Penei Sewell had a standout rookie season starting games at left and right tackle, and Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell said veteran left guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai deserves an assist for Sewell’s play.
Sewell and Vaitai formed a close relationship last season, while playing part of the season side by side, with Campbell joking the two would “go and drink Kava together at night.”
Vaitai’s parents are Tongan, while Sewell spent the early part of his childhood in American Samoa.
Detroit Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell (58) talks to offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (72) during warm-ups Friday, Aug, 13, 2021 before a preseason game against Buffalo Bills at Ford Field in Detroit.
“No, listen, it’s been good,” Campbell said. “It’s been good because Big V is, he’s kind of a calming presence. He is smart, he’s a veteran guy. He’s been there and so that was somebody that he did gravitate to early and it did just kind of help him along the way. And so they have a great relationship.”
Sewell has spent the spring practicing primarily at left tackle while Taylor Decker recovers from a late-season foot injury.
He is expected to shift back to right tackle during the regular season, with Vaitai playing his second full year at right guard.
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Sewell earned the highest grade of any Lions offensive lineman from Pro Football Focus last season. He allowed seven sacks, but just one of those came in his final eight games at right tackle.
Decker said earlier this spring he “100%” expects Sewell to make a big jump as a player in Year 2.
“I think especially down the stretch last year, he was playing great and he’s just young,” Decker said. “And him this offseason, (he has) gotten significantly stronger, at least from what I’ve seen in the weight room. And then I think with him, and this reaches back to going into the stretch last year, just confident.