Lions OL coach Hank Fraley expecting big things from ‘Big V’

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The Detroit Lions project to have one of the NFL’s best offensive lines in 2021. With standouts Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and top-10 pick Penei Sewell anchoring the line, it’s got high-end potential. Left guard Jonah Jackson showed legit promise in his rookie season too.

Then there’s right guard, where Halapoulivaati Vaitai is penciled in as the starter. Vaitai had a rough debut season in Detroit, flopping as a high-priced free agent while bouncing from tackle to guard, all the while battling an injury. Some expected the Lions to dump Vaitai, but that’s clearly not in the cards. Instead, he’s a building block that the team remains quite high on.

Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley made it clear in his press conference this week that Vaitai will be a significant piece of the puzzle. And Fraley’s quite happy and bullish about that, too.

Fraley was asked if he considers Vatai to be a long-term piece on the line. His answer was a telling one.

“Yeah why wouldn’t you,” Fraley said in a bemused tone. “That guy can do a lot of things that a lot of people in this league can’t. He’s athletic he’s big. He can move the line of scrimmage. He can pull. He can pass protect. He’s played a lot of ball. (The Eagles) won a Super Bowl with him playing left tackle. I’m excited for him.”

Fraley’s indignance at the notion that Vaitai is a lost cause should erase any doubt that Big V will be the starting right guard. The financial aspect almost guaranteed it, regardless; only Trey Flowers and Jared Goff will earn more than Vaitai in 2021, and the Lions save no money at all by cutting him this year. With significantly less depth across the line–Joe Dahl, Oday Aboushi and Kenny Wiggins are all gone, replaced (for now) by undrafted free agents–it’s clear the team still believes in Vaitai.

As Fraley indicated, seeing if Big V can bounce back from an injury-marred year where he made a position change is the smartest way to proceed.