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TWENTYMAN: How Lions' strength at OL could help Goff, offense

The two best seasons of Jared Goff's five-year NFL career with the Los Angeles Rams came in back-to-back years in 2017 and 2018. He threw for more than 8,400 yards with 60 touchdowns and 19 interceptions over the span of those two seasons. Goff was named to the Pro Bowl both years, and helped the Rams to a combined win-loss record of 24-7 in the regular season and a Super Bowl bid in 2018.

During that same stretch, the Rams' offensive line was playing some really good football as well. In 2017, the Rams finished sixth in Pro Football Focus' season-ending ranking of offensive line play. It was the same in 2018, when the they finished sixth again and were one of just a few teams to have all five starters play at least 1,000 snaps.

It's hard to ignore the correlation when we start to look at how the Detroit Lions, who traded for Goff and two first-rounds picks this offseason in exchange for Matthew Stafford, can get Goff back to playing like the Pro Bowler he was in 2017 and 2018.

The Detroit Lions' offensive line is expected to be a real strength of this team, especially after the drafting of Penei Sewell with the No. 7 overall pick to solidify the group.

"I know Jared is really excited about our offensive line," Lions general manager Brad Holmes said in a recent interview with

Holmes was in the Rams' front office for all five of Goff's years in Los Angeles, and knows first-hand how beneficial it was for Goff to have a consistent unit upfront that stayed relatively healthy.

"I'm not sure if I'm 100 percent accurate, but I think we had the same exact combination on the offensive line for two years straight," Holmes said of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

In 2019, the Rams suffered a number of significant injuries along their offensive line. They fell to 31st in PFF's offensive line rankings. Goff threw 10 less touchdowns than he did the year prior, and also saw his completion percentage decrease and his interceptions increase.

The Rams' o-line had a bounce-back year in 2020 (finishing third in PFF rankings), but still dealt with injuries (left tackle Andrew Whitworth played in only nine games) and had to shuffle players around. 

Goff's shown over his career to be at his best when he's afforded time to go through his progressions and use the play-action passing game.

The Lions are loaded with both young and veteran talent upfront, and have good depth behind it.

Taylor Decker played like a top 10 left tackle in the league last year. Center Frank Ragnow was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2020. Left guard Jonah Jackson had a solid rookie campaign and should be even better in 2021. Right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai is healthy after dealing with injuries last season, and he has a track record of playing good ball in the league. Sewell has the potential to be a generational talent at right tackle. On paper, it has the potential to be one of the better offensive line units in the NFL.

View photos from third day of Lions minicamp on Thursday, June 10th.

"I love how the offensive line looks on the board in my office," Holmes said.

"We had a lot of work to do when (head coach) Dan (Campbell) and I got in this chair just on the roster. A ton of work to do on both sides of the ball. It's easy to say more work defensively, but we had work to do at all the skill positions, especially when Matt (Stafford) wanted the trade. There was so much work we had to do that we were like, 'OK, offensive line, if there's anything that can help out anything surrounding it, it's that.'

"That was obviously already a strength, but how can we maximize that strength and make it more powerful? That's the direction we went. Couldn't be more thrilled with landing Penei. We definitely feel good (about the offensive line)."

Goff is excited about it too, and the hope is that strong play upfront will allow offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn to run the ball efficiently, protect Goff, use play action as a weapon, and help Goff and this offense play balanced and efficient football in 2021.

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