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Notes: Everybody has questions about Detroit Lions’ offensive line

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Stafford’s protectors are shrouded in mystery

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Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

As we head into mostly-closed training camp in August, one of the units with the most question marks on the Detroit Lions remains the offensive line. Kyle Meinke began his series of camp previews with that group, saying it is “headed for a difficult shakeup.” Despite the return of the left side of the line, the complete overhaul of the right side of the line with a new expensive right tackle and no clear replacement for Graham Glasgow factored into Meinke’s assessment. Jeff Risdon at Lions Wire agreed, writing yesterday that the cancellation of preseason games is “a big problem for the Lions’ rebuilt offensive line.” Risdon pointed out that there will be new starters on the field, but also a newly-promoted position coach (Hank Fraley) running the offensive line room.

The questions surely swamp the answers; our own fearless leader Jeremy Reisman pointed out in the Pride of Detroit camp preview for the interior offensive line, it is not even a sure thing that Joe Dahl returns as the starting left guard (as Meinke assumes). Fortunately for the Lions, they have two anchors to build around at left tackle and center. Doug Farrar at USA Today’s Touchdown Wire put Frank Ragnow at position 7 in his list of the best 11 centers in the league:

One of the best players on the team, the master fisherman will have to turn in another solid season for the offensive line to keep Stafford upright in 2020. Big Ten All-Decade Second Team honoree Taylor Decker is in a contract year. Building on a great finish to last season would put him in a fantastic negotiating position.

A little further down the depth chart, Lions Wire’s Erik Schlitt thought a possible roster spot battle between Oday Aboushi and Beau Benzschawel was one to watch in the next few weeks:

The team has veteran guards to fall back on in Dahl, Aboushi, and Wiggins, but don’t be surprised if offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell chooses to switch up the character of the line with one of the rookies. After all, remember what Kent Lee Platte said about those guard selections in the draft:

It boils down to scheme and usage. Picking a guy like Jackson made less sense for this scheme in a bubble, as did Stenberg. Picking both shows that my assumptions about the scheme were wrong, and upon reworking those assumptions, things started lining up.

Many zone-based running schemes, whether inside, outside, or otherwise, rely on the guards to be nimble and quick to pull across the line and do much of the work in space. The Philadelphia Eagles, who we had assumed the Lions were trying to mirror their offensive line after, as well as previous Jeff Davidson teams, had relied on this sort of philosophy.

If the Lions were, instead, relying on the center and tackles to do that sort of work, needing the guards to act as the anchors and power on the line, then a team would probably value a skillset like Jonah Jackson over a Hennessy or especially Cushenberry (who’s much more finesse). It even makes the Halapoulivaati Vaitai signing look even better in hindsight, and I already liked that one.

With so many new names on the roster at guard and tackle, it’s no wonder the offensive line was also on Mike Payton’s list of questions for training camp earlier today. But now, we move on to the rest of today’s Notes:

  • The Athletic’s Bill Shea dug into the most recent (non-arena) professional football championship in Michigan:

  • Coach Caskey’s foundation is wasting no time ramping up to action:

[Editor’s note: More on this initiative next week. Stay tuned.]