Lions weigh offensive line options with Taylor Decker ruled out
Allen Park — The Detroit Lions officially ruled out left tackle Taylor Decker for Sunday's season-opening matchup against the San Francisco 49ers and coach Dan Campbell acknowledged the absence could extend multiple weeks, depending on the prognosis for the hand/finger injury the lineman suffered during Wednesday's practice.
Campbell noted the injury occurred when Decker threw his hand into the chest of an oncoming defensive lineman during a pass-rush drill on Wednesday. Decker is visiting with a specialist on Friday, but Campbell said the injury is trending toward requiring surgery.
"Yeah, and we'll know for sure this afternoon, but I think that it's probably leaning that way," Campbell said.
With Decker out, perhaps for an extended period of time, the Lions are weighing their starting lineup options. Campbell laid out the three possible scenarios, based on the versatility they have on the roster.
The first is plugging backup offensive tackle Matt Nelson in at left tackle. The third-year pro appeared in 16 games for the Lions last season, including 241 offensive snaps, none of which came at left tackle. On the other hand, 89 of his 131 preseason snaps were as the blindside blocker.
Alternatively, the team could move guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai to one of the tackle spots. He's previously had experience playing both left and right tackle during his career. The team would then backfill his spot with Logan Stenberg, the fourth-round draft pick from 2020 who didn't see any offensive snaps as a rookie.
Finally, and most likely, the Lions could put Nelson at right tackle — where he saw most of his playing time in 2020, including a Week 14 start at Green Bay — while shifting rookie Penei Sewell to left tackle.
"Yeah, if that's where we end up going with it, that's what he did play in college and it's something he's comfortable with," Campbell said. "But he's also getting pretty comfortable at right (tackle). It's that fine balance of who do we think is best to move to the left side versus he's a rookie, he's getting better at the right side, let's keep him there knowing Decker will be back in a little bit."
After spending much of his first offseason concentrating on the transition to right tackle, Sewell practiced each of the past two days on the left side. But he made it clear, any potential move for Week 1 would be temporary. He fully expects to return to the right side once Decker is medically cleared.
"I’m definitely right tackle," Sewell said. "That man (Decker), I look up to him. He’s like a role model to me and that’s that."
In addition to Decker, the Lions listed four players as questionable for the game against the 49ers.
Defensive tackles Michael Brockers (shoulder), Nick Williams (elbow) and Levi Onwuzurike (hip), as well as slot cornerback A.J. Parker (shoulder) are all questionable after being limited each of the three days of practice this week.
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