'I had a good mentor': New Lions' O-line coach Fraley to follow established path
Mobile, Ala. — The Detroit Lions offensive line room will have a different leader in 2020, but in many ways it will be a continuation of what the team has been trying to build the past couple years.
Out is Jeff Davidson, who stepped down at season's end. He's being replaced by Hank Fraley, who has served as his assistant for four years, first in Minnesota and then Detroit. Davidson also coached Fraley in 2005, one of his 11 seasons as a player.
And fortunately for Fraley, Davidson has briefly extended his stay with the Lions, assisting with coaching duties at the Senior Bowl this week.
"I had a good mentor in Jeff Davidson," Fraley said. "Jeff has done a great job with me. I'm still trying to lean on him here and try to ask him questions, 'What did you see?' or anything like that. I really don't have to ask. If he sees something, he's going to let me know. It's been that way even as a player. It's been good. Even as a coach, you've got to knock off your rust and stuff like that."
Once the Senior Bowl is over and his focus can return to coaching the Lions, Fraley isn't planning on making any significant changes to the way the offensive line room is run.
"I'm not going to lie, I'm very excited for it," Fraley said. "It's a great opportunity. But nothing changes. Just keep grinding. I'm not going to change. Going to keep coaching like I did before, learn from the stuff Jeff has instilled in me as a coach, even as a player, and like I said earlier, all the other coaches who have coached me in this league, or even in college — bring what they have given me and hopefully use their tools to mesh it all together and just be myself.
"I was a grinder as a player, and I'm going to grind as a coach, and try to become great at this. I got a long ways to go, but I'm going to work toward it."
The Lions showed slight improvement last year. Pro Football Focus ranked the offensive line 11th in the NFL. Fraley acknowledged there was an adjustment playing in a new scheme, led by first-year coordinator Darrell Bevell, and expects the group will perform even better with the experience under their belt.
"I think for us coaches, we're more comfortable with it," Fraley said. "We're always continuing to grow, you're always trying to make it better, and as players, you're a lot more fluent, a lot more efficient. It's not new to you. You can add stuff to it, you can take things away. But there's a little more of a comfort level out there, and I think you can see that throughout the whole year. The less you have to think, the faster you get to play."
Four of Detroit's starters remain under contract for 2020, with Graham Glasgow scheduled to be a free agent. The team also faces a decision with Rick Wagner, who struggled last season and has an $11.9 million cap hit.
"I've got a great room there, starting with (Taylor) Decker, the leadership he has," Fraley said. "Frank Ragnow, those guys, coaching them, it is a fun environment to get in that room. When they're back in the building, there's a good vibe to it. That's what we love to do as coaches is coach. We have to do all the computer work, all the film work, but to be able to coach them, put hands on them and stuff, being around those guys, that's what it's really all about."