The Detroit Lions could have up to three new starters on the offensive line this year. Their starting right guard and tackle from 2019 are both playing elsewhere this season, while two guard additions in the mid rounds of the NFL Draft could challenge for playing time at some point during the year.
But that’s not the only change the Lions made on the offensive line this year. Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson stepped down in January, and the team decided to promote assistant offensive line coach Hank Fraley to the vacant position. Fraley had held the assistant position for the previous two years.
According to starting left tackle Taylor Decker, the offensive line is feeling very good about the promotion.
“I think it’ll be great,” Decker said on a Zoom call Thursday. “I’m super excited for him. We were so excited when he got that job. He deserves it, because the dude works really, really hard. We’ve seen all the hours he puts in as the assistant o-line coach behind the scenes. So we’re excited to have ole’ Hank.”
Fraley has been coaching football for the past eight years. He spent his first two years in the college ranks before quickly jumping to the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 as an assistant. After a three-year stint there, he moved to UCLA, before the Lions snagged him in 2018.
Prior to his coaching career, Fraley played in the NFL for 11 seasons, mostly as a center. It’s that experience, Decker says, that makes him such a great teacher.
“He’s going to have that insight for the guys—especially playing on the inside—from a player’s perspective,” Decker said.
Plus there’s also the inherent level of comfortability with Fraley. Having a returning face as the unit’s coach will bring familiarity both in terms of language and expectations. In a shortened offseason that will require a quick jump from the start, that could be huge. And it’s just as important to have a coach that already knows his players, too.
“He obviously knows the guys in the room, and there’s a level of familiarity, and the guys are comfortable around him. Comfortable enough to ask questions,” Decker said.
The Lions could use the improvement this year. While their pass blocking was just about average last year—15th in pass block win rate, per ESPN—their run blocking still hasn’t reached the level the Lions want it at. Last year, Detroit averaged just 4.1 yards per carry (21st).
But Decker is hopeful that with a couple of new maulers in the lineup and a new, but familiar coach, that this could be one of the best units on the team.
“I think we’re ready to play some good football.”