We all know that the Detroit Lions need an upgrade at the tackle positions. Let’s review:
Jeff Backus has lost a step over the years, but is also playing through a debilitating pectoral injury that has adversely affected his strength. Can we ever expect Backus to return to the performance level that he played at in 2010?
Backus’ protégé, Jason Fox, is a second-year player who can’t stay healthy. He was shelved for most of the 2010 campaign with an ACL, and now is rehabbing a foot injury. In the few snaps that Fox has played, he has looked adequate, at best. This year, we need to see Fox in the lineup in order to accurately assess his value going forward.
Ideally, Fox would get the starting nod at LT and Backus would move inside to the RG position where he can mentor RT Gosder Cherilus. Backus’ pectoral injury casts doubt on this happening now, or in the future.
On the right side, Gosder Cherilus is in his fourth year as a pro. In other words, we are seeing Cherilus’ ceiling and it’s pretty low. Cherilus’ run blocking is indicative of a Lions O-line that ranks near the bottom in the NFL in running offense and run blocking.
Corey Hilliard is barely adequate as a swingman depth player on both sides of the line, but looks more comfortable on the right side. Hilliard isn’t the answer, but does provide serviceable depth.
Do any of the tackles available in the 2012 NFL draft represent an immediate upgrade in talent? This offensive tackle draft class is uncharacteristically thin in NFL-ready candidates, but deep in developmental talent that will have impact in 2013 and beyond.