As we start to look ahead to training camp, we're going to take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions roster. Next up is the offensive tackle position.
With Jeff Backus retiring and Gosder Cherilus departing in free agency, the Lions are going to have two new starters at offensive tackle this year. With no real veterans on the roster at this position, inexperience is the theme for the Lions' offensive tackles going into the 2013 season.
Riley Reiff, who is entering his second season in the NFL, is slated to take over at left tackle for Backus. Reiff actually made a total of eight starts last season, but only one of them came at left tackle. The other starts were as the Lions' sixth offensive lineman, so his experience at left tackle is pretty limited in the NFL. Even so, considering the Lions made him a first-round pick with the intention of someday starting him at left tackle, the expectation is for him to get the job done.
At right tackle, Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox are readying to battle for the starting job in training camp. Hilliard has actually made five starts in his career, all of which came with the Lions. Fox has only been a part of five total games in his three-year career, but many view him as the favorite to beat out Hilliard. Even if he doesn't, Hilliard's starting experience is still pretty limited, and the Lions will be breaking in a new starter at right tackle either way.
LaAdrian Waddle and Austin Holtz, who both signed with the Lions earlier this offseason as undrafted free agents, are expected to battle for the final roster spot at offensive tackle. The early reports suggest that Waddle has the edge, but his chances of making the 53-man roster could go down quite a bit if the Lions decide to bring in a veteran tackle at some point.
Need going forward?
The Lions have players ready to step in as starters, but whether or not they will actually be effective remains to be seen. If these projected starters struggle, the Lions may be forced to add a veteran before the season. They can't take chances when it comes to protecting Matthew Stafford, so if Reiff, Hilliard and/or Fox aren't getting the job done, chances are they will have to spend their last bit of cap space on adding some help at tackle.
Even if the new starters do get the job done, the Lions could stand to benefit from signing a veteran tackle as extra depth. The Lions could be in a lot of trouble if the injury bug strikes at offensive tackle with depth being so thin. So far, the Lions haven't felt a need to bring in extra depth, but they could easily change their mind as the summer progresses.