When Detroit Lions’ left tackle Taylor Decker was originally drafted 16th overall in the 2016 NFL draft, things looked much different than they do now. The coach was Jim Caldwell, black was still an official color in the Lions’ color scheme, and names like Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes wouldn’t mean much to fans in Detroit for another five years.
Jump forward to now and Decker is one of the elder statesmen on the roster, and the longest tenured Lion. Let’s take a look at the Lions’ starting left tackle in the next edition of our roster preview series.
Previous roster previews: Aidan Hutchinson, Jameson Williams, Josh Paschal, Kerby Joseph, James Mitchell, Malcolm Rodriguez, James Houston, Chase Lucas, Obinna Eze, Greg Bell, Penei Sewell, Levi Onwuzurike, Alim McNeill, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Derrick Barnes, Jermar Jefferson, Brock Wright, Jerry Jacobs, Cameron Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, David Montgomery, Graham Glasgow, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Marvin Jones Jr., Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Christian Covington, Craig Reynolds, Isaiah Buggs, John Cominsky, Alex Anzalone, Jared Goff, and Jason Cabinda.
Expectations for 2022
After a 2021 season in which he missed the first seven games of the season with a hand injury, there was reason for optimism for the Lions at the tackle position. Right tackle Penei Sewell was headed into his second season as a pro, and had an entire offseason to prepare on the right side.
With Decker healthy and back on the left side of the offensive line, the Lions could once again rely on Decker’s steady, veteran presence. Since entering the league, he has been solid to above-average in run-blocking—but against the pass, Decker has really settled in during this stage of his career.
Actual role in 2022
17 games (17 starts): 1,142 offensive snaps
Stats: Per PFF, Decker was credited with allowing 4 sacks, 9 hits, 20 hurries, and 33 pressures
PFF offensive grade: 74.4 (19th of 50 tackles with 800-plus offensive snaps)
PFF run blocking grade: 67.6 (23rd of 50)
PFF pass blocking grade: 76.5 (17th of 50)
Just as the Lions had hoped for during the preseason, Decker took every offensive snap for the Lions at left tackle in 2022. Along with left guard Jonah Jackson, the duo gave offensive coordinator Ben Johnson a potent life side to run off of.
sorry for the weird flashing, gamepass is buggin— morgan cannon (#freeJamo) (@MCannon313) December 6, 2022
but watch Decker and Jonah get rowdy here and clear some space for Swift to run pic.twitter.com/qtFgGtvXE1
It certainly looked like Decker was healthy, particularly during the second-half of the season. His punch and power at the point-of-attack jumped off the screen more in 2022 than it did in year’s past. Kicking edge defenders out to create a running alley, or climbing to the second level to pick off a linebacker or safety—Decker was in his run-blocking bag in the months of November, and December.
Taylor Decker has been playing his ass off lately. watch him relocate 91 here and open up a hole for Jamaal pic.twitter.com/iREgyRxCR8— morgan cannon (#freeJamo) (@MCannon313) November 29, 2022
this was blocked really well all across the board, but watch Decker and Amon-Ra here. those two take this from a solid run to a chunk play. pic.twitter.com/9eD6G7q57B— morgan cannon (#freeJamo) (@MCannon313) November 22, 2022
From Weeks 10 to 18, Decker’s lowest pass-blocking grade from PFF was a 69.4 during the Lions’ blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13. In six of those weeks, he posted a grade of 80.0 or better—including an 89.3 showing in Week 17 against the Chicago Bears. At times, the Lions flat out physically dominated other teams at the line of scrimmage.
ok i love this a lot-— morgan cannon (#freeJamo) (@MCannon313) November 22, 2022
the Lions shuffle the offensive line by putting Decker to the right of Sewell, along with reserve guard Kayode Awosika & TE Brock Wright
almost to say "yeah we are about to run to the right here. wtf are you gonna do about it?"
the answer? not much. pic.twitter.com/agZJrNb4iH
Outlook for 2023
Along with Decker, the Lions are returning Pro Bowl left guard Jonah Jackson, All-Pro center Frank Ragnow, Pro Bowl right tackle Penei Sewell, and with right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai (hopefully) healthy after missing all of 2022—Detroit could easily end up having a top-rated offensive line in 2023.
Decker will be 29 years old when his eighth season in Detroit begins, and likely still has more than a few years of high-end play left in him. If we are talking long-term plans, Sewell is most likely the team’s left tackle of the future. However, it doesn’t appear that this coaching staff is in a rush to make that happen.
Can Decker continue to build upon where he left off in 2022? What is the ceiling for this offensive line now that it has had more time to gel? If healthy, this unit has the ability to climb to new heights in 2023.