The Detroit Lions are just four days away from their season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, and coach Dan Campbell has still not decided how he’ll fill a key vacancy on the offensive line.
Earlier in the week, the Lions placed starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai on injured reserve. Vaitai suffered a back injury in the preseason finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers and will miss at least the first four games of the season. Campbell said the outlook, for now, is that he will not need surgery and it shouldn’t be season-ending.
“No,” Campbell said. “I mean, it could, I don’t know. But right now, we’re taking it day-by-day, week-by-week.”
The Lions have several options to replace Vaitai in the starting lineup. The most simple solution would be to promote second-year guard Tommy Kraemer from the reserves. Kraemer started two games for the team at right guard and has been repping at the position with the second-team offense for most of training camp.
“What I like about Tommy is you know exactly what you’re going to get,” Campbell said. “We know exactly who the player is, what he is. He’s a consistent player. He grew through the spring and through training camp. So he makes the most of what he has, he’s pretty dependable and he’s smart.”
UPDATE: Kraemer was not in attendance for Wednesday’s practice. At this moment, it’s unclear why, but the Lions will release an injury report around 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
But Campbell is leaving all options on the table, including disrupting two positions by moving another starter to right guard. Campbell brought up three potential scenarios like this:
- Moving All Pro center Frank Ragnow to right guard and having reserve Evan Brown start at center
- Moving right tackle Penei Sewell to right guard and promoting Matt Nelson to right tackle
- Moving Jonah Jackson from left guard to right guard and bringing up Logan Stenberg to start at left guard
“We’re exploring everything,” Campbell said. “We’re going to give a couple of different looks to guys today, (Kraemer) being one of them. We may shuffle some things up but we’ll come up with the best combination that we feel like is going to give us the best chance to win.”
Obviously, there is a concern with disrupting chemistry. The more players you move out of their natural position, the more opportunity there is for a lapse in communication or feel in between players. But Campbell didn’t seem to be too worried about that given the confidence he has in the group.
“Here’s what I do know, man, the o-line, as long as you get a group of guys that know how to work together and they’re tough and they’re smart, you can make great things happen, and we’ve got plenty of that still up there,” Campbell said.