Why Taylor Decker said this Detroit Lions O-line is 'most talented' he has played with

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The Detroit Lions took eight players in the 2022 NFL draft.

Six selections were on defense — two guys at all three levels — and of the two that were on offense, one was play-making wide receiver Jameson Williams, the other big-bodied, athletic tight end James Mitchell.

One unit that went unaddressed: the offensive line.

General Manager Brad Holmes said the organization didn't go in with a mindset to avoid drafting an offensive lineman, but said it certainly wasn't going to force the issue. Not with the five guys it appears they will trot out when the season kicks off.

"It's a good group, I know that," head coach Dan Campbell said Thursday. "They're working together. Frank (Ragnow) and Jonah (Jackson), (Penei) Sewell and Big V (Halapoulivaati Vaitai), all of them, (Taylor) Decker.

"It's a veteran group, it's pretty tough, they're smart, they work well together."

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Lions offensive lineman Taylor Decker, left, celebrates his touchdown catch with teammates during the third quarter of the Lions' 51-29 loss on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Seattle.
Lions offensive lineman Taylor Decker, left, celebrates his touchdown catch with teammates during the third quarter of the Lions' 51-29 loss on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Seattle.

Decker, one of the most experienced linemen, did not participate in Organized Team Activities on Thursday; the team is taking the cautious approach as he works his way back from lingering foot issues that started with an injury suffered in Week 18.

Campbell said if there was a game Sunday, he could play in it.

"When you're not out there, it's like nauseating," Decker said. "Of course I want to be out there, but it's a bit of a be-smart maintenance thing, talking with the training staff and coaches right now and hopefully when it comes time for training camp that it's no issues, hit the ground running, good to go.

"That's the game plan, that's what it's trending towards."

The Lions left tackle had a big offseason. He got married to his wife, Kendra, (he even cut his mullet two weeks before the wedding — something his mother-in-law didn't force him to do, but politely suggested would be a good idea) and the two announced they're expecting a baby during the upcoming season.

Detroit Lions offensive linemen Taylor Decker goes through drills during OTAs on Thursday, May 26, 2022 at the team practice facility in Allen Park.
Detroit Lions offensive linemen Taylor Decker goes through drills during OTAs on Thursday, May 26, 2022 at the team practice facility in Allen Park.

He said those major life events have put football into perspective, but admitted he was still itching to get out on the field to get work in with his guys. While he's working his way back, he's observing his teammates and wasn't shy about his expectations for the unit.

"I would say this is the most talented line I've been a part of, 100%," he said. "I'm not necessarily a talent evaluator, but we've got a bunch of guys who are smart, confident, athletic, I mean we can get out and run a bunch of guys on the perimeter or we can run downhill.

"Then one-on-one pass blocking I'm 100% confident if you put five guys across from us, we're going to be able to hold up... and that opens up a lot of things for skill position players."

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell (58) tries to block Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) during the second half at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
Detroit Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell (58) tries to block Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) during the second half at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.

Another major reason Decker is expecting to take that leap forward is the progression he anticipates from his bookend tackle, Sewell.

Sewell flashed frequently as a rookie, showing why he was worth the No. 7 overall selection by the Lions, but said when he did his self-scouting after the year was over, he knew he wanted to improve his consistency.

He said it was a learning curve bouncing back and forth between right and left tackle from minicamp through the first few weeks of the season. Now, he's glad to be going into a year where he's more familiar with the process.

"I'm more comfortable, I know what to expect," Sewell said. "It's more simple now that I can eliminate everything else because I know what's going to happen during the season, OTAs and camp."

He spent the offseason working on his conditioning and multiple reps with his hands, but most noticeably, he got stronger. Sewell said he put added emphasis on building muscle in the gym and getting back to playing in the aggressive way he knows how.

Detroit Lions practice during OTAs on Thursday, May 26, 2022 at the team practice facility in Allen Park.
Detroit Lions practice during OTAs on Thursday, May 26, 2022 at the team practice facility in Allen Park.

"I've been lifting a lot, putting more weight on the bar ... which is a big testament (to my other linemen) too," he said. "I've just been trusting the process, seeing other guys do it and see that the weight room is necessary to be great in this league."

Sewell said he'd dropped the weight before the combine so he could run faster and test well, but said his game is better when bigger and stronger. So how much weight did he put back on?

"That's between me and head coach," he said.

Contact Tony Garcia at apgarcia@freepress.com. Follow him on twitter at @realtonygarcia.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Why Detroit Lions' 2022 success may hinge on offensive line