LIONS INSIDER

2017 training camp preview: Offensive tackle

Posted Jul 16, 2017

Tim Twentyman previews the offensive tackle position heading into training camp.

On the roster: Taylor Decker, Rick Wagner, Greg Robinson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Corey Robinson, Cornelius Lucas, Tony Hills, Storm Norton

Key losses: Riley Reiff

Making cut: Decker, Wagner, Greg Robinson

On the bubble: Kouandjio, Corey Robinson, Lucas, Hills, Norton

Best competition: Who fills in for Decker?

The Lions have yet to announce how much time Decker is expected to miss after undergoing right shoulder surgery in June. It’s probable that he starts training camp on the PUP list and could miss time in the regular season, though Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said earlier this offseason that Decker isn’t expected to miss the entire season.

If Decker misses substantial time at the beginning of the season, the Lions will have to find a stop-gap until he returns.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn traded for Greg Robinson, the former No. 2 overall pick, in mid-June, just weeks after Decker suffered the right shoulder injury during an OTA practice. Robinson has started 42 of the 46 games he’s played in over the last three seasons with the Rams.

Quinn also went out and signed Cyrus Kouandjio as a free agent. He also has starting experience, having started five games at left tackle for the Bills in 2016.

Two internal options are Corey Robinson and Cornelius Lucas. Robinson was the team’s third tackle last season and made three starts at right tackle. Lucas has played in 35 games the last three seasons in Detroit with six starts.

Corey Robinson missed the entire offseason rehabbing an injury and his availability for the start of training camp is yet to be known.

The Lions have options and the competition for that third tackle spot should be fun to watch all through camp.

2016 stats
PlayerGamesStartsSacks AllowedPenalties
Taylor Decker 16 16 4.5 6
Rick Wagner^ 15 14 2.0 3
Greg Robinson# 14 14 7.0 11
Cyrus Kouandjio+ 12 5 1.0 1
Corey Robinson 14 3 1.0 1
Cornelius Lucas 5 0 1.0 0
Tony Hills= 11 0 0.5 3
Storm Norton* 13 13 1.0 N/A
^ with BAL     # with LAR     + with BUF     = with NO     * college stats

Twentyman’s take: Decker’s injury was a gut punch to this team, for sure, especially given the resources Quinn spent this offseason to bolster the offensive line with the additions of T.J. Lang and Wagner.

Injuries are a part of the game, and the Lions will simply have to make due until Decker can get back onto the field.

Greg Robinson struggled a bit as a pass blocker in Los Angeles, but he’s always been a good run blocker. Maybe a scheme change that features more jump sets and a quick passing game will help the super athletic Robinson reach his potential in Detroit.

Corey Robinson (if healthy), Kouandjio and Lucas could all fill a limited role.

The silver lining in the Decker injury is that it happened early June and not early August. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is a smart guy and he’ll find the right player and the right game plan to keep things chugging along until Decker can get back.

By the numbers:

58.7: Protection index number given to the Lions in 2016. The Index measures a line’s effectiveness based off key metrics like length of a team’s pass attempts combined with penalties by offensive linemen, sacks allowed and quarterback hurries and knockdowns. The Lions ranked 14th in this category last season.

48: Rushes for negative yards by Detroit last season, which ranked 25th in the NFL.

37: Sacks allowed by the Lions in 2017.

Quotable: “Well, we adjust,” Cooter said of Decker’s injury. “You know, we’re going to play five o-linemen. We’re going to figure out who those best five are.

“Whoever that best left tackle ends up being we’re going to play him. If there’s an adjustment needed from a scheme perspective, we’ll make that. If there’s not, there’s not.”