Detroit’s offensive line played 11 different combinations of their starting five last season because of injuries. Due to that fact, the Lions were simply never able to form any kind of consistency upfront.
Starting left tackle Taylor Decker missed eight games, center Travis Swanson missed five, and both right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner missed three apiece. The only starter last year to play in all 16 games was Graham Glasgow, although he did so at different positions (guard and center).
Lang admitted last year was tough for the guys upfront both from an injury and performance standpoint. The Lions finished last in the NFL in rushing, and allowed the seventh most sacks in the league.
“At the time it was frustrating,” Lang said Thursday. “Right now, though, I think there’s not one guy in that locker room talking about last year. Everybody’s focused and there’s new optimism and new excitement around the locker room. We don’t care about last year anymore.
“We’re going to obviously try to learn from our mistakes. We’ve got some new guys in that room. It’s a totally different team this year, so we’re going to figure out what we do well and move forward from there. “
Lang, who this time last year was just getting off crutches after undergoing offseason hip surgery, hasn’t taken part in an offseason training program in three years. Two years ago, he underwent shoulder surgery that affected his offseason. He joked that feeling good this time of year is something he can get used to.
It’s certainly a positive development for a Lions team that is learning a new coaching staff and has added a few new players to the mix. Having all hands on deck when the implementation of the schemes begins in a week or so is a positive.
Jeff Davidson has taken over coaching the offensive line, and some of the blocking schemes upfront are expected to be different under his tutelage. Being able to be an active participant and not someone relegated to mental reps should benefit not only Lang, but his teammates as well.
“I think he’s been around this league for a really long time and he’s had a lot of success everywhere he’s been,” Lang said of Davidson. “Right now, it’s the period where we’re just getting to know each other a little bit and work on that relationship.
“I’m sure as we move forward the next couple weeks we’ll start to get into more football stuff. He’s done a lot of good things where he’s been, so I’m excited to work with him.”
Offensive linemen are judged on how they perform as a unit, so Lang was quick to stress how important that relationship between player and coach is in the offensive line room. This is the time of year when chemistry starts to build. As it stands right now, it’s a pretty veteran group, led by Lang, who was a Pro Bowler last year. Wagner, Decker, Glasgow, Kenny Wiggins, Wesley Johnson and Joe Dahl all have starting experience.
Lang's excited to be healthy to start the offseason, and is looking forward to what 2018 will bring for an offensive line looking to have a bounce-back season in 2018.
“It’s a new day, new year and I’m ready to turn the clock forward,” he said.