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Detroit Lions backup offensive tackle competition ‘very much open’

Germain Ifedi and Matt Nelson are locked in a training camp battle for the backup offensive tackle job.

NFL: Preseason-New York Giants at Detroit Lions Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions boast one of the best offensive tackle duos in the NFL: veteran Taylor Decker manning the left side and Pro Bowler Penei Sewell protecting Jared Goff’s right. But the depth beyond those two is still very much up in the air.

Matt Nelson has served as the team’s backup tackle for the past two seasons, but the Lions made an effort to bring in more competition this year by adding seven-year veteran—and former first-round pick—Germain Ifedi to the room.

According to coach Dan Campbell, the competition between those two have been neck-and-neck.

“Right now it’s open,” Campbell said of the OT3 job. “It’s open and those guys knew that coming in here. I think Nelson and Ifedi are just going back and forth.”

Early in camp, Nelson has held down the left tackle position and appeared to have been the favorite to keep the spot. But he struggled early in the preseason game, and Ifedi did a good job locking down the right tackle position against the Giants. As a result, the two flipped sides in practice this week: Ifedi at left tackle, Nelson at right tackle.

“I thought Nelson’s had a pretty good camp, but I think Ifedi played pretty good in this game last week. He’s played a lot in this league,” Campbell said.

Experience will undoubtedly be a factor when deciding who wins the job—and that heavily favors Ifedi. Nelson has only played in 40 games and has 12 starts. Ifedi, on the other hand, has played in 102 games and started 83.

There is a third name to consider in the conversation: second-year tackle Obinna Eze. The 2022 undrafted prospect spent all of last year on the practice squad as a developmental project. And while Campbell acknowledged that Eze looks better this year than last, it sounds like there’s still a long route to go before he realistically enters the competition.

“(Eze) has really come a long way. There again, it’s just about the consistency, getting reps, and playing,” Campbell said.

This week should provide a nice challenge for the Lions offensive line, as the Jacksonville Jaguars are in town for a pair of joint practices, and they have a defensive line who can challenge the edges.

“They have length, they have ability, they’ve got speed on the perimeter, and pass rush,” Campbell said.

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