Allen Park — The Detroit Lions have operated this offseason as if Matt Patricia is the NFL’s most important offseason addition, the X-factor that will morph the franchise from a team hovering around .500 to a perennial contender.
But that leap, if it happens, will come through incremental improvements, and arguably no unit stands to benefit more from coaching-related adjustments than the Lions’ offensive line.
Detroit’s offensive coaching staff remains largely intact from previous years, with the primary exception being the offensive line. Patricia hired Jeff Davidson to oversee the position group and Hank Fraley to assist.
Davidson brings more than two decades of coaching experience to the table. For Fraley, he was an assistant for three years in Minnesota, starting under Davidson, prior to coaching the line at UCLA last season.
What separates both from the previous position coaches is their backgrounds as players. Both started multiple years in the NFL and can offer valuable insight based on that experience.
“I think that having someone with a lot of their own personal experiences can help me and younger guys in our locker room get our technique down, and a lot of questions (Fraley) will be able to answer,” Lions lineman Graham Glasgow said Tuesday. “And I think that he, especially for the centers and the interior lineman, is a very good resource to make sure we can be the best we can be.”
The coaching tandem will be tasked with improving the line’s toughness — particularly in short-yardage situations — which was recently criticized by general manager Bob Quinn.
“I would say that it’s right for him to be bothered by that; we were bothered by that,” Glasgow said. “It’s frustrating in a lot of ways for us. I mean we were our own harshest critics, and I think that is something that we took very personally and we tried to get that worked out and I think that that’s something we will also improve this year.”
Where Glasgow lines up his third season remains undefined. The Lions have touted his positional flexibility since drafting him in the third round out of Michigan two years ago, but the outside-looking-in assumption projected a full-time move to center once Travis Swanson’s contract expired.
“I think I’m an interior offensive lineman,” he said. “I’ll play left guard, I’ll play center, I’ll play whatever they ask me to do.”
The Lions added Frank Ragnow in the first round of this year’s draft. He is coming off back-to-back dominant seasons snapping the ball for Arkansas, and was considered by most analysts as the best center in the draft. Plus, his experience at guard was on the right side, where T.J. Lang is firmly entrenched.
Reading the tea leaves, it seems likely the rookie will play center and Glasgow will stick at guard.
Glasgow showed he had long-term potential at guard in 2017, ranking as the No. 20 player at the position, according to Pro Football Focus. He also proved his toughness and durability during his second season as the only Lions’ offensive lineman to play every offensive snap.
“I’m just going to say it’s tough, but I’m focusing on trying to do that again in this year,” Glasgow said.