Why Riley Reiff Starting Could Be a Bad Sign for the Detroit Lions

J.P. Scott@TheJPScottSenior Analyst IAugust 12, 2012

Aug 10, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions offensive tackle Riley Reiff (71) and Cleveland Browns running back William Green (49) during the second half of a preseason game at Ford Field.  Cleveland defeated Detroit 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

It's no secret that the Lions have question marks at three different position groups heading into the 2012 season: secondary, running back and offensive line.

In April's NFL draft, Detroit made a terrific investment in its future by selecting offensive tackle Riley Reiff in Round 1. Reiff looks like he has all of the tools to develop into a franchise offensive tackle and provide Detroit with security on the left side of the line for a decade or more.

That said, depth is a huge concern for Detroit's offensive line today. 

Veteran offensive tackles Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus have both proven to be more than serviceable over the years. Barring injury, Backus should have enough gas in the tank to play at least another full season.

In the first preseason game of the year, Reiff looked solid in playing with the second team. His efforts were an integral part in helping the Lions rack up 198 rushing yards. He still, however, has room to grow and improve.

Given that, I don't like the idea of him beating out Backus or Cherilus. It is a given that when a starter goes down, you take a step back when the backup comes in. When the backup is a young guy, however, there is always the positive spin that he'll get better the more he plays.

If Reiff starts, it wouldn't necessarily mean he was good enough to be a legit tackle immediately, but would, in fact, indicate that one of the two tackles was not good enough to beat out a kid with no NFL experience.

Should Reiff go down to injury, whoever replaces him would not only be, by all accounts, not as effective, but a proven veteran who has already plateaued.

Ideally, Reiff continues his effective play, setting himself up to spell both Cherilus and Backus throughout the season and gain valuable experience before assuming his place as the franchise blindside guy.

Backus and Cherilus are both going to make the final roster. The Lions would be much better off with both as starters as opposed to them trying to mentor a terrific young prospect from a slot on the depth chart below him.