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2023 Detroit Lions free agent profile: Can Dan Skipper stick as a reserve offensive lineman?

When called on, Dan Skipper filled in admirably on the Lions' offensive line. Was it enough for him to remain with Detroit in 2023?

Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have 28 players from their 2022 roster set to become free agents in 2023 (18 unrestricted, 10 restricted), and we are covering them all throughout the month of February.

If you missed any of the previous articles, you can check them out here: RB Jamaal Williams, IOL Evan Brown, NT Isaiah Buggs, EDGE John Cominsky, EDGE Austin Bryant, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Josh Woods, CB Will Harris, CB Mike Hughes, CB Amari Oruwariye, SAF C.J. Moore, and K Michael Badgley

Next up:

Dan Skipper

Expectations heading into 2022

After a 2021 season where he was only active for one game, expectations for reserve offensive linemen Dan Skipper weren’t all that different from previous years. Continue to work on your craft, and be ready to step into a number of positions if an injury were to occur along the Lions’ offensive line.

At 6-foot-9 with long arms, Skipper’s natural position is at offensive tackle, where he can use his length to keep opposing pass rushers at bay. However, with offensive line depth always difficult to come by, Skipper and other members of the offensive line cross-trained at several positions during training camp and the preseason.

Actual role in 2022

15 games (5 starts): 387 offensive snaps (33.9%)
PFF Offensive grade: 44.2 (193 of 202 offensive linemen with at least 300 snaps)
PFF Run Blocking grade: 54.9 (152 of 202 offensive linemen with at least 300 snaps)
PFF Pass Blocking grade: 19.6 (201 of 202 offensive linemen with at least 300 snaps)

It didn’t always yield the best results, but as early as Week 2, Skipper had to step and spot-start for starting left guard Jonah Jackson. And while his length can be viewed as an advantage at tackle, the opposite can be said of Skipper’s height at guard. Opposing defensive tackles were often successful at getting underneath Skipper, resulting in him being pushed into the lap of quarterback Jared Goff, or allowing a tackle in the backfield in the run game.

Once Jackson returned to the starting lineup, Skipper slid into the swing-tackle role that was occupied by fellow reserve tackle Matt Nelson in 2021. Naturally, Skipper faired better as the third tackle on the field as opposed to playing on the interior of the line. Seeing him run across the line of scrimmage in a pre-snap motion was always an amusing sight. I doubt anyone keeps track of things like this, but I would be willing to bet he is the tallest player ever to be sent in pre-snap motion.

Skipper held down the swing-tackle role up until Week 11 against the New York Giants, where an injury to Evan Brown would force him into the starting lineup again, this time at right guard. The next week against the Buffalo Bills he was back at left guard, before once again settling back into the reserve tackle role for the rest of 2022.

Outlook for 2023

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

As good as the Lions’ offensive line was in 2022 and as bright as the future looks for the unit, the depth still leaves a lot to be desired. Skipper filled in admirably at several different positions this past season, but had more issues than successes during his time in the starting lineup. Had Nelson been healthy, Skipper likely wouldn’t have seen nearly as many snaps, and may have spent more time on the practice squad with Nelson occupying the reserve tackle roster spot.

Still, continuity matters, and despite the inconsistencies with his play, Skipper is familiar with the Lions’ coaching staff and in particular—offensive line coach Hank Fraley. He may not be a player with an incredibly high ceiling, but he has the trust of the coaching staff, and his teammates like him.

Can Fraley unlock more of Skipper’s game? Will general manager Brad Holmes prioritize re-signing someone like Nelson over Skipper? Or will he opt to take a tackle sometime in the 2023 NFL draft?

How do you think the Lions should approach Dan Skipper this offseason?

Poll

What should the Lions do with Dan Skipper?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Re-sign him to an affordable 1-year deal
    (682 votes)
  • 6%
    Re-sign him to an affordable multi-year deal
    (85 votes)
  • 36%
    Let him walk in free agency
    (448 votes)
1215 votes total Vote Now

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.