The Detroit Lions have a huge decision to make regarding Penei Sewell

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions have a vital decision to make once veteran left tackle Taylor Decker returns to the lineup.

It took all but one play early on in Sunday’s season opener against the San Francisco 49ers to realize that Detroit Lions rookie offensive tackle Penei Sewell is far more comfortable playing his natural position of left tackle than where the organization has played him all summer over on the right side.

The injury to Decker’s hand that required surgery is almost a blessing in disguise.

Before you lose your mind over that comment and try to cancel me, hear me out.

The Detroit Lions have a difficult decision to make regarding Penei Sewell once Taylor Decker returns.

I obviously do not wish injury on anyone, and I’ve often praised Decker’s ability. Still, it seems like the coaching staff and upper management, for that matter, has tried to force Sewell to play as a right tackle when he’s clearly more effective and comfortable on the left side.

Sewell is just 20-years old and elected to sit out of football last season due to the coronavirus pandemic’s uncertainty.  And although the Detroit Lions felt they were drafting a generational talent and a player that was considered by most as the top offensive lineman in the 2021 NFL Draft with the no. 7 overall choice, Sewell didn’t perform as such throughout the summer and preseason.

That became very concerning.

With Decker forced to miss time due to a hand injury that required surgery, the Detroit Lions opted to start Sewell at left tackle for a couple of reasons.  First, the other option would be Matt Nelson, who did end up starting at right tackle.

I suspect the coaching staff lost some sleep in the days leading up to Sunday, understanding that Dee Ford and Nick Bosa were lurking with a struggling rookie at the right side and having to pencil in Nelson at left tackle.  I’m sure they also considered moving veteran lineman Hal Vaitai over to left tackle, where he’s played in the past in his time with Philadelphia, and inserting someone like Logan Stenberg at right guard.

I bet it came down to trusting Sewell to protect quarterback Jared Goff’s blindside over all of the other options.

The Detroit Lions made a conscious effort to help both of their tackles by often chipping the 49ers edge-rushers with a tight end, running back, and even using receivers to crack block before they made themselves available in the passing game.

This video put together by Brandon Thorn shows Lions rookie receiver, Amon-Ra St. Brown, demonstrating what I am talking about to perfection.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Sewell was the 11th best offensive tackle in Week One.  Sewell earned an overall grade of 75.6, which included a 78.8 mark as a run blocker but a 67.5 value in pass protection. That is very impressive considering how much he’s struggled this summer at right tackle. And remember, that is an impressive grade, plus not every NFL tackle had to deal with Bosa and Ford.

The Detroit Lions need to keep Penei Sewell at left tackle.

Some may see it as a dilemma, but it shouldn’t be.  Taylor Decker is already being paid like a top left tackle, and Sewell is in the first year of his rookie deal.  It doesn’t matter who plays where; it matters which lineup gives the Detroit Lions the best chance to win and develop their young talent moving forward.

Sure, Decker is a better left tackle than Sewell today, but at this point, Sewell has a much higher ceiling.  The Lions need to have a talk with Decker similar to the one the Baltimore Ravens had with Orlando Brown Jr. last season.

Brown Jr wanted to be a left tackle, but the Ravens already have Ronnie Stanley cemented in at the position, and they asked Brown Jr to play one more season at right tackle, and they’d try and trade him in the offseason to a place where he could flip over to the left side.  The Ravens remained true to their word and moved the young tackle to Kansas City.

Decker entered the NFL as a right tackle, and the Lions flipped him over to the left side.  I assume Decker wants what is best for the team at this point, knowing he’s already making $15 million per season and will embrace a return to the right side.

Next. Lions late rally comes up short but this is clearly a scrappy group. dark

That’s my hope and expectation.