offensive lineman. Could this mean that 2016 fifth-round pick Joe Dahl may finally get a crack at the starting lineup?
Expectations before 2018
The minute the Lions drafted Frank Ragnow with their first-round pick, we knew that Joe Dahl was not going to be a starter. With T.J. Lang and Ragnow locking up the guard spots, there simply wasn’t room for him on the front five. Instead, much like the entirety of his career, he was expected to be one of the first players off the bench should an injury befall one of the starting interior linemen.
Actual role in 2018
2018 stats: 10 games (1 starts)
PFF grade: 72.4 (did not qualify for PFF rankings)
Dahl was the utility piece that has been expected of him since entering the league. Detroit used him just about everywhere when they needed an extra piece: as a fullback, as an extra tackle, and even occasionally lined up out wide with the receivers.
joe dahl split wide and then motions into the slot pre-snap pic.twitter.com/QpuvLg2h2N— mansur (@MansurShaheen) May 26, 2019
Despite his versatility, it didn’t result in much playing time, as Dahl only played in 51 offensive snaps, despite the injuries to Lang.
Outlook for 2019
Contract status: Signed through the 2019 season
Things could finally be different for Joe Dahl in 2019. As previously mentioned, the Lions did not add any clear starters in free agency, and Dahl is very much in play for the starting left guard job. With Lang gone, the Lions have been shuffling Dahl in with the first-team offense, along with Oday Aboushi and Kenny Wiggins.
At this point, Dahl is still more likely to play backup. The Lions’ most common lineup during OTAs and minicamp included Taylor Decker, Kenny Wiggins, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow and Rick Wagner. Still, the fact that Dahl got playing time with the ones between Decker and Ragnow is both new and significant. In the past, the Lions have not messed around with their starting offensive line during the offseason.
Obviously, nothing will be decided until the pads come on in July, but for the first time since he’s arrived in Detroit, Dahl will be entering training camp with a real chance to score a starting job.