MOBILE, Ala. – The Detroit Lions return a mostly veteran group of offensive linemen next season, with the only free agent among their starters being right guard Graham Glasgow. Left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Joe Dahl, center Frank Ragnow and right tackle Rick Wagner are all under contract for next season.
If Glasgow isn't back next season, this week's Senior Bowl is providing the Lions with an up-close look at some of the top guards available in April's NFL Draft. Among that group is Ben Bredeson (Michigan), John Simpson (Clemson) and Logan Stenberg (Kentucky). Bredeson, arguably the top guard available in this draft, is being coached by Lions head coach Matt Patricia and his staff on the North Team this week.
"We're out here competing with some of the best seniors in the country and it's an opportunity for everybody to show what they can do, see how they stack up against other competition," Bredeson said after Wednesday's North Team practice.
"I just want to show consistency and versatility. I think that's the name of the game in the offensive line world."
Bredeson has been working both guard spots and even some center this week for Patricia and his staff.
Both Patricia and Lions general manager Bob Quinn have spoken about their philosophy of roster building in the past and how it starts from the ball out with an emphasis on being strong upfront on both sides of the ball. Quinn's drafted five offensive linemen over his four draft classes, including first-round picks Decker and Ragnow. Glasgow, Dahl and Tyrell Crosby are also among that group.
Detroit's also fortunate this week to be coaching one of the top tackle prospects here in Mobile in Houston's Josh Jones. Connecticut's Matt Peart is also on the North team. Most draft analysts have Andrew Thomas (Georgia), Tristan Wirfs (Iowa), Jedrick Wills (Alabama) and then Jones and Peart as the top five tackle prospects in this draft. Thomas, Wirfs and Wills are underclassmen and thus not eligible to compete this week at the Senior Bowl.
"I'm going to go out there and compete," Jones said of what he's trying to show the Lions coaching staff this week and the other 31 NFL teams in attendance. "Try to win at everything I do. Just show them I can do it at a high level – run block, pass block and being a leader."
If the Lions are looking to bolster their offensive line in this draft class, possibly in Day 2 of the draft, they're getting a lot of useful information this week in Mobile.
"I appreciate all the great effort and attitude they've brought out these last two days," Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley said of the group of linemen he's coaching this week.
"We've got a good group, they seem to really love ball and they've meshed with each other and that's a good thing. All you can ask as an o-line coach is to get a good group of 10 guys and they're all fun to be around."