When the offseason began, the idea of an Oline overhaul began to emerge, and the Lions didn’t disappoint. After jettisoning the terrible Stephen Peterman, stalwart Jeff Backus retiring, and allowing Gosder Cherilus to depart in Free Agency, the Lions had one more move to make on the line and that was with their long time Center, Dominic Raiola. Despite early reports that he would be cut, Raiola instead restructured his contract which allowed the team to keep him on the roster for a manageable amount. With only a small handful of draftable prospects at Center that could contribute immediately, the Lions instead decided to move forward with Raiola entrenched as the starter and and the oft injured Bill Nagy fighting it out with long time veteran Dylan Gandy and 2012 UDFA Rodney Austin for the reserve Center spot, potentially earning a starting role. To make it more interesting, the Lions brought in two Undrafted Free Agents from the 2013 class to fight for the same roster spot. Skylar Allen is a nearly local product having played for the Ohio Bobcats while they also brought in former Kansas Jayhawk Trevor Marrongelli for a look in camp.
Statistics are not often notable for offensive linemen, who tend to rely on the stats of others (QBs and RBs) to better show their superior play. Skylar Allen has a pretty noteworthy statistic of his own, having recorded a ridiculous 77 pancake blocks and knockdowns in 2012. I considered Allen one of the more intriguing pickups of the Lions in UDFA, though I was somewhat let down after digging deeper. Most of Allen’s knockdowns were against the genuinely pitiful competition at the start of Ohio’s season, during which the Bobcats roared to a 7-0 start before dropping 4 of their last 5 games.
Going strictly by height and weight, Allen is undersized for the position, but his weight is not spread out on his frame how you’d like in a Center with one scout referring to his build as “sloppy”. He is a hard working ‘lunchpail’ type of player who I feel would give his all to put on the muscle weight he will need to compete at the NFL level. His athleticism is clearly limited, as is his ability to move laterally in space which is an absolutely essential skill in the Lions scheme. Allen worked and played well in the Bobcats scheme, which put of solid numbers in 2012 having rushed for over 2,600 yards for 24 TDs.
Quick out of his stance, Allen plays with a nasty streak that will be very endearing to Lions fans who are used to seeing a Center that gets bullied at the line. His functional strength is below where you’d like it to be, however, and he doesn’t push opponents around in the run game. An essential part of his game, at least for the Li0ns, is the underrated ability to snap from the shotgun with ease. I think as part of an established line, if given the time to build strength and technique, Allen has a good shot at having a long career in the NFL in the same way long term Lions Reserve Interior Lineman Dylan Gandy has. Having said that, the Lions do not have an established line.
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 288 lbs.
Fitting the trend of the past few years of Lions UDFA Olinemen, Marrongelli is slightly undersized but considered a hard worker and a very intelligent football player. Despite being a similar player to Allen, as Marrongelli is limited athletically with a strong work ethic and will have to fight just to land a PS spot, the former Jayhawk has one leg up on Allen in that he has experience playing Center and Guard, something the Lions have prized in their reserve interior linemen.
The Lions have held onto Dylan Gandy for years for this very reason, and kept the unknown Guard out of Elon, Rodney Austin, for that same reason last season. It is both of these two that Marrongelli will have to beat out in camp to have a shot to make the active roster, but barring that a good showing could land him on the practice squad.
Marrongelli plays nasty, hyper, and sometimes wild. That can be good, but lack of discipline can be exploited by savvy interior Dlinemen, of which the NFL has plenty. That said, a Center who likes to hit people can be a good thing, and it’s a known fact that attitudes like that can become contagious. Marrongelli lacks any elite measureables, and moves with very heavy feet and little speed despite his constant hustle. I think a shot at the Practice Squad is possible, but it would take a truly unprecedented improvement for him to make the final roster.
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 300 lbs.