Detroit Lions' Jonah Jackson: 'We can be the best' offensive line in the NFL in 2021

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Jonah Jackson has high expectations for the Detroit Lions offensive line this fall.

"I think we can be the best (in the NFL)," Jackson said on the final day of mandatory minicamp Thursday. "It’s just a matter of how far we want to go and how we attack each week."

Statistically, there are few measures that accurately judge an offensive line's play, but Jackson said he will be looking at two in particular: How many yards per carry the Lions average rushing the ball, and how well they protect quarterback Jared Goff.

[ Lions minicamp observations: Hockenson is headed for a big season in 2021 ]

Detroit Lions offensive lineman Jonah Jackson goes through drills with assistant coach Hank Fraley during OTA practice Thursday, June 3, 2021, at the Allen Park practice facility.
Detroit Lions offensive lineman Jonah Jackson goes through drills with assistant coach Hank Fraley during OTA practice Thursday, June 3, 2021, at the Allen Park practice facility.

Jackson set an unrealistic goal for the Lions in pass protection, to not allow any sacks. Last year, they allowed 42, 10th most in the league.

From a rushing standpoint, Jackson said the goal is to average a more practical 4.5 yards per carry; the Lions have not done that since 1997, when Barry Sanders topped 2,000 yards, the Lions averaged 5.4 yards as a team and Jackson was a newborn.

"The expectation's high every year," Jackson said. "It starts up front. We’re the engine to the car, so it starts with us. If we ain’t clicking, the rest of the operation can’t go so the expectation stays the same and, shoot, I’m excited to get rolling with this group."

Jackson's optimism is shared by many in the organization and some across the NFL.

The Lions return five linemen who started at least 10 games last season in Jackson, left tackle Taylor Decker, center Frank Ragnow, right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai and right tackle Tyrell Crosby.

They spent the No. 7 overall pick in the draft on Penei Sewell, who is expected to bump Crosby to swing tackle.

And they checked in at No. 10 on Pro Football Focus' preseason offensive line rankings released this week.

Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow plays against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter Sept. 27, 2020 in Glendale, Ariz.
Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow plays against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter Sept. 27, 2020 in Glendale, Ariz.

Jackson will move to left guard full-time this fall after playing both guard spots last year, and said that should help him build on his impressive rookie season.

"There’s definitely some comfortability playing that position more and more now and being at the left guard now with Decker for Year 2," Jackson said. "But if something happens, they need me to switch around, I’ll do whatever I need to. I’m a team player. I’m ready for it."

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As for Sewell, the highest of the Lions' three first-round offensive lineman — Decker was the 16th pick of the 2016 draft, and Ragnow went 20th in 2018 — Jackson said he is as talented as scouting reports made him out to be.

"They say he’s a 20-year old, he acts like a grown man how he handles himself in not only the meeting but outside on the field," Jackson said. "And definitely on the field you see why he was the No. 7 overall pick. It’s very evident and I’m excited for his future and what’s to come for him."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' Jonah Jackson: 'We can be the best' OL in the NFL