Taylor Decker is taking the roughly six-week break Lions players get between the end on OTA’s in mid-June to the start of training camp in late July to spend time with his family and unwind a bit.
The fourth-year tackle says it’s important to get away, vacation and spend time with family during this stretch, but is also mindful of maintaining that delicate balance between the time away from football and making sure he’s ready to hit the ground running come the start of camp.
“We worked really hard to digest the playbook come out here and put it into action on the field,” Decker said of learning Darrell Bevell’s new offense through the course of the offseason training program after the last day of open OTA practice. “It’s just going to be really important for us to come back ready to go.”
Decker likes the progress the offense made this spring and says it’s important during this install that there are no regressions when players return for camp.
“I have faith that everyone is going to come back ready to go,” he said. “Really looking forward to it. We worked hard this spring.”
How well Decker and the veteran group alongside him upfront come into camp will go a long way in determining the gains the Lions can make on that side of the ball this season.
Detroit’s offensive line finished 2018 graded 16th among the league’s 32 units by Pro Football Focus. The combination of a new offensive scheme and a second year under highly regarded offensive line coach Jeff Davidson has Decker expecting much more from that unit in 2019.
Detroit moved players around upfront and toyed with different combinations this spring as they continue to try and find the best five-man combination to enter the season with.
“Again, offensive line is such a unique position...you’re trying to get five guys to see the game through one set of eyes,” head coach Matt Patricia said. “Really, the leader of those eyes changes and you can mix that, and you can put different stressors or pressure points on different guys to maybe step-up to that challenge or see how they handle it and see what it looks like.
“Moving those guys around is the first step from a mental standpoint. Then once you feel confident that they can handle the different positions and we get to training camp, then you put them in those positions and see how they handle it physically. It’s kind of like a two-step process.”
It's a mostly veteran unit upfront with Decker and guard Graham Glasgow entering year four, Rick Wagner set to start his seventh season at right tackle and last year’s first round pick, Frank Ragnow, now having a year under his belt and making the transition over to his more natural center spot after playing guard his first year.
The only question mark upfront will be who slots into the left guard spot, with a group of veterans and youngsters in the mix.
Bevell wants this offense to be balanced and physical and that has to start upfront. Decker knows he and his teammates in that offensive line room have to set the tone right from the start of training camp.
“Made a lot of progress this offseason learning the offense and working hard and getting to know new teammates. You don’t want to take a step back in this time off,” he said. “Trying to hit the ground running when we get back.”