The Detroit Lions are banking on their offensive line, ironically the highest paid unit in the NFL. Undeniably the Lions’ core strength, the offensive line boasts a depth of talent carefully crafted by the Lions’ front office. The bedrock of this unit allows offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to build an efficient offense with QB Jared Goff at the helm.
Within the starting unit, the right guard is the only position guaranteed to have a new name at the top of the depth chart. Evan Brown signed a free agent deal this offseason with the Seattle Seahawks, seemingly paving the way for Halapoulivaati Vaitai to step back into the starting role. But don’t discount Graham Glasgow, who’s back in Detroit after a detour in Denver with the Broncos. With these names at right guard providing all day protection, quarterback Jared Goff is certain to stay fresh and feel confident.
Stay cool and dry with Vaitai
After missing the entire 2022 season due to a back injury, all signs point to Halapoulivaati Vaitai re-establishing himself as the starting right guard. Despite grappling with the mental turmoil that followed his injury, Vaitai chose resilience over retirement. “I can’t leave my guys,” said the resolute player, echoing his undying commitment to his team and the sport.
His exceptional 2021 season saw him finish the season with zero sacks allowed in 953 snaps. A healthy Vaitai quietly adds some serious gusto to the Lions’ aspirations for the 2023 NFL season.
The bond between Vaitai and rising star Penei Sewell is an underrated strength of the unit. “He’s got a warrior’s heart… And that’s something you can’t teach. It’s a trait we Polynesians value highly,” Vaitai said of his fellow guard, a testament to their shared heritage and shared dedication to the game.
Protect yourself from the unexpected with Glasgow
In an offseason move aimed to foster healthy competition and enhance the team’s strength, the Lions’ leadership brought veteran Graham Glasgow back into the mix. Having started his NFL career with the Lions and played both guard and center in 58 games, Glasgow is a familiar face with proven versatility.
Lions’ GM Brad Holmes expressed his optimistic outlook on the emerging dynamic, praising both players for their unique capabilities: “Vaitai, man, he’s a good player… And Glasgow is a guy that’s got positional versatility.”
In Glasgow’s view, the Lions are a young team on the brink of something big, with an offensive line room that ranks among the best in the league. His arrival not only ensures an elite reserve on the roster but also potential insurance at the center position, thanks to his experience and comfortability playing alongside guys like Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow.
Stay-Fresh Advantage: Sorsdal and Pierschbacher
Other players are expected to make contributions and provide depth at the right guard position for the Detroit Lions.
One such player is Colby Sorsdal, a 6-foot-6, 301-pound rookie out of William and Mary. With 46 career starts under his belt and experience as a team captain, Sorsdal brings a mature youth to the Lions. Sorsdal’s selection by GM Brad Holmes was influenced by his adaptability. Which will likely see him transition from right tackle (in college) to guard for the Lions. Fortunately, Sorsdal possesses impressive fluidity and power for his size. His athleticism is evident in his lateral quickness and ability to excel as a second-level blocker. What brings it all together is his determined mindset to overpower his opponents.
Another player likely to contribute at right guard is Ross Pierschbacher. Pierschbacher is widely recognized as one of the smartest offensive linemen during Nick Saban’s era at Alabama. During his time in Tuscaloosa from 2014 to 2018, Pierschbacher excelled as a guard and center. He played a vital role on teams that accounted for two National Championships and four SEC championships. He blocked for three 1,000+ yard rushing seasons, most notably Derrick Henry’s historic 2,219-yard campaign in 2015. Henry ran away with the Heisman Trophy that season.
After short stints in Philadelphia and Washington, the 6-4, 310 pound lineman may just be starting to hit his stride. His ability to play all three interior spots makes him an ideal fit for the Lions’ coaching staff, ticking many boxes for their roster needs.
Changing of the Guard
While the starting right guard position seems securely Vaitai’s, the significance of Glasgow’s presence should not be overlooked. His ability to provide both starter-like depth and seamless transition to starting positions will be invaluable for the Lions.
That said, a fully-healthy Vaitai takes the Lions’ already top-ranking offensive line to a whole new level. A cause for concern among opposing defenses, for sure.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Raj Mehta – USA TODAY Sports