The Detroit Lions – with new general manager Bob Quinn at the controls – had some goals heading into the 2016 NFL draft. Among them was the desire to increase the size of their lineman.
“Absolutely, that was one of my goals going into the draft and I felt like there was a lot of players at different levels of the draft that we could do that,” said Quinn. “So, it was a goal of mine, it was a goal of Coach (Jim) Caldwell’s and I think we followed through on that.”
When Quinn says they “followed through”, he is alluding to the selections of offensive tackle Taylor Decker (first round), defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (second round), Center/Guard Graham Glasgow (third round), offensive lineman Joe Dahl (fifth round) and defensive tackle / end Anthony Zettel (sixth round).
In all, the Lions invested five out of their 10 picks into the offensive and defensive line. Only the Baltimore Ravens spent more picks on lineman in the draft – using six of their 11 selections – while three other teams (The Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers) equaled the Lions five selections on lineman.
Being among the four teams that invested the most on lineman this draft, the Lions are sending a clear message with their actions – they value the trenches.
“That’s where I believe you win football games,” said Quinn. “You win football games in the trenches and you’ve got to have big, strong, tough, durable, versatile guys in there.”
Acquiring the talent is only part of the battle when it comes to improving any position on the roster. The true test now is helping each player accentuate their strengths and develop further as a professional.
Enter the Lions positional coaches – namely Ron Prince for the offensive line and Kris Kocurek for the defensive line.
Both coaches typically get rave reviews from players and both will have their fingerprints on the development of the five lineman the Lions added via the draft.
“Coach Kris is just amazing, to have him as a D-line coach. The passion he has for the game, wanting his players to be the best is amazing,” said Robinson.
Kocurek and Robinson met during the pre-draft process and the young defensive tackle immediately took to the fiery coach
“I thought he was a great coach, he’s fiery just like Coach Bo (Davis),” said Robinson. “That’s a guy I’d love to play for and I was just telling my mom that when I was taking my visits and stuff when I first met him and she was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, everything will play its course.’ So, when I met him I was like, ‘Yeah, this guy, I like this coach a lot.’”
Similarly, Decker is looking forward to working with Prince.
“I think he’s a really, really intelligent guy,” said Decker of Prince. “Obviously, just from speaking with him the few times that I have, he knows what he’s talking about. I think he really cares, wants guys to do better and again, this just from the brief time that I’ve known him. So, I’m excited to work with him, it’s going to be fun.”
Decker already has an idea of what he needs to work on and expressed a commitment to improvement.
“Even in run-blocking I have tons of improvements to make,” he said. “I just think, one, as a lineman you have to be consistent. I think that’s the name of the game as being a lineman. So, just staying square in pass-protection and keeping proper footwork, don’t get overextended and things like that. There’s so many little subtleties that I know Coach Prince will coach me up on and I think he’s going to make me a much, much better player.”
The Lions added depth and size to their offensive and defensive line and are hoping that translates to improvement on the field.
Perhaps Quinn summed up the philosophy here the best.
“I’d say offensive line and defensive line, the bigger the better,” he said.