By: Will Burchfield
The Lions’ no-huddle offense was a hot topic this week at team headquarters in Allen Park.
Taylor Decker, in typically cool fashion, wasn’t one fanning the flames.
“It’s something I’ve always done,” he said, “so it’s no different to me than what I did in college.”
Decker, the Lions’ first-round pick and starting left tackle, spent four years at Ohio State in virtually the same offensive system the Lions are installing now. So while most of his teammates have raved about trying something new, Decker brushed it off as a continuation of the norm.
“It’s nothing different. I mean, different plays, different terminology for the plays, but as far as calling plays at the line of scrimmage, it’s very, very similar,” he said.
Decker’s mild disposition belies his lack of NFL experience. He speaks as if he’s been in the league for a number of years, unfazed by any question thrown his way. That bodes well for his development at left tackle, where every week the rookie will have to stare down a new challenge.
“I say this all the time and it’s indeed a fact. The first week he had a chance to certainly work against a guy that’s probably a future Hall of Famer. He’s a little bit shorter than the norm but just a powerful individual,” Jim Caldwell said, referring to James Harrison of the Steelers.
“Last week [against the Bengals] he got a chance to work against some guys that are 6’7” and 6’6” that can also rush the passer. This week he’ll get another opportunity. I’m not certain if [Terrell] Suggs is playing, but if he is, he’s going to get a powerful, big, rugged individual, or if [Elvis] Dumervil is on his side he’s going to get a guy that looks a lot like Harrison.”
It’s been baptism by fire for Decker, and that’s the nature of playing left tackle in the NFL. Just when one assault ends, another one begins.
“That’s a tough position. It’s a high-difficulty position,” said offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. “He’s doing well. He’s learning new things as we’re seeing every day. I’m excited about having him out there. I’m excited about watching him continue to grow and get better and help our offense.”
Through two preseason games, Decker has looked steady at times, vulnerable at others. That’s to be expected for a rookie – especially one at his position – but overall Caldwell has been pleased with Decker’s development.
“With him, you know, he’s a pretty well-rounded guy, hence where he was drafted. He can move his feet, he’s coming along. There’s not anything he’s excelled at, at this point, but he’s doing awfully well for this stage of the game,” the coach said.
In that same vein, Decker declined to pick out one area in which he needs to improve.
“Just try to get better week to week any way I can, and play more consistently,” he said.
There will be inevitable ups and downs along the way, and Decker will likely downplay both. He is as unflappable as he is talented, two traits that will serve him well at a most demanding position.
“He’s got the makings to do exactly what we think he’s going to be able to do,” Caldwell said.