Lions rookie Joe Dahl settling into groove at guard
Latrobe Pa. — When the Detroit Lions drafted Joe Dahl in the fifth round this offseason, the team didn't make any declarations about where the versatile offensive lineman would play. Well, general manager Bob Quinn was kind enough to rule out the possibility of Dahl snapping the ball, but left the door open for the Washington State standout to play any of the other four positions up front.
Early on, the Lions experimented with Dahl at tackle, but throughout training camp it appears the team has settled on using him at guard, a spot many draft analysts projected to be his best fit.
"I think, right now, the versatility helps," Dahl said after Wednesday's joint practice with the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I'm just willing to play whatever they want me to play. That's what they need right now is someone who can bounce around and help everywhere."
Dahl had a strong day on the practice field and shined working a two-man pass-rush drill. Paired with a tackle, the tandem were tasked with stopping whatever stunt or twist two Steelers defensive linemen could throw at them. In the drill, the 6-foot-4, 304-pounder looked natural switching off defenders and shutting down the edge rushers attempting to loop inside.
"A lot of it has been (offensive line) coach (Ron) Prince's coaching," Dahl said. "He teaches us things that seem like simple concepts, but can be harder to execute. We've just been repping them a lot, and as long as you use the technique he gives you, you'll be successful."
Dahl is part of three-headed investment the Lions poured into their offensive line via the draft, joining first-round pick Taylor Decker and third-round selection Graham Glasgow. While only Decker is projected as a starter to begin the 2016 campaign, there's a realistic shot Glasgow and Dahl join Decker in the starting lineup next season.
In the meantime, Dahl is just focused on improving.
"He’s a smart guy and I think that he catches on," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said about Dahl. "In the interior of the offensive line, it’s a difficult task. There are a lot of different looks that you’ve got to deal with, as well as different body types and the surge that you get from different guys. So he’s handling it, but he’s got a ways to go yet. He's a young guy battling his way through, but he’s working at it."
While the first preseason game has a special meaning to every rookie, Friday's experience at Heinz Field against the Steelers is a little more unique for Dahl. Even though he performed at an NFL stadium while at Washington State — where the school played a couple games at Seattle's CenturyLink Field — he's never actually been to an NFL game.
"I'm really excited, actually," Dahl said. "Ultimately, it's really exciting to make it this far, but I need to keep get better and hopefully I can use this experience to show off the technique that Coach Prince has taught us."