Pass-happy college system gives Lions' Dahl head start

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Allen Park — If nothing else, Lions rookie offensive lineman Joe Dahl has experience pass blocking.

Of that, there’s no doubt, Dahl having played at Washington State, which was coached by pass-happy Mike Leach.

In 2013, Washington State threw the ball 89 times against Oregon State, setting an NCAA Division I record. The Cougars also threw for 724 yards — another Division I record — in 2014.

Last season, the Cougars threw the ball a staggering 739 times.

So, yes, Dahl knows how to pass protect.

“I definitely think it got me a lot of reps at pass protection,” said Dahl of playing for Leach in the pass-oriented system. “That’s for sure. Other than that, it doesn’t have anything to do with what we’re doing now. I just have to do my best to learn whatever they give me and get to work with this group.”

What Dahl is doing now is learning and acclimating to the Lions’ system.

Dahl (6-foot-4, 304-pounds) was a fifth-round pick by general manager Bob Quinn, the third offensive lineman (after Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow) the Lions picked in the NFL draft last month.

Dahl is from Spokane, about 90 minutes from the Washington State campus, but originally signed to play at Montana.

But after one year, Dahl realized he wanted to return home and play for the Cougars — who, incidentally, offered a scholarship several weeks after Dahl committed to Montana.

“I just felt like I should stay true to my word,” said Dahl of staying at Montana at first. “But once I got there (to Montana), I realized I wanted to be at Washington State.”

Dahl has played both left guard (2013) and left tackle (the last two seasons at WSU), but is projected as a guard in the NFL.

The Lions, though, like the fact Dahl has played both and can do so effectively.

“Joe’s a guy that played a lot of tackle,” said Quinn after drafting Dahl. “He does have position flex to play guard as well. We didn’t draft him as one or the other. We drafted him as a versatile offensive lineman that’s going to come in and compete at both spots.

“He’s not going to play center, so you guys can write that down. But, you know, we have guys on our roster that are really one-position players as I came in here, and now adding guys like Graham and Joe, and Taylor can play both sides, we have guys that can play multiple spots.

“We have to dress 46 players, (so) the more versatile the guys are, the better chance they’re going to be on the team.”

Dahl doesn’t see a major difference between the line spots other than the defenders he sees at either guard or tackle.

“The main difference is the players you play against,” Dahl said. “They’re just different. Strong guys inside, then you have to deal with a little more speed on the outside. They definitely both pose different problems.

“I like them both.”

Dahl is learning both positions at the NFL level, and that versatility should benefit him in landing a roster spot.

“A little bit of everything,” said Dahl of how he’s being used. “I really have no idea of where I’ll end up playing. It’s their job to decide (but) I’ll just be happy to do whatever they want me to do.

“I’ll feel comfortable with whatever they give me, honestly, once I get me more reps at it.

“I’m just happy there’s such a good group to walk into. I know I have a lot to learn. I’m just happy I have a great group to work with.”

Dahl is expecting the offensive linemen to be a close-knit group similar to what he experienced at Washington State.

There, the Cougars linemen came together and called themselves the “Goon Squad,” giving them some notoriety amid Leach’s distinct offensive system.

“I feel like every offensive line has their own thing to connect with,” Dahl said. “That was our thing at Washington State. It was just kind of a motto.”