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Lions see Riley Reiff as their starting left tackle

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The Lions lost last year’s starting left tackle Jeff Backus to retirement and lost last year’s starting right tackle Gosder Cherilus to free agency. So it was surprising that they didn’t draft an offensive tackle.

But Lions coach Jim Schwartz says last year’s first-round draft pick, Riley Reiff, is ready to step in and protect Matthew Stafford’s blind side.

We drafted him as a left tackle,” Schwartz said of Reiff, via the Detroit Free Press. “Probably with the way things ended up here, we’ll probably start him off there. We have a lot of confidence in him. I mean, that’s why we drafted him last year.”

Reiff started one game at left tackle last year when Backus was hurt. Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard (who have each started five NFL games) will compete to start at right tackle. Throw in rookie Larry Warford as a starting guard, and the Lions will have three very inexperienced starters on the offensive line.

And so as the Lions prepare to give Stafford a nine-figure contract, they’re not investing a lot in the linemen who will protect him.

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31 Responses to “Lions see Riley Reiff as their starting left tackle”
  1. melkipershero says: Apr 30, 2013 1:13 PM

    Doesn’t he have the dreaded “short arms?” Seems like an overrated deal to me, but it must have some merit since so many teams abide by it.

  2. mayhemiv says: Apr 30, 2013 1:16 PM

    I believe if either Joeckel, Fisher, or Lane Johnson was available at their pick the lions would have taken them and put Reiff elsewhere on the line.

  3. thestrategyexpert says: Apr 30, 2013 1:18 PM

    The Lions have a ton of confidence in both Reiff and Fox as their Tackles. But every player the Lions have had in the last 10 years was on the roster for a reason, and that reason being that the Lions had a lot of confidence in each of them to make them Lions in the first place. The problem still remains in that these are the same decision makers that keep vouching for players that have a high rate of busting out or not proving to be value picks. There’s nothing wrong with Schwartz’s logic, there’s only something wrong with the integrity of the premise that everything is contingent upon. And that is his belief that the personnel managers are doing a good job of identifying the best possible players that can help this team now as well as secure the long-term future.

    Our choices and transactions aren’t doing a good job of contributing towards that sentiment however. So something has to give, and every year that ends up being our end of season record turning out to be a massive disappointment. We can’t seem to learn from our mistakes of the past.

  4. jdavis20 says: Apr 30, 2013 1:19 PM

    He may have shorter than average arm length, but he makes up for it with his quick feet and athleticism. He was rated the second best tackle in the draft last year and his short arm length may have dropped him to the Lions, but luckily for them he was available. I couldn’t imagine what they would’ve done if they went two drafts in a row without drafting a franchise left tackle for Matthew Stafford.

  5. izlez says: Apr 30, 2013 1:19 PM

    Anyone who was paying attention knew this a long time ago. We drafted him last year because he fell to us and we thought we had the luxury of drafting for the future. The coaching staff was never going to give him a chance to win the job over the established veterans.

    Well, now it’s the future and Backus is retired. He’ll step in at left tackle like the plan was all along. And there’s no reason to believe he can’t play left tackle like so many people are saying. He played phenomenal against the Texans in the 1 game he started in last year

  6. izlez says: Apr 30, 2013 1:21 PM

    And yes, IF one of the two elite tackles fell to the Lions this year, they probably would’ve take them and put Reiff at RT, but that’s not a shot at Reiffs abilities. Thats trying to improve your team based on whats in front of you

  7. seenable says: Apr 30, 2013 1:27 PM

    This sounds a lot like Schwartz is trying to convince himself that Reiff can play LT in the NFL, when in reality he has serious reservations (as does everyone else).

    P.S. @Mayhem,

    Ziggy was third on the Lions board. Mayhew leaked that little nugget a day ago in a radio interview.

  8. dtrb10 says: Apr 30, 2013 1:28 PM

    Jared Allen is gonna have a field day. Stafford won’t last to long!

  9. johnelwayishorsefaced says: Apr 30, 2013 1:29 PM

    So you consider a first round pick last year and a third round pick this year “not investing a lot in the lineman who will protect him (Stafford)? On what planet would that be true? Now maybe if you had said that they were lacking in experienced veterans to protect Stafford I would agree but otherwise this just seems like another in an endless line of subtle cheap shots at the Lions.

  10. johnelwayishorsefaced says: Apr 30, 2013 1:32 PM

    So you consider a first round pick last year and a third round pick this year “not investing a lot in the lineman who will protect him (Stafford)? On what planet would that be true? Now maybe if you had said that they were lacking in experienced veterans to protect Stafford I would agree but otherwise this just seems like another in an endless line of subtle cheap shots at the Lions.

  11. Norseman says: Apr 30, 2013 1:33 PM

    Lions did what they could to draft OL – they didn’t get the OT to fall to them in the 1st round, but they got a great pick in the 3rd with Warford.

    I think Reiff was their first pick last year, but definitely has some drawbacks with the short arms, as arm length is a big deal in being able to stop DEs in the pass rush.

    But, with all the losses in the off-season (and OL was not great before the losses) the Lions are going to need Reiff and Warford to step up in order not to lose ground on last year.

  12. getadealdonealready says: Apr 30, 2013 1:35 PM

    Allen in a contract year going against him twice…..I’m afraid my Vikings won’t be able to afford Allen next year after that!

  13. mvp43 says: Apr 30, 2013 1:37 PM

    Well, if he continues the trend in Detroit, he’ll be playing for the prison team soon enough.

  14. buddysguys says: Apr 30, 2013 1:39 PM

    at least someone does….another overrated Iowa lineman. Guy has guard written all over him.

  15. flickaboogie says: Apr 30, 2013 1:53 PM

    Jeff Backus had 32.5″ arms and started at LT 12 years for the Lions. Riley Reiff has 33.25″ arms and is much younger, I think he”ll do alright.

  16. source7769 says: Apr 30, 2013 1:59 PM

    Cant see how the Lions are confident with Fox when they arent even confident he can stay healthy

  17. tokyosandblaster says: Apr 30, 2013 2:00 PM

    Lions also see 4-12 as a good season.

  18. grudenfan says: Apr 30, 2013 2:00 PM

    Where are these “short arms” posts coming from? His arms were measured at 33 1/4″ last year at the combine. Fisher and Joeckel measured at 34 1/2 and 34 1/4, respectively. At worst, Reiff is short of ideal, but still not below average, for arm length at that position.

    I have no clue whether he can play that position this season, but I also don’t know of any reason why he couldn’t. I’m more worried about RT for the Lions than LT.

  19. lks311 says: Apr 30, 2013 2:08 PM

    Reiff was drafted to be Backus’ replacement because he fell to them due to his short arms. I think they were comfortable sliding him into the Left Tackle position without any qualms. Then, they took a pratfall this past year and they were in a position to draft a, potentially, even better LT and move Reiff to RT—which would have made awesome bookends…but it didn’t happen.

    So, now Reiff is the LT and either Fox (who’s issue isn’t talent, but durability) or Hilliard will man the Right. No issues here…no more than any other team without a top Five drafted LT. Let’s move on. Next subject.

  20. beedubyatoo says: Apr 30, 2013 2:22 PM

    I couldn’t imagine what they would’ve done if they went two drafts in a row without drafting a franchise left tackle for Matthew Stafford.
    Reiff is going to have to have more than one stop-gap start, before he can be called a “franchise left tackle”.

    Of course given the Lions’ lack of success for the past 10 years, that may be their standard for the new normal.

  21. garyhd01 says: Apr 30, 2013 2:24 PM

    riley reiff left tackle sound a bit like the rams roger saffold left tackle hope riley is ok with the move back to the right when you get a real left tackle that’s if you don’t get Stafford killed this year we got jake long as our blindside protector and said we were gonna move saffold to the right he immediately indicated thru his agent he wanted a trade he has since backed down but I expect him to declare for free agency next year because he wants left tackle money hope Detroit doesn’t have same problem with reiff

  22. thestrategyexpert says: Apr 30, 2013 2:38 PM


    That’s a good question about having confidence in Fox since he has yet to be healthy. But the Lions drafted him in a very low round because of major injury concerns and he has been dealing with those issues the entire time he has been in the league. He will be healthy for the first time in his professional career when Week 1 arrives. So this is not a recurring problem with Fox, it’s just dealing with 1 concern that lasted a really long time and that particular concern doesn’t exist anymore. Thus the Lions are confident he can play to the level that he would have been drafted sans the injury.

  23. purpleguy says: Apr 30, 2013 2:44 PM

    If the guy was such a great first round draft pick, why did he play more as a TE in the jumbo package than as an actual OT? And I sincerely hope the answer isn’t that there were more talented OT’s on the team last year, because if so, T-Rex arms will have a long year.

  24. trebor64 says: Apr 30, 2013 2:47 PM

    Reiff will be a better player this year, one year of experience helps a lot especially for a Offensive Lineman. It’s not the arm length that counts its what’s between the ears…

  25. broccolilava says: Apr 30, 2013 3:25 PM

    Riley Rieff played great last year. He held up really well in the LT spot as a rookie and blasted guys off the line at TE. Jeff Backus gets hated on but could start at LT on most teams in the NFL. Now, it’s Reiff’s turn.
    I, for one, am excited to have a new era on the OL. These guys can all play and it’s cool seeing some fresh faces in there. I guess that’s just me being a fan instead of a comments section expert.

  26. myschwartzisbiggerthenyours says: Apr 30, 2013 3:29 PM

    Reiff has longer arms than both Joe Thomas and Jake Long, he will be fine.

  27. donkeydrew says: Apr 30, 2013 3:31 PM

    lol @ all the lions homers acting like reiff is a known commodity at LT. good luck facing matthews, allen and peppers 6x in division games alone.

  28. mrwright313 says: Apr 30, 2013 3:33 PM

    I’m still way more concerned with the interior of the line than I am with the edges. That’s been a common thread for years now. Raiola is just too small to keep middle pressure out of the backfield; you can see it on passing downs and in the running game.

  29. classactcalvin81 says: Apr 30, 2013 3:40 PM

    Arm length Shmarm length! Reiff gonna put Allen and anyone else who comes at him on their arse this season.. Beast Mode Fellas Go D!!

  30. moeman79 says: Apr 30, 2013 4:04 PM

    After over a decade of top 10 draft picks you would think the Lions would put a good team together, I mean the Texans did it. Maybe the lions just like Detroit are just meant to rot away.

  31. audioflint says: Apr 30, 2013 5:07 PM

    I’m not his biggest fan, but Bryant McKinnie (OT) is still available. Or…I think Brandon Moore (OG) is too. If the money works out we could use the depth. Ahem…Stafford deal? Shoot, I’d take Freeney on the D-line too if possible. His price keeps plummeting.

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