By: Will Burchfield
The impassive 23-year-old was pleased.
“I’ve said it a few times, I think it’s just cool to see this organization put a premium on offensive line,” said Decker, coming off an All-Rookie season at left tackle. “I obviously play that position so it’s cool for me to see. We drafted three guys my year and then we just brought in two highly-coveted free agents, a lot of teams wanted them, a lot of teams would like to have them.
“It’s cool to see that we’re building up front and now it’s just day to day, getting better and hopefully we’ll yield results from that.”
Wagner, Lang and Decker will likely be joined on the offensive line by Travis Swanson at center and Graham Glasgow at left guard. 2015 first-round pick Laken Tomlinson will fight for playing time as well.
Lang likes how it’s shaping up.
“I told all those guys on the O-line, we look like one of the best in the league on paper,” he said. “But we’ve got to work hard to prove it.”
The biggest challenge will be developing a sense of chemistry before the season begins. In that regard, Wagner and Lang are already making strides.
“So far, with their personalities, I think they fit really well and they get along with everybody,” said Decker. “I do think it’s a different dynamic playing next to different people, which I probably won’t experience this year, but for the other guys along the line. Once you get on the field, once the bullet starts flying and they’re learning the offense as well for the first time, there’s gonna be some feeling out.”
The Lions have been holding voluntary team workouts since last month. OTAs will begin toward the end of May, the first time the players will take the field together. Lang, still recovering from hip surgery, will have to sit out, and he knows what he’ll be missing.
“Just the experience of going out on the field and running through the drills and actually being forced to make the line calls and just kind of feel each other out. How does Ricky like to take his footwork on this particular block, what calls does Travis like to make? That’s something for me that’s obviously disappointing, but I’m going to have to make up for it,” he said.
Lang plans to watch carefully from the sidelines, chat with his teammates after certain plays and spend extra time in the meeting rooms. His fellow O-linemen might not feel his presence on the field, but they’ll see plenty of him.
“I’ll probably be annoying the hell out of ‘em asking a bunch of questions, but I was telling Ricky, ‘We don’t have a grace period to build chemistry.’ We’ve gotta show up day one and we’ve gotta be firing on all cylinders based on our contracts and why we came in here. I think that’s going to be a big key, for he and I especially, to make sure that we’re helping each other out along the way and we’re building chemistry even though we can’t be on the field together at the same time,” said Lang.
At 29 years old, Lang is the elder statesmen on the O-line. He has enjoyed getting to know his younger counterparts.
“Smart guys, a lot of energy too. Watching them, the way they talk and go back and forth in the meeting rooms and watching them work out in the weight room, those guys got a lot of juice to them,” said Lang. “It’s a hungry group of guys and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”