Bob Wojnowski and Justin Rogers take a look at the Lions-Ravens game in Baltimore on Sunday. Detroit News
Allen Park — Physically, Taylor Decker couldn’t feel any better. After playing in his third game, following offseason shoulder surgery, there is no physical limitations or discomfort.
“I feel like I feel as good as I could,” Decker said. “I’m obviously never going to get those training camp reps and those first eight-game reps. That’s a lot of reps that are valuable to have, but I have to make the best of the situation that I have.”
The Lions are unquestionably a better team with Decker in the lineup, but we have yet to see his level of play reach where he was at the end of his rookie season in 2016. His performance is lagging while the natural accumulation of rust is knocked off.
Decker struggled mightily on Thanksgiving attempting to bottle up Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who is tied for the NFL lead with 12 sacks. He dropped quarterback Matthew Stafford twice on Thursday and routinely found his way into the backfield during the victory.
Conditioning isn’t an issue for Decker, who was able to work on maintaining his cardio while rehabbing; it’s the technical proficiencies of his position. Playing offensive line requires a precise synchronization of the feet, knees, hips and hands to win the leverage battle against a 275-pound defender intent on wreaking havoc.
Strangely enough, it’s not too dissimilar from a golf swing, which requires a repetition of movements throughout the body to maintain a consistently straight shot.
“In theory, you look and you watch an offensive lineman and are like, ‘Oh, that’s not hard,’ but it is,” Decker said. “In theory, it’s easy. In practice and in execution, it’s very difficult. And it’s difficult to do it consistently.
“As an offensive lineman, and the other guys at this position, I’m sure they can attest to, the name of the game is consistency. You have just a couple bad plays, it can end up being a bad game for you.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Decker this week. He’ll be matched up against Terrell Suggs, a 15-year veteran who continues to produce at the highest levels, generating 43 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s translated that pressure into 9.5 sacks, giving him 124 on his career.
“I was watching that Monday night game, and he’s obviously an ageless player,” Decker said. “He’s always going to have some youth in him. He’s obviously still a productive pass rusher, their most productive pass rusher, just a big, physical guy.”