Lions Will Continue to 'Challenge' Penei Sewell

Despite handsome new contract, Penei Sewell hasn't changed one bit.
Penei Sewell
Penei Sewell / Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports
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You'll be hard-pressed to find an offensive lineman in the league today better than Lions right tackle Penei Sewell

Sewell, a product of the University of Oregon, has lived up to the bill and then some since being selected by Detroit No. 7 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

A highly skilled run blocker and proficient pass protector, Sewell has recorded no less than a 77.0 Pro Football Focus overall grade since entering the league. Additionally, he's recorded a run-blocking mark of 83.0 or better, plus has allowed no more than five sacks in each of his first three NFL campaigns.

Then, this past season, the former Oregon lineman produced a career-best season. He logged a combined 1,178 regular season and postseason snaps on the line (second-most in the NFL), and amassed league-best marks among all offensive linemen in overall grade (92.8) and run-blocking (95.1). Sewell also permitted a career-low one sack and five quarterback hits, and earned All-Pro honors for his efforts.

As a result of his strong play to start his career, the Lions rewarded the American Samoan native with a four-year, $112 million deal this offseason, the richest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history. It contains a league-high average annual salary for an offensive lineman ($28 million) and also the most guaranteed money for an OL in the game today ($70 million).

Despite the handsome new contract, Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley doesn't think it's changed the fourth-year pro one bit. 

“I don’t think it changed him at all. It definitely didn’t change him in a bad way,” Fraley said of Sewell earlier this week. “The great thing about him is that he stays grounded and humbled. He definitely earned it. I’m so happy for him and his family for that. But, he’s still hungry as he was before he got that contract. Even out here. I get to see him daily, on a daily basis, work, and he just continues to work. It’s fun to watch him and ‘Hutch’ (Aidan Hutchinson) go against each other even in underwear, because they’re making each other better. He’s always grinding himself, trying to get better.”

Even though Sewell has already established himself as one of the NFL's very best offensive lineman, Fraley and Co. will continue to push the talented offensive tackle to get better.

“You’ve got to prove yourself every day,” Fraley expressed. “It’s what have you done for me lately here. It’s not, ‘I did that in the past.’ Every day, I’m proving not only to myself but to everybody that I can still be one of the best. That’s where he’s going. Not settling for just being good. I think that’s challenging him and himself. Good’s not always good enough. So, you’ve got to continue challenging him.” 

The next ‘Joe Thomas’ 

Before getting into coaching, Fraley had a long, successful career himself as an NFL offensive lineman.

Lining up primarily at center throughout his time in the league, Fraley played 10 seasons – most notably with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns. While with the Browns, he got the chance to play alongside Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Thomas.

Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons, and did not miss a single snap in his career until the 2017 campaign (his final season in the NFL).

To Fraley, there are some striking similarities between Sewell and the 2023 Hall of Fame inductee.

“He (Sewell) has the ability to become one of these really good players. I played with one that was a great player at one point, a great player in Joe Thomas,” Fraley commented. “He reminds me a lot of Joe Thomas. How he prepares, how he takes care of himself, his mental makeup and going out there on that daily grind to become a great player like Joe. That’s what I get to see, a daily competition within himself and with everybody else out here. It doesn’t stop.”


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Vito Chirco

VITO CHIRCO

Vito has covered the NFL and the Detroit Lions for the past five years.  Has extensive reporting history of college athletics, the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Mercy Athletics.  Chirco's work include NFL columns, analyzing potential Detroit Lions prospects coming out of college, NFL draft coverage and analysis of events occurring in the NFL.  Extensive broadcasting experience including hosting a Detroit Tigers podcast and co-hosting a Detroit Lions NFL podcast since 2019.