Get used to seeing Logan Stenberg on the Lions offensive line. Filling in for right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai in Detroit's season-opener Sunday, Stenberg overcame some early jitters and held his own at a new position in his first NFL start.
"It felt great," said the third-year pro. "It validated some hard work that I’ve put in. It just felt good to get out there with my boys. There’s a lot to clean up, a lot to get better with, but it was a good starting point.”
It's been a crazy couple weeks for Stenberg. He battled his way back from the roster bubble with a strong performance at his natural position of left guard in the Lions' preseason finale, then found himself in the starting lineup at right guard in Week 1 after Vaitai went down with a back injury. Staring back at Stenberg on the Eagles' defensive line: six-time Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox.
It's enough to make a man jumpy. And jump Stenberg did on the sixth snap of the game as the Lions neared the end zone: "False start, offense, No. 71." And jump he did again on the snap after that: "False start, offense, No. 71." A giddy home crowd turned angry, booing No. 71 -- whoever he was -- for disrupting a strong opening drive.
On the field, right tackle Penei Sewell turned to Stenberg and smiled.
"I was like, 'Bro, you’re ready to get off the ball,'" Sewell said Monday.
Sewell remembers making the same mistake in his debut last season. He didn't want Stenberg to sweat it. So before the offense lined up for second and 20 from the Eagles' 25, Sewell said in his teammate's ear, "Fu*k that, bro."
"Like, everyone else is going to get on you, but I was like, 'Bro, it’s your first one. It happened to me,'" said Sewell. "I was telling him, I had the same thing wanting to get off the ball as quick as possible."
The Lions gained the 20 yards they needed on the next two plays, and punched it in the end zone two plays after that. Stenberg steadied himself and wound up helping Detroit rush for 181 yards against a strong defensive front. He played all 69 offensive snaps along with the rest of the starters on the O-line and sounds ready for more in Week 2 against the Commanders.
"Switching sides and going against Fletcher Cox on your first day isn’t ideal, but I think I got it done," said Stenberg. "Like I said, a lot to learn from. It's good (opponents) every week. It’s not like college. It’s Fletcher Cox this week, Daron Payne next week -- not that I’m looking (ahead)."
Vaitai is out until at least Week 5, and quite possibly longer than that. The job at right guard is Stenberg's until further notice. He has a long way to go in pass protection, which was clear to anyone who watched on Sunday. But if Stenberg keeps helping the Lions run the ball, they'll keep running him out there.
"For him to bounce back from those two false starts, man, he’s going to be money this season," said Sewell.
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