Detroit Lions fans have been clamoring for an improvement at left tackle for years even though Jeff Backus has started 177 straight games.
This year in the draft, they got their wish, as the team took Iowa OT Riley Reiff with the 23rd overall pick. Clues to how the team plans on using Reiff this year are emerging as the team is conducting their first round of OTAs this week.
Reiff worked at right and left tackle in the Lions' rookie mini camp, and head coach Jim Schwartz said it was important that he learn both positions, according to Detroit Free Press beat writer Dave Birkett. Birkett reported that Reiff was big, agile and moved well in the mini camp, but Schwartz didn't want put too much stock in non-contact practices, refraining from heaping praise on the rookie.
With Birkett saying Reiff is expected to compete for a starting job on the offensive line, and veteran guard Rob Sims saying he thinks Backus will start at left tackle , the deployment of the Lions' offensive line in the first OTA practice was highly anticipated. Reiff lined up at left tackle...with the second team.
Chris McCosky of the Detroit News reports that Reiff wasn't even the only one to take left tackle reps with the backups, as swing tackle Jason Fox also got snaps there.
Schwartz employed a practice technique of leaving Reiff at one position (either right or left tackle) through an entire practice at rookie mini camp, even though Reiff was getting time at both positions over the course of the entire camp. That means Reiff's position through the rest of this OTA should tell a lot about whether Backus or right tackle Gosder Cherilus should be more worried about competition from Reiff in training camp.
For now, it looks like Reiff's main battle is with Fox to be the primary backup at both positions.