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O'HARA: All signs point to Sewell taking a big jump in development

By any measure, Penei Sewell had a successful rookie season playing tackle on the Detroit Lions' offensive line.

The stats available to grade offensive linemen would show it. So would analytics and the eye test. So would his teammates.

Head coach Dan Campbell said Thursday morning that players make the biggest improvement in their career from their rookie season to Year 2.

Taylor Decker, going into his seventh season as the senior member of the Lions' offensive line, sees a big leap ahead for Sewell from his rookie season to Year 2.

"One hundred percent," Decker said. "Especially down the stretch run last year, he was playing great. He's just young, and this offseason he's getting significantly stronger.

"He's a confident player, I think he's going to have an awesome season."

View photos from Day 3 of Detroit Lions OTA practices on Thursday, May 26, 2022 in Allen Park, Mich.

Sewell was only 20 as a starter for the Lions on opening day last season.

Sewell's rookie year was a learning experience in a number of ways. He was able to apply those lessons in his offseason workouts to prepare for his second season.

He worked at right tackle all through the offseason and training camp in 2021, then switched to left tackle – his position at Oregon – for the first eight games when Decker went out with an injury. Sewell went back to right tackle when Decker returned.

"The year I had, I went from right to left tackle with all those battles," Sewell said. "It helped me improve my muscles and my muscle memory – kind of just flipping the switch."

Sewell never complained about making the position change. In fact, there were aspects he liked about it.

"I don't like to be boxed to one thing" he said. "I kind of like the challenge. Whatever challenge they give me, I'm going to take it on."

He got a head start on preparing for his second season simply by not having to prepare for the draft. Sewell, like other rookies, worked out to improve his standing in the 2021 draft, but those weren't the drills players use to get ready for a football season.

"For the Combine, I'm trying to be as slim as possible trying to run fast. That's not the game I play. That's not the position I play.

"This offseason, it really was more position specific and kind of getting stronger and conditioning in the trenches. I definitely put on some weight."

Sewell showed in his rookie season that he likes the trench warfare. He doesn't back down. It was no surprise that Sewell was in the middle of a minor skirmish in the Lions' OTA practice Thursday.

"Friendly conversations happen on the field," Sewell said with a laugh. "When you see a teammate of yours get in that mode, that fight or flight mode, I'm in there with you.

"There's nobody I would jump into battle with more than the guys we have here."

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