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Ranking the Detroit Lions’ options at left tackle

Who will win the starting left tackle job? We run through each candidate.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After Taylor Decker went down with a torn labrum in his shoulder, the Detroit Lions didn’t stand pat. In the past two weeks, they’ve added three offensive tackles to the roster, while switching the position of another offensive lineman to add more competition at the position.

In all, the Lions will be entering training camp in a month with a surplus of options at the position, each with their pros and cons that come with it. Let’s run through each of the Lions’ options and the chances they could actually win the job.

Greg Robinson

Why he will win the job

Though the Lions only spent a sixth-round pick to acquire Robinson, they devoted a pretty big chunk of their salary cap to him. In all, Robinson will get paid $3.3 million—all of which is guaranteed—which is a higher salary than both T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner will be getting paid this year. Considering the Lions only had a very limited amount of cap space left at this point in the offseason, it shows they are truly devoted to make it work.

On top of that, Robinson has all of the potential in the world left. He’s only 24 years old, and his physical talent is undeniable. Former Lions offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz wrote an excellent article explaining why Robinson could realize all of that potential in Detroit’s offensive scheme:

The Lions offensive line philosophy is simple and precise. There aren’t lots of drills, and the drills they do have are concise with a purpose. In my best season, 2013 in Kansas City, I played under the same system. I can’t rave about it enough. There is no overcoaching; no useless techniques taught. This will all benefit Robinson in the both the run and pass game.

A dominant run blocker like Robinson was in college doesn’t just lose the ability in the NFL. He needs some fine-tuning. Detroit will get the most out of him.

Why he won’t win the job

Robinson didn’t just struggle with the Los Angeles Rams, he was horrible. His Pro Football Focus grades were regularly among the worst at his position. He was the most penalized player in the league in his first three years. He was moved around all over the offensive line with the Rams. There’s literally not a single thing to point to as a success in the NFL.

Just look at what Turf Show Times told us about Robinson’s career with the Rams:

Rams fans will find it impossible not to liken his career to his predecessor in Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick from the 2009 NFL Draft who similarly flamed out with the Rams. I think it will take a massive effort from your coaching staff to help Robinson avoid the same fate as Smith who left for the Jets after three years for a single season and was out of the NFL entirely not long after.

Chances of winning the job: 50%

Overall, the Lions just invested too much into Robinson for him to, at the very least, make the final 53-man roster. His extreme struggles are very worrisome, but the talent is there. Can the Lions untap that potential in the next three months leading up to the regular season? That is the biggest question facing the team right now,

Cyrus Kouandjio

Why he will win the job

This was an overlooked signing on Thursday after Robinson stole all of the headlines. Kouandjio was a former second-round pick with the Buffalo Bills, but unlike Robinson, he’s had a little bit of success in the NFL.

Though Kouandjio’s NFL career could also be defined as a big disappointment, he seemed to finally settle into his role as a backup with the Bills in 2016. In his seven games of spot-duty at left tackle, Kouandjio actually played fairly well, earning the highest PFF grade among all backup tackles:

Why he won’t win the job

Kouandjio is still recovering from hip surgery after suffering the injury at home back in January. Jim Caldwell said Kouandjio wasn’t healthy enough to practice on Thursday, but “he’s going to work to get ready as quickly as possible.”

That rehab will put him at disadvantage heading into training camp, and it’s theoretically possible that he could start camp on the PUP list.

Chances of winning the job: 25%

Of all the candidates, Kouandjio has the most success in the NFL at left tackle. However, without knowing how close he is to returning from the hip injury, it’s hard to gauge where he’s at in the competition. I think he has a really good chance to compete, but if he’s not able to make it on the field, this may be more of a long-term backup signing.

Corey Robinson

Why he will win the job

Robinson is still very young and could potentially have a promising career as a career backup or occasional starter.

After spending most of his rookie year inactive for the Lions in 2015, Robinson ended up starting three games at right tackle last season, getting the nod over his senior Cornelius Lucas. The results were mixed—earning just a 47.1 grade from PFF—but the fact that he worked his way into the lineup speaks volumes on what Detroit thinks of him.

Why he won’t win the job

He’s injured, plain and simple. Robinson has had injury issues since joining the league, starting on the PUP list for the 2016 season, and ending on the injured reserve. The foot injury that ended his season apparently is still bothering him, and Robinson has yet to practice with the team this offseason. At this point, we don’t know where he’s at in his recovery, but six months into the injury, he still hasn’t made it back onto the field. That can’t be good.

Chances of winning the job: 15%

Robinson has a high enough ceiling to seriously compete for the job, but the injury will continue to hold him back if he can’t make it on the field.

Cornelius Lucas

Why he will win the job

Lucas, along with Joe Dahl, has been getting reps with the first-team offense ever since Taylor Decker was lost to injury. Lucas has the most experience within the Lions’ system of any candidate to win the job. In three years with Detroit, Lucas has made six starts, filling in both as a left and right tackle. The Lions were happy enough with Lucas’ play that they offered him a restricted free agent tender this offseason.

Why he won’t win the job

Experience is one thing, but success is another. Lucas has a bunch of the former, little of the latter. At this point, the Lions know what they have in Lucas, and the results haven’t exactly spoken for themselves. Lucas earned just a 55.4 overall grade with PFF last year, and he wasn’t any better in the previous two years.

Chances of winning the job: 9%

If Lucas wins the left tackle job, the Lions are in trouble. Detroit has always looked at Lucas as a backup. If you need proof of that, just look at how Bob Quinn made offensive tackle a huge priority over the past two offseasons, drafting Taylor Decker with Detroit’s first-round draft pick in 2016, then signing Rick Wagner to a huge free agent contract back in March.

Joe Dahl

Why he will win the job

The Lions made a pretty bold move by moving Dahl back to tackle after the Decker injury. Dahl has been praised plenty for his versatility, and with a boatload of raw potential, Detroit could theoretically make the move and expect a modicum of success from the former Washington State Cougar.

Why he won’t win the job

At this point, it sounds like the Joe Dahl Left Tackle Experiment is over. When the Lions added both Greg Robinson and Kouandjio, it was a pretty clear sign that things weren’t working out with Dahl.

Heck, Jim Caldwell nearly said as much when asked if the roster additions meant Dahl was moving back to guard. “Obviously, some things will change in that regard,” Caldwell said. Though he did walk that back a little, saying, “That’s one we’ll consider, but he has some flexibility, obviously.”

Still, it seems like Dahl will slide back to the interior, where Detroit was planning to play him ever since they drafted him in the fifth round last year.

Chance of winning the job: 1%

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