Detroit Lions: Efficient offensive line play has yet to translate to victories

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions are getting strong play from their offensive line, but it has yet to translate to wins.

The stellar play of the Detroit Lions offensive line is a nice change of pace.  In recent years I’ve been pleading with that unit to perform better, and even doing so, the organization seemly can’t buy a win.

It’s vital with having an inefficient backup plan at quarterback to keep Matthew Stafford upright.  Stafford has been hampered with broken bones in his back over the last two years, so building a strong offensive line became a priority this offseason for general manager Bob Quinn.

First, the bad.

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Quinn went out and spent a small fortune on tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai after choosing not to pay pending free agent guard Graham Glasgow market value.

Vaitai signed a five-year deal worth $45 million that includes $20 million in guaranteed money.  Glasgow signed a four-year contract with Denver worth $44 million and $26 million in guarantees.  Vaitai has since been moved to right guard from right tackle and has struggled mightily through his first 127 offensive snaps as a Lion, but not nearly as much as Glasgow has struggled in Denver early on.

With Joe Dahl being injured, Matt Patricia has been forced to shuffle the deck a bit and inserted Tyrell Crosby at right tackle where he’s played exceptionally well, earning an overall grade of 70.5 and it’s a rock-solid average mark across the board in both blocking categories.  Crosby may push Vaitai to the bench after Dahl returns to the lineup.

Vaitai has compiled a 64.1 overall grade courtesy of Pro Football Focus (PFF) thus far in 2020.  Vaitai is known as a run blocker, and that’s confirmed with a respectable 67.2 mark, but as a pass protector, Vaitai has been atrocious.  He’s earned an awful 49.8 pass-blocking grade according to PFF.  Glasgow has achieved an overall mark of 59.8 and hasn’t done an excellent job at all as a pass blocker, either producing a mark of 46.2 and 67 as a run blocker.

So Detroit has replaced one player within their offensive line with another in free agency but is not getting a boost in production.

Quinn spent the 75th pick in the 2020 draft on guard Jonah Jackson, who has played exceptionally well as a rookie earning a solid 71.5 grade as a pass blocker but needs to improve as a run blocker after only earning a mark of 63 over his first four starts.

The Detroit Lions have been getting tremendous production from both Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow.  Decker currently ranks 7th and Ragnow 6th at their respected positions league-wide. Both players have All-Pro potential.

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The Detroit offensive line is thriving, yet the offense continues to sputter.  Expect Detroit to explode on that side of the ball coming out of their bye week in Jacksonville Sunday.