Since the turn of the century, Detroit Lions have managed to compete in the playoffs only three times, each time crashing out straight in the Wild Card game. Which, obviously, is the reason why Martha Firestone Ford and Bob Quinn decided to hire Matt Patricia as the new head coach at the beginning of the previous season. One year was not enough to make significant changes to the team for the former Patriots’ defensive coordinator, but Patricia is determined to shake things up before the start of the 2019 season.
Tuesday’s organized training activities saw a shuffle of the offensive line by the coach who’s not shy to experiment. Matthew Stafford, Lions’ quarterback, welcomed these changes, as he sees the importance of flexibility of the offensive line and their ability to play in different positions.
The Lions went on the training field in this order, from right to left: Rick Wagner, Graham Glasgow, Frank Ragnow, Kenny Wiggins, and Taylor Decker. They ran plays against a padless defense, which simulated a fast-paced walkthrough. The tackles stayed in their places and saw the positional shuffle that took place at the interior. Ragnow, who had spent his entire rookie season at left guard, assumed the position of center, which was his position in Arkansas before he got drafted as the first-round pick. Wiggins was in Ragnow’s usual spot, with the Fresno State graduate spending the last season filling in at right guard. However, this change doesn’t trouble Ragnow, who is, in his own words, a utility man of the offensive line. The 30-year-old is a veteran who’s ready to help out in almost any position.
Picking the Right Right Guard
A bigger step away from the last season was Graham Glasgow in the right guard position. That was the one interior spot he was yet to play in, as the Michigan graduate started his rookie year at left guard before moving on to center later in the season. Patricia sees this change as one with the most potential. As the coach says, the shape of the league is such that left guards are usually more athletic, whereas a lot more right guards are used for what you’d call the bigger run side type of the offensive line. Patricia added that some players simply feel more natural on one side than the other. The ultimate goal of these positional switches is to find out who the five best players he can pick are.
In the previous two seasons, T.J. Lang was the right guard for the Lions. Lang was a substantial expense for the franchise, as he was brought in to replace Larry Warford. During this offseason, the Lions released Lang due to the injuries to his back, foot, and brain, which took a toll on the 31-year-old Pro Bowler. The replacement for the Michigan-born guard is still unknown.
Anyhow, before the new player arrives, the Lions are practicing these positional switches in order to get versatile depth and so that the players learn how the game pans out from different positions. The end goal is for all five linemen to understand the game and see it through the same set of eyes. Glasgow might stay in the left guard position since he has shown he has a knack for it. This also goes hand in hand with Patricia’s desire for the Lions to be more of a running team next year. Ragnow has all the prerequisites for a quality center, so the new player might come in to fill in the left guard spot.
With Glasgow providing athleticism on the right, Ragnow might be the next one they experiment with at the same position, for all the same reasons. The right side is more prone to running the ball, and, at this moment in time, Ragnow seems like the best guard option on the roster.
Positions up for Grabs
However, this shuffling is still in the experimental phase. Patricia may as well let the player retain their last year’s position and bring in a new right guard. This way, they could build on the continuity from the previous season. If that were so, in all probability, Wiggins and Oday Aboushi would have to fight it out for the starting place. Aboushi is a veteran who played as a right guard for the Seattle Seahawks, so he’s well versed with the new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s playbook.
Lions’ fans have to remain patient and see what’s going to happen at the start of the season. Patricia is holding his cards close to his chest, probably due to the fact that he himself is not yet decided on what to do.