Allen Park — “Jack of all trades,” typically, is viewed as a compliment.
At least until a certain tagline often comes along with it, that being, “And master of none.”
Joe Dahl is fighting that delicate balance in his second season with the Lions, who since OTAs and into training camp and the preseason games have shuffled him all along the offensive line, looking for that fit -- and keeping an open mind to the idea that such a fit might just be a little bit of everything.
There are two ways to look at the situation.
On one side, versatility is a very good thing. Theoretically, it makes you more valuable, especially in case of injury. On the flip side, though, it also turns your attention away from a singular task, a singular role, when a full-blown focus on just one assignment could help a player become a so-called “expert” at said spot.
For now, Dahl is taking it all in stride.
“I’m doing whatever I can to help the group,” Dahl said ahead of Thursday’s final preseason game, on the road against the Bills. “The game this week will be the same, whatever reps I get will be a great opportunity to improve my technique.
“I think definitely it helps having versatility as a player, as a whole, it’s really helped me understand the whole scheme of things, just working different spots on the offensive line.”
Dahl, 24, a fifth-round pick out of Washington State in 2016, first started at left guard in college, before shifting to left tackle his last two seasons.
After briefly working at left tackle, immediately following Taylor Decker’s shoulder injury in June, Dahl’s recently been back at left guard, while mixing in a little bit of center. Officially, he’s listed on the latest Lions’ depth chart as second-string left guard, behind Graham Glasgow. It can be hectic, yet somehow, Dahl said Monday with a contagious chuckle, he hasn’t yet lined up at the wrong position, or lost track of who he was lined up next to and, God forbid, called a teammate by the wrong name.
There’s an added benefit, though: The shuffling also can lend itself to being a fantastic learning experience, especially picking the brains of various veterans, as Dahl has with center Travis Swanson and right guard T.J. Lang.
There’s a saying in coaching that the best ability is “availability,” but versatility seems to be not far behind, at least in head coach Jim Caldwell’s world.
“There’s nothing saying that, ‘The more you can do,’” Caldwell said. “It’s one of those that also floats around the league, as well, and I think that’s indeed true, that anyone that has a skill level that will translate and transfer into another position, I think that’s helpful.
“It’s not an easy task moving around from position to position, but I do think he’s one of those guys that’ll grow and develop, and the position flexibility doesn’t hurt him.”
Dahl played six regular-season games his rookie season, all at guard. The first four games, all his action was on special teams — 25 snaps in all.
The last two regular-season games, he saw 11 and nine snaps on the offensive line, respectively. In the playoff game, again, he played only on special teams.
He got some looks at left tackle during camp, following the injury to Decker — a massive blow. Greg Robinson has since seized command of that position, with Cyrus Kouandijo backing him up.
But if things change -- and they change quickly in the bruising business of pro football — Dahl is prepared, at just about every spot on the line. That’s not to say Dahl doesn’t look forward to the day, some day, when he can settle into one spot, and throw the other position playbooks away.
“Yeah, it’ll be nice,” Dahl, 6-foot-4 and 306 pounds, said with a grin. “But, you know, right now, whatever they ask of me, that’s what I’m gonna do.
“It doesn’t bother me at all.”