Cleveland — The Detroit Lions had major problems at tight end last season and general manager Bob Quinn acted decisively to correct them, completely overhauling the team's personnel at the position.
He also aggressively addressed Detroit's pass-rush woes, signing free agents Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels to lucrative deals.
But the offensive line, in need of a replacement for T.J. Lang, was largely left alone.
With respect to the limited resources a general manager has to address a roster's needs, Quinn went bargain shopping to improve a unit that's been one of his pet projects since joining the organization in 2016. The key additions were stopgap free agents like Oday Aboushi and Luke Bowanko, and undrafted rookies Beau Benzswhawel and Ryan Pope.
No multi-year contracts or draft picks were spent on new pieces, after Quinn committed two first-round picks, one third-rounder and the richest contract for a right tackle the three previous offseasons.
But after having a full training camp and preseason to evaluate the roster's returning options, namely Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins, Quinn is happy with the way the group is shaping up heading into the regular season.
"I think it's an area where we have really multiple guys kind of battling for those guard spots, and I think whichever way this ends up, I think we feel really good that we're going to have a starter, and that we're going to have a great backup at both spots," Quinn said during an interview before Thursday's preseason finale. "That's a combination of young guys and old guys that we like in there, and we feel good about that position."
Based on what we've seen to date, Dahl has emerged as the favorite to begin the season as a starter. A fifth-round draft pick in 2016, Quinn believes Dahl has slowly but surely developed into the player he was projected he could be.
"He played in a two-point stance (at Washington State) and played in that kind of very different style of offense; never put his hand in the ground," Quinn said. "We were basically starting from square one, teaching him how to run block. I think all the credit in the world goes to Joe, because I would say Joe is probably one of our hardest workers on the team, and he's increased his technique, his playing strength, his physical just weight-room strength.
"It took him a little longer than I probably would have thought, but I think last year we saw a lot of good signs," Quinn continued. "And (offensive line coaches) Jeff Davidson and Hank Fraley, I think have done a great job with over the last, I'd say, 16 months, just working him at some of those little things that he just needed to get over the hump."
Quinn liked what he's seen out of Dahl so much he was rewarded with a two-year contract extension earlier this month, a deal that included a $750,000 signing bonus.
" I think it's very well deserved," Quinn said.
The Lions offensive line was improved last year, but the overall performance still lagged behind league average. On the ground, the offense averaged 4.1 yards per carry, the team's best rate in seven seasons. Still, that ranked 26th in the NFL.
The Lions also allowed 41 sacks, an improvement from three of the previous four years, but checking in near the middle of the pack for all teams in 2018.