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Jarrad Davis, Frank Ragnow injuries: Assessing the impact on Detroit Lions roster

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What happens now?

NFL: Preseason-Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions suffered two potentially devastating injuries on Friday night against the Buffalo Bills. 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis went down early with a leg injury, and 2018 first-round pick Frank Ragnow followed with a similar leg injury. Both went into the locker room and did not return, and the early guesses from medical professionals were not exactly promising.

We still don’t know the full extent of either injuries, but in true Lions fan fashion, let us prepare for the worst.

What will the Lions look like if both players are lost for a significant amount of time? How will it affect the depth chart and the 53-man roster cuts next week. Let’s break it all down.

Jarrad Davis injury impact

Who replaces him?

Davis’ injury likely impact second-round rookie Jahlani Tavai the most. The former Hawaii linebacker had been getting reps both at both outside in middle linebacker, but it seems most likely that he’ll stick to the middle now. That’s a tall order for a rookie linebacker, but head coach Matt Patricia said on Friday night that Tavai may be up to it mentally.

“He’s one of those college kids that’s had a bunch of different coordinators, a bunch of different schemes, a bunch of different positions, and honestly, he was able to talk about all of them at a high level,” Patricia said.

53-man roster impact

Additionally, Davis’ injury seems to have solidified a spot not only on the roster, but given a very important role to Jalen Reeves-Maybin. The third-year linebacker has shown massive improvement this offseason and is making a case for the starting WILL linebacker position. With Christian Jones still on the team, there is no need to rush Reeves-Maybin in the lineup, but if he keeps playing as he’s had, he could very well win the job over Jones.

Also, Miles Killebrew seems like a near-certain roster lock due to his decent preseason this year and his special teams value.

Depth

Unfortunately, this injury hurts most at the Lions’ depth. With Steve Longa still on physically unable to perform list, the Lions don’t have any experience beyond Tavai, Jones, and Reeves-Maybin. And they certainly don’t have anyone else truly capable of stepping in at middle linebacker. This position is extremely vulnerable right now, and really can’t afford another injury.

Frank Ragnow injury impact

Who replaces him?

It’s pretty clear how the Lions’ offensive line would look like should Ragnow miss any regular season time. Graham Glasgow moves back to center—where he played nearly every single snap last year—while Kenny Wiggins takes his spot at right guard—where Wiggins played the majority of snaps last year. With Joe Dahl getting nearly all of the reps at left guard over the past two weeks, the Lions are set there, too.

It’s clearly a downgrade in the unit from last year, which has to be concerning considering the offensive line didn’t play all that well in 2018, and the Lions are intending on running the ball more this season.

Ragnow was an especially key piece to the offensive line, because his presence made two positions on the offensive line better. He was (theoretically) an upgrade over Glasgow at center, and many believed Glasgow would shine again at right guard—and the former Wolverine’s performance in training camp suggested that was true.

53-man roster impact

The injury, should it be long term, likely gives veteran Oday Aboushi a free ride to the final roster. Aboushi is now the team’s primary backup on the inside and the only reserve lineman with a lick of experience in the NFL. That’s not exactly good news for a guy whose preseason play had him firmly on the roster bubble 24 hours ago.

Elsewhere, Andrew Donnal looks pretty safe considering the Lions are currently out of options at backup tackle.

Depth

The Lions are now in an extremely dire situation with their depth. Pushing Wiggins back inside, the Lions now have literally no depth at tackle. Tyrell Crosby is still on the mend from an injury in Week 1, and the likes of Andrew Donnal, Ryan Pope and Matt Nelson have not looked up to the task this preseason.

The situation on the inside isn’t much better. While they have a capable backup in Oday Aboushi—who can play both left and right guard—the depth beyond there isn’t promising. There is hope that UDFA Beau Benzschawel can improve enough to be the prospect that some saw him for at Wisconsin, but he’s struggled through training camp.

Meanwhile, the Lions’ backup center is now a mess between Joe Dahl, Leo Koloamatangi and Luke Bowanko—all of whom have had little-to-no experience snapping the ball to Matthew Stafford, and in the cases of Koloamatangi and Bowanko, neither have showed the kind of promise to justify a roster spot.

I fully expect the Lions to explore every avenue—trade, free agency, waiver wire—to add at least one player both on the outside and the interior, if Ragnow’s injury is serious.