The impact of a reliable offensive line is not to be understated. A top-tier offensive line can bolster both facets of the offense, from plowing lanes for running backs to giving quarterback and receivers time to connect. The Detroit Lions have some stellar pieces along their offensive line, but a major question remains entering 2023: right guard.
As we enter April, who will be the Lions’ starting right guard is up in the air. Unlike in previous years, however, the Lions have multiple options to start. You could argue it’s a good problem to have, but it’s a problem nonetheless.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai is likely the frontrunner, but his time in Detroit has been tumultuous to say the least. Originally signed as a tackle, Vaitai was soon shifted inside to right guard. Injuries hampered his 2020 and 2022 seasons, and while 2021 was generally a positive campaign, it was difficult to justify his hefty price tag—signed by a previous regime, mind you. General manager Brad Holmes clearly had this in mind as well, as Vaitai’s entire contract was significantly renegotiated this offseason. Now, the message to Vaitai is clear: we want you on this team, but you need to earn the starting role.
The next top contender for the right guard role is Graham Glasgow, the former—and now current—Lion. Freshly signed this offseason, Glasgow’s time with the Denver Broncos was not unlike Vaitai’s first few years in Detroit: good play at times with injuries mixed in, all at an expensive price tag. The Broncos decided to move on, but the Lions are certainly benefitting. Not only does Glasgow have starting experience—at a high level to boot—but he provides a solid floor. The Lions lost Evan Brown in free agency, but Glasgow gives the Lions depth options at guard and center.
The Lions have some additional options at guard, but they should be viewed more as long-shots or worst-case scenarios. Ross Pierschbacher was re-signed this offseason, but he is firmly on the roster bubble. Like Glasgow, he has versatility at center and guard, but with limited looks, it would be a massive surprise to see him starting Week 1. Logan Stenberg, the former fourth-round pick, has failed to live up to his draft billing and will need an impressive training camp to even make the roster. Other options include Kayode Awosika and Darrin Paulo, neither of whom have impressed in limited snaps. Awosika started two games in 2022, so there is some potential.
The Lions could kick the tires on some free agents—Dalton Risner is a multi-year starter, albeit at left guard—but the signs point towards the draft being the likelier option for Detroit to secure a starter.
The Lions have options both early and late in the draft. On Day 1, Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson are likely the top draft options at guard, but they come with caveats. Skoronski is a tackle with no experience at guard, while Johnson—a former guard—projects better as a tackle at the pro level. Darnell Wright is another potential first round prospect, though he too has no experience at guard.
Drafting a guard in the first round would undoubtedly give the Lions a bright future along their offensive line, but there is value in later rounds as well. You need look no further than Jonah Jackson, who stepped into a starting role right away as a third rounder (but seriously, don’t look further because the Lions whiffed on another guard with their very next pick). Players like O’Cyrus Torrence and Steve Avila would be outside shots to start come Week 1, but they have the talent to make the jump.
That’s a lot of names, but only one starting spot.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Who will be the Lions’ starting right guard?
My answer: I think Vaitai will be the starting guard.
The fact that the Lions opted to renegotiate Vaitai’s contract instead of cutting him is itself a vote of confidence, but I was more concerned about his back injury. The initial reports after surgery are positive, though caution should still be exercised.
On paper, Vaitai is a road grader in the run game, an aspect that pairs excellently with Penei Sewell on the right side. Glasgow is a decent run blocker, but Vaitai has him beat in that regard. I expect the Lions to value running the ball with new running back David Montgomery. That means punching open rushing lanes, and Vaitai is the leading candidate for that. Also of note, the Lions might give Glasgow looks at center this training camp, further bolstering Vaitai’s shot of winning the guard spot.
Who will be the Lions’ starting right guard?
This poll is closed