Graham Glasgow's injury scare puts Lions' OL depth front and center
Allen Park — It looks as if the Detroit Lions dodged another bullet, but Graham Glasgow’s injury scare was enough of a wake-up call for the team to increase its focus on emergency preparation, should the outcome not be so fortunate next time.
Glasgow suffered a leg injury Tuesday, during the first of three joint practices with the New York Giants, when teammate Taylor Decker was driven into the side of the starting center’s legs. Glasgow had to be helped off the field by trainers before walking to the locker room under his own power for further evaluation.
Lions coach Matt Patricia declined to comment on Glasgow’s status, both after Tuesday’s practice and before Wednesday’s session, but when the team took the field, Glasgow was out in full shoulder pads.
His participation was limited to a handful of early individual drills. He did nothing where he was required to go head-to-head against another player. Still, the fact that he was on the field can be viewed as a positive sign.
Throughout the offseason, Glasgow has essentially been locked into the center spot, with first-round draft pick Frank Ragnow, a center with guard experience in college, working almost exclusively at left guard.
Glasgow didn’t miss an offensive snap last season, the team’s only offensive lineman who could claim the feat, but his potential injury seemed to remind the coaching staff the importance of getting Ragnow prepared to play more than one position.
The Lions split first-team center reps between three players: Wesley Johnson — who subbed in for Glasgow immediately after the injury — Joe Dahl and Ragnow, with the rookie taking the bulk to the reps.
Ragnow has talked about the value of focusing on one position easing his transition this offseason, but he’s been ready to answer the bell to play elsewhere.
“I think, from my perspective as a rookie, I have to be ready to play any position because I’m trying to earn my keep around here,” Ragnow said. “Individually, preparation-wise, I’m preparing to play wherever they want me to step up.”
Despite playing in a pro-style scheme in college, which has made the mental transition smoother for the rookie, he made it clear that sliding over to center wasn’t as simple as riding a bike, where muscle memory is enough.
“Yeah, everything has got to be sped up, everything has to be more powerful, you just have to be on your ‘A’ game, 24-7,” he said.
Injuries took a toll on the performance of Detroit’s offensive line last season. The team started 10 different combinations during the season, and played with several more during the course of games. The results were ugly as the team finished last in yards per carry and quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked a career-high 47 times.
This offseason, the Lions made an effort to not only bolster the team’s starting lineup, with the selection of Ragnow, but perhaps of equal importance, stockpile quality depth to better handle potential injuries.
In free agency, the team signed interior linemen Johnson and Kenny Wiggins, who combined to start 31 of 32 games last season. The Lions also drafted tackle Tyrell Crosby in the fifth round.
Patricia made it clear the Lions always will look to field their best five linemen. In the event Glasgow couldn’t play, and Ragnow was performing well at guard, Johnson offers the most experience at center and has impressed the coaching staff.
“He’s a really smart guy, very focused, he’s very intense,” Patricia said. "This is a guy that wants to know all the information, everything that’s going on, and as a center, that position in particular, there is a lot of communication that goes on, there’s a lot of different looks that you have to understand and be able to identify and then communicate to the rest of the offensive line and he does a phenomenal job of that.
“I think that’s even something that coming in through the spring, obviously learning a new system maybe took a little bit of a while, but I would say at this point his command of the offensive line has been really good from the standpoint of training camp.”
Fortunately, for the Lions, the Ragnow-Johnson center rotation appears to be temporary, until Glasgow gets the green light to fully return to practice. Teammates, including Ragnow, were thrilled to see things already trending in that direction.
“That's great, and definitely what our unit wants,” Ragnow said. “I mean, that's a tough guy. I've only known him for so long, but he's already established to me he's a tough guy. Up front, that's what we're looking for, so it's great to see that he's all right.”