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Logan Stenberg doesn’t want to be career backup, seeks to be ‘great’

The second-year guard hated spending his rookie season on the bench, but he used the opportunity to get better.

Buffalo Bills vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Detroit Lions 2020 fourth-round pick Logan Stenberg spent all of his rookie season—save seven special teams snaps—on the sidelines. While that wasn’t all that unexpected to those who looked at the full scope of the roster, the former Kentucky offensive lineman was a bit surprised he never got a shot and it made him mad.

“Honestly, it pissed me off,” Stenberg said after Monday’s training camp practice. “I think I’m a good player and I like to play. I don’t play football for the money or anything, I enjoy being out here. Not being able to do that for an entire year was hard, but it taught me a lot. Taught me how to work harder.”

Coming from an extremely run-heavy offense at Kentucky, it was always going to be a steep learning curve for Stenberg. Throw in a shortened training camp due to COVID-19 and no preseason in his rookie year, and there was just little opportunity for Stenberg to prove himself. He came into 2021 with a lot to prove, and head coach Dan Campbell admitted a few weeks ago that he needed to see a lot more out of the second-year guard.

“He’s a pup. He just is. He’s such a young buck right now. He’s got a lot of room to grow,” Campbell said at the beginning of the month. “He’s also got a ways to go, too. That’s the reality of it. I think the question for him is, ‘How quickly can he get better and develop?’”

On Friday, Stenberg was able to showcase his talents for the first time in a while and showed how quickly he can indeed develop. The result: Stenberg finished with a top-five PFF grade on the Lions offense, including a team-high 89.7 run-blocking grade.

“I think he was listening,” Campbell said Monday. “Since then, I would say over the last three practices and it continued into the game, it feels like he’s starting to turn the corner a little bit. He’s done some good things.”

For Stenberg, it was just an opportunity to play the game he missed last year and loves so much.

“It was great,” Stenberg said. “I really haven’t played any continuous snaps like that in two years it feels like, since my last bowl game in college. It was great, you know, getting my feet wet again and getting back into it. Once I got that first hit under my belt, it was football again.”

But the progress doesn’t stop here. Though Stenberg seems unlikely to see the field again as a starter this year with Detroit’s top five offensive linemen fairly settled, he isn’t content spending the rest of his career coming off the bench.

“I want to be a great offensive lineman, not just somebody who is a backup their entire career,” Stenberg said.

He knows there’s a long road for that. Though he’s proven to be a mauler in the running game, pass protection remains a serious point of improvement. He earned just a 40.5 pass-blocking grade on Friday night, but at least the young guard knows that’s his weakness right now.

“It’s all just pass pro, I feel like,” Stenberg said. “Keeping your head out of it, playing with your hands and not your body. I’m used to going and getting on people right now, and at this level, with all the games they play on the defensive line, you do that and you’re going to get picked and somebody is going to get carted off the field. It’s all about just playing with your hands, keeping your head back, and I had to learn that really early on. I’m finally coming around to it.”

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