By: WIll Burchfield
Taylor Decker, the Lions' first-round draft pick in 2016, is beginning to look like the team's starting left tackle. But you did not hear that from him.
"I'm just playing wherever they tell me to play, doing whatever they tell me to do. I played both sides in college so, again, just trying to get better as a football player and get a better understanding of the offense every day," said Decker, at the conclusion of the Lions' minicamp on Thursday.
Through organized team activities and minicamp, Decker was featured predominantly at left tackle on the starting offensive line. This arrangement pushed incumbent left tackle, Riley Reiff, over to right tackle, at least in practices open to the media. Decker was asked what kind of influence the veteran Reiff has had on him so far.
"Again, I'm just doing what my coaches tell me and then doing what the veterans tell me, because they've been here and I haven't played one snap in this league," he replied. "So they're good people to learn from and [Reiff's] a great one, he's a great one to learn from."
If Decker does indeed open the season at left tackle, the Lions stand to have one of the youngest offensive lines in the league. That's assuming third-round pick Graham Glasgow beats out Travis Swanson at center and fifth-rounder Joe Dahl wins a spot at left guard. That's a lot to ask, of course, but the idea of a formidable young trio anchoring the offensive line for years to come is a hard one to dismiss.
Not for Decker.
"I mean I think that would be a question that would be answered down the road," he said. "I'm not going to live in the future, I'm going to live in the present right now, and focus on getting better right now and our group getting better, so that's my focus right now.
Decker is the Lions' rookie drawing the most attention, but he isn't alone in his businesslike approach. And coach Jim Caldwell has appreciated the group's laser-like focus – even if it's cost him a few laughs.
"I think I told you early on, they're a very serious-minded group. That's the thing that jumps out at you. I mean, these guys act like they're 40 years old in terms of their focus and determination. They don't smile a whole lot because they're so concentrated on their work. I don't think they understand old man jokes, anyway. They hardly ever laugh at my jokes when I do tell a few here and there."
There was humor, whether Decker meant for it or not, in the way he answered questions on Thursday. His resistance to reveal anything about the team's plans for him at left tackle was firm. And it led to an interview session in which Decker could have left a voice recording in his place.
Given the number of snaps he's taken at left tackle, Decker was asked if he feels the position is his heading into training camp.
"Again, I'm just playing wherever they tell me to play, doing what the coach tells me to do, with the techniques, all the spots he's telling me to play. So I'm just out here trying to ingest as much information as possible and as much technique and learn as much from our group of linemen as I can," he said.
Caldwell, for his part, wasn't much more forthcoming. He declined to name Decker the Lions' starting left tackle, looking toward the next phase of the offseason for more answers.
"What you've seen out there on the field, obviously he still works both a little bit. He's playing more left tackle than anything else at this point. So, you know, pads go on when we come back, alright? So we'll see what's happening."
Before Decker's interview ended, a reporter took one last stab at his steely exterior, one final crack at his poker face. Has Decker spent more time at right tackle or left tackle so far with the Lions?
"I couldn't say. I'm just playing wherever they tell me to play. I'm not counting my reps at each position."
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