Lions' makeshift offensive line gets job done under sticky situation
Jacksonville, Fla. — The Detroit Lions faced concerns about their offensive line coming into Sunday's matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, only to deal with far more issues than anticipated once the game got underway.
Prior to kickoff it was unclear whether center Frank Ragnow would be able to suit up after suffering a groin injury during practice earlier in the week. And how would Joe Dahl, a starter prior to suffering his own groin injury in Week 1, fit back into the lineup after being activated off injured reserve on Saturday?
Ragnow ended up getting the green light and, at least to start this week, the Lions stuck with the status quo, the starting front they'd used the past two games, with Tyrell Crosby at right tackle and free-agent addition Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle. That left Dahl as a reserve.
But things got flipped on their head quickly when both Crosby and Vaitai were knocked from the lineup with issues relating to the humid Florida conditions. Crosby headed to the locker room in the first half with dehydration and didn't return, while Vaitai exited the contest multiple times to receive oxygen on the sideline.
Yet despite all the moving parts, the Lions didn't allow a sack and ran for 180 yards in the victory over Jacksonville.
“I don’t know if I have ever been in a game where we have played all eight offensive linemen," Lions coach Matt Patricia said. "That was a little bit unique. I thought it was great of those guys just being prepared. It was a great lesson for us. I think our guys do a phenomenal job of this every single week of just being ready to go. You never know when your number is going to be called and when it gets called, you have to go out there and perform really well and I thought they did."
Even before the injury bug struck, it appeared the Lions had plans to rotate Dahl into the lineup, similar to the guard rotation the team deployed last season with Kenny Wiggins coming off the bench two series per game.
Dahl entered the contest early at left guard, where he started the year, briefly sending Jonah Jackson to the bench. That switch coincided with Vaitai temporarily coming off in favor of veteran Oday Aboushi.
Then, when Crosby exited in the second quarter, the Lions turned to Matt Nelson, a second-year pro and converted defensive lineman out of Iowa.
"They did a good job of communicating and helping each other on the sideline being ready to go," Patricia said. "I am proud of that crew and everybody got out there and played. That was awesome to see. Quite honestly, you are looking at the different (players) going in and out, you are trying to evaluate it, but I really thought everyone gelled and communicated really well, which is the biggest thing and I thought it was great.”