Presented by

2019 training camp preview: Tackle

On the roster: Taylor Decker, Rick Wagner, Tyrell Crosby, Andrew Donnal, Ryan Pope, Matt Nelson

Key losses: None

Best competition: The Lions return both starting tackles from last year in Decker and Wagner, so the best competition in camp will probably come from seeing how things line up for the third and fourth tackle spots.

Crosby earned the swing tackle role as a rookie last season and is the top candidate to have the role again in 2019. He worked a lot in the open practices this spring as the backup left tackle, but can play both spots. We’ll see if he jumps inside and plays guard at all in camp as the Lions continue to look for T.J. Lang’s replacement inside.

Donnal was the fourth tackle last year. He played in just two games, but has 29 career games to his credit over the last five years.

Detroit was quick after the draft in targeting Pope for an undrafted rookie free agent deal. Pope, who played last year at San Diego State, played both tackle spots in college. He’s got a big frame (6-7, 320) and could contend for a roster spot.

View photos of the tackles competing for roster spots heading into training camp.

Twentyman’s take: This is a mostly veteran group. Decker has started 40 career games at left tackle and Wagner has 75 starts at right tackle. That experience has to be a big plus for new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell as he continues to install his offense.

The Lions picked up the fifth-year option on Decker’s rookie contract back in May for the 2020 season, which means there should be some stability at left tackle for at least a couple more seasons.

Crosby showed real promise as a third tackle last season. He was forced into action at right tackle in Arizona and had a clean game. He made a start in Buffalo late in the year and didn’t allow a sack.

Pope is an interesting one for me. He should be in the mix for a roster spot as a developmental fourth tackle. The Lions obviously like his physical gifts. It's just a matter of how quickly he adjusts to the speed of the NFL game and how fast he picks up Detroit’s techniques upfront.

Decker and Wagner have played a lot of good football in Detroit, but the Lions could use a little more consistency than they saw last season along the edges. Wagner was credited by Pro Football Focus with allowing eight sacks in 2018, the fifth most among the league’s tackles. Decker’s 30 pressures allowed and Wagner’s 25 both ranked in the bottom 20 in the NFL for the position.

The Lions have shuffled things around inside at the guard and center spots and there’s a whole new crop of tight ends, so consistency at the tackle spots will go a long way to helping this new offense take off.

By the numbers:

41: Total sacks allowed by Detroit’s offense last season. They were tied with Buffalo and Tampa Bay ranking 17th among the league’s 32 teams in that category.

1: Career reception for Decker, an 11-yard touchdown grab against the Los Angeles Rams last season. It was the first touchdown of Decker’s football career.

29: Of the 174 offensive drives in 2018 for the Lions, only 29 finish three plays and out, the fifth-fewest in the league. Detroit’s three-and-out percentage of 16.7 also ranked as the fifth best in the NFL.

1,660: The Lions finished last season with at least 1,650 rushing yards, a 4.1 rushing average and 11 rushing touchdowns for the first time since the 1998 season.

Quotable: “I think it’s really going to be a fun year with our unit,” Decker said this offseason. “I think we have a great group on the offensive line. I think this is the best group I’ve ever been around as far as personalities fitting together and guys being on the same page. There’s just a good chemistry in that room.”

Related Content

Advertising