Lions' O-line struggled vs. Colts; Patricia explains guard setup

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Due to injuries, the Detroit Lions have struggled to settle on a regular offensive line. 

Early in the year, Halapoulivaati Vaitai's foot injury pressed Tyrell Crosby into action at right tackle. And when Joe Dahl went down with a groin injury around the time Vaitai was cleared to return, the team shuffled the deck again, leaving Crosby in place, while putting Vaitai at right guard and flipping rookie guard Jonah Jackson to the left side. 

Jonah Jackson gets set before the snap to Matthew Stafford on Sunday against the Colts.

Initially, when Dahl returned off injured reserve, the Lions stuck with that aforementioned lineup two additional games, rewarding Crosby for his early-season performance. That was before the team switched it up again Sunday, going back to what many believed was going to be the starting five heading into the season — Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Dahl, Jackson and Crosby. 

But there was one noticeable difference. Instead of Dahl at left guard, where he played all last season and started this year, he was moved to right guard. That kept Jackson on the left side, where he had played the previous five games after spending training camp at right guard.

Got all that? 

Lions coach Matt Patricia explained the logic for Sunday's setup the day after the game. 

"We obviously practice those guys on both sides," Patricia said. "With Jonah, obviously as a young player, leaving him in the one position and then – O-line is all about communication and one of the things to be able to do with him is to put him in between two veteran players that have been here between (Decker) and Frank. It’s been good for us from that standpoint, to allow that communication to take place.

"Joe’s a good communicator, which we thought was going to be really good for ‘V’ (Vaitai), moving out to tackle, and just making sure we’re all on the same page there. Sometimes it has to do with putting those guys in position based on we knew we were going to see a lot of pressures. We knew we were going to see multiple stunts and movement up front, and sometimes there’s indicators out there that we wanted to try to communicate that gives us a little bit of heads-up when they were doing that. We obviously didn’t do a good enough job on that, but that was the thought."

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Patricia noted the disappointing overall performance of the group, which allowed five sacks and more than a dozen quarterback pressures. 

It will be interesting to see if the Lions stick with this latest look next week against Minnesota, a team that has routinely hurt the Lions with their pass rush the past several years, or whether the Lions will change things up again. 

And they might not have a choice with Vaitai's foot injury cropping back up in the second half against the Colts.