One of the more confounding things from the first four days of Detroit Lions training camp has been the team’s inconsistent lineup on the offensive line. Through four practices, the team has alternated between two different sets of guards as the first-team offensive line starters.
One day, they’ll have Kenny Wiggins and Graham Glasgow at left and right guard, respectively. The next day, they’ll have Joe Dahl and Oday Aboushi in those places. Of course, during positional and individual drills, those players occasionally mix and match, but for full team drills, it’s basically been one of those lineups with Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Rick Wagner staying at their respective positions with the first team.
On the surface, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. This is the time of year you want to be developing chemistry on the offensive line. If the linemen can’t trust and know what their teammates are going to do, the line won’t operate at full potential. By shaking things up daily, it could certainly be hurting the players’ ability to learn each others’ tendencies and develop consistency.
So what gives? Why is head coach Matt Patricia jeopardizing the team chemistry?
Patricia explained on Sunday morning they need to find out which combination of five players works best together first.
“We’re trying to find a fit that works for our team as we evaluate those guys that when they play together, they may not, necessarily, be all individually, it’s kind of the fit of the five,” Patricia said.
But Patricia went on to explain that it’s more than that. With five guys expected to play an entire game during the season, the likelihood that at least one player gets injured is pretty high. So this is a great time of year to evaluate the versatility of their players, to make sure the Lions can adjust accordingly in the middle of a game and not suffer a huge setback in terms of talent and experience.
“The guys that can come in and step up into those different positions and function at a high level, that’s really important,” Patricia said. “If you get a guy in and you have to force him to play a position—he’s okay, but he’s not really comfortable at, that gives an advantage to the defense, so we are trying to eliminate that as we go.”
And while the 11-on-11 drills seem to have the same two lineups with the first team offense, we’ve certainly seen a lot of the cross training Patricia is alluding to in positional and individual drills during training camp. Graham Glasgow, for example, has received plenty of reps at all three interior positions. Tyrell Crosby has seen work at both left and right tackle. Joe Dahl has already proven he can play multiple interior positions and even offensive tackle in a pinch.
At this point, Patricia admitted it’s too early to know which five linemen fit the best together and which positions some of his players are capable of handling. So expect this shaking up to continue. But as we get closer and closer to Week 1 of the regular season, you have to wonder when Patricia and the rest of the coaching staff will decide on a group of five they expect to start in Arizona against the Cardinals.