Expectations for the Lions new linemen

The Detroit Lions and GM Bob Quinn had a very productive day. After last year’s first round pick and Matthew Stafford‘s blindside protector, Taylor Decker went down with an injury in OTAs, left tackle became an immediate position of need. The Lions brass initially played it cool. Head coach Jim Caldwell stated that he believed the Lions had Decker’s interim replacement in-house–the moves that were made today would say otherwise.

The first surprise this morning was the trade for former first-round pick, OT Greg Robinson. Shortly after we learned of the swap with the Los Angeles Rams, it was announced that the Lions had also grabbed free agent and 2014 second-round selection of the Buffalo Bills, OT Cyrus Kouandjio.

Just a couple of years ago, both of these tackles were bursting with potential. Now, these two are just trying to stick to a roster. With the dearth of talent behind Decker, these youngsters have a legitimate shot to get a week 1 start. Even though they may just get a few spot starts, it doesn’t exactly mean they will excel in their role.

The biggest competition will be OT Cornelius Lucas, OG/OT Joe Dahl, and OT Corey Robinson. None of those names inspire too much confidence at the left tackle spot.

To get a feel for exactly the type of players the Lions acquired, let’s take a look at their decent sample size in the NFL . Important to note, sometimes a young player just needs a change of scenery to be a solid contributor.

Up first, Kouandjio. Kouandjio (6-7, 322) ranked 34th of 78 qualifying OTs last year and was graded as the best backup tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

The product of Alabama played 207 pass-blocking snaps and did not allow a single QB hit in 2016. He did, however, allow one sack and surrendered 12 QB hurries. For a player who will be relegated to a backup once Decker returns, he will be a solid stopgap and eventual depth. It is very difficult to ever have an above average backup left tackle with the demand for the position so high.

So why was Kouandjio still on the open market? Perhaps the largest reason for his release earlier this year stemmed from an incident that involved him being pantless in a field. No charges were filed, but needless to say, an odd situation. He is also recovering from a January hip surgery, though it shouldn’t keep him from missing any time.

Greg Robinson (6-5, 332) on the other hand, despite being a No. 2 overall selection in 2014, has struggled to settle in at any position. He was replaced by former Cincinnati Bengal tackle, Andrew Whitworth, this offseason. It would be very fair to already label Robinson a bust at age 24.

In the athletic tackle’s three years in the league, he started 42 of his 46 games with the Rams. He struggled mightily with penalties, racking up 31 of them over the last two years–more than any other NFL player in that span.

Using PFF as a grade again, he ranked 71st among 78 qualified tackles in 2016.

He also wasn’t very proficient in pass protection as he surrendered eight sacks. New Rams coach, Sean McVay, slid him over to the right side this year but still wasn’t receiving playing time over Jamon Brown.

Needless to say, there was good reason why the Rams were so eager to let the big-man go. At the very least he should be a decent backup lineman who can kick inside if necessary, but at this point, I would expect Kouandjio to have the leg up to be Decker’s replacement.

 

 

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