Decker steadily improving through preseason

Posted Aug 30, 2016

Rookie left tackle Taylor Decker has been steadily improving from week to week, which is a good sign for the Lions.

The reality of starting a rookie in the NFL is that they’re going to make mistakes. It’s the simple reality.

But those rookie starters that end up forging sturdy careers steadily improve from week to week while correcting their mistakes.

That’s what rookie left tackle Taylor Decker has done through the first three weeks of the preseason, which is a good sign for the Detroit Lions.

He allowed just one pressure in 29 passing plays against the Ravens last week, which placed him in the top 15 in Pro Football Focus’ pass blocking efficiency rating for all tackles Week 3 of the preseason.

That comes after being called for a costly penalty and getting beat by James Harrison for a strip sack and fumble vs. Pittsburgh in the preseason opener, and then having a couple whiffs run blocking Week 2 vs. Cincinnati. His pass blocking efficiency grade, in particular, has steadily improved over his first three preseason games.

“Just getting more exposure into it,” Decker said of his improved play from his first preseason game to his third. “Like I said, I’ve never played a game in this league, so just getting more exposure and more confidence in your playbook. More confidence in your personal ability out there.

“It’s not going to be a finished product from the start. Everybody wants it to be, but that’s just not how it works. I’m just trying to get better week in and week out and hopefully play some good football.”

Decker is the only rookie starter on the Lions’ roster, and he plays one of the most difficult positions on the football field.

The first thing he realized when he got to the NFL, and subsequently had to adjust to, is the consistent speed at every position at this level.

He had the benefit of going against third overall pick Joey Bosa while at Ohio State, and he faced some elite talent in college from time to time, but it's nothing like what he sees every day on every rep in the NFL.

“You’re just going to see it week in and week out,” Decker said. “In college, there were games where maybe you weren’t going to see as good a player. That doesn’t happen here. And then just the volume of knowledge you’re expected to know.”

Decker playing well in the regular-season tune-up in Baltimore was good to see. It’s unclear how much he’ll play in the preseason finale Thursday vs. Buffalo.

Head coach Jim Caldwell knows it’s going to be a work in progress every week for Decker, but he’s been impressed so far with Decker's improvement from week to week.

“There’s not anything (he’s) excelled at, at this point, but he’s doing awfully well for this stage of the game, but each week you’re going to see him challenged,” Caldwell said.

“Every week there’s going to be a unique challenge for those guys. They learn, they develop, it’s not going to be perfect, they’re going to have their ups and downs, but he’s got the makings to do exactly what we think he’s going to be able to do.”