According to Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell, starting left tackle Taylor Decker may have a chance at returning to the field this Sunday when the Lions face off against the Cincinnati Bengals at Ford Field. This would be welcome news for a team that has lost several impact players over the last two weeks.
Many fans are immediately going to wonder what the Lions will do with the 2021 seventh overall draft pick, Penei Sewell. If you read into what various coaches have been saying, it sounds like Decker will be at left tackle with Sewell over on the right, like this staff intended to play them this year.
While Sewell has had rough back-to-back outings against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, he has had his share of bright spots too. Like his professional debut against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa in Week 1.
Penei just eating this attempted hump move from Bosa. That's what 330 will do for you. pic.twitter.com/tkjJuFwl1K— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 14, 2021
Outside of that game and a few other stretches, Sewell’s play has largely been inconsistent. And that is to be expected for the vast majority of rookies in the NFL. Life is hard as a young player in this league. It may be especially hard for someone like Sewell, who just turned 21 years old last week and did not play football last year. It certainly doesn’t help that he’s nursing an ankle injury now, too.
Quinn beating Sewell about as quickly as humanly possible here with a nasty stab-dip-rip combination for the HQ strip/sack. Goff only took a hitch after dropping to 8 yards! pic.twitter.com/EBZg5eBWzm— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 5, 2021
People will question the decision to move Sewell back to right tackle, and to an extent, I understand. You want the young player to really settle in at his long-term position, likely left tackle, where he is hopefully a pillar of stability for years to come. Sewell has a higher ceiling than Decker and has elite athletic traits that Decker simply does not possess. All of those things matter and are reasons why Sewell is likely the left tackle of the Lions’ future.
However, Decker is currently the better player, and that is especially important for a team that desperately needs their offensive line to be a (relative) strength again. Given the general lack of talent league-wide on the offensive line, Matt Nelson has given the Lions about what you can expect for a converted defensive lineman who is still learning to play the position. With time and repetition as the season progresses, I believe Sewell will end up settling in nicely at right tackle.
Make no mistake about it, Decker is a good, sometimes great starting left tackle in this league. Depending on who you ask, Decker would likely fall anywhere in the top 10-15 tackles in football, which is nothing to scoff at. With him in the lineup, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn gets a big piece of the puzzle back. And on the right side, despite his struggles during the preseason, Sewell is likely going to be better than Nelson. Immediately improving two critical positions should be a nice boost for an offense that needs a lot of help.
Sewell could potentially be a great left tackle in the future. He could also be the left tackle for the Lions as soon as Week 1 of the 2022 season. Either way, that day will likely come sooner rather than later.
Just not this season.