It’s apparently offensive line week here at Pride of Detroit. Our 2018 roster review has gone through Graham Glasgow and Joe Dahl already this week, so now let’s move onto the anchor of the offensive line: left tackle Taylor Decker.
The 2016 first-round pick has had a solid, but unspectacular career with the Detroit Lions. It’s safe to say he’s yet to meet the high expectations of a first-round pick, but with only three years under his belt, there is certainly room for growth and improvement. Is 2019 the year we see Taylor Decker at his finest? Let’s take a look.
Expectations before 2018
Decker came into 2018 with a lot to prove. A devastating torn labrum in 2017 completely wiped away an extremely promising rookie season. The hope would be a year removed from the injury, Decker would return to form and prove himself to be the franchise left tackle the Lions expected of him.
Actual role in 2018
2018 stats: 16 games (16 starts); 1 catch, 11 yards, 1 TD
PFF grade: 70.4 (36th among tackles)
While Decker was relatively healthy all year and played through a full season—a promising development on its own—he didn’t quite play up to expectations. His pass blocking remains his best asset (he ranked 14th among all tackles in PFF’s pass blocking grade), he has a lot of work to do to improve in the running game.
Decker hasn’t been bad. PFF credited him with only three sacks allowed all year, and those are the kind of numbers you want from a left tackle. But for a team looking to transition to become an offense capable of establishing the run, Decker certainly needs to be better.
Outlook for 2019
Contract status: Signed through 2020 season
The Lions showed a vote of confidence in Decker by exercising his fifth-year option earlier this offseason. That shows the coaching staff believes Decker has the capability to become an above-average left tackle in this league.
Decker’s best year in the NFL remains his rookie season, which should be both comforting and distressing for Lions fans. On one hand, it proves Decker can hold his own in this league. If you can do it in your rookie season, you should be able to hang for good.
On the other hand, Decker hasn’t been the same since his shoulder injury and now that there’s sufficient tape on him, there should be some concern that others have figured him out.
That being said, despite the new offensive coordinator, there is some continuity for Decker in 2019. He knows what’s expected of him from head coach Matt Patricia. He’s developed a rapport with offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. And he believes the chemistry among Detroit’s offensive linemen is the best he’s ever seen.
“I think this is the best group I’ve ever been around, as far as personalities fitting together, guys being on the same page, just kind of on the same wavelength,” Decker said back in May. “You just kind of got a feel for everybody. Everybody gets along really, really well. There’s just a good chemistry in that room and that’s exciting. And I think we do have a good group that we can do some good thing with on field.”
Now that he’s well removed from his injury, the excuses are gone. This needs to be Taylor Decker’s best season to date.