I know Matt Stafford has a lot to prove this year. His health is the constant topic of conversation when the national media talks about the Lions opportunities. Invariable, when an analyst is asked how the Lions will be in 2011, the answer 99 out of 100 times is, “it all depends on Matt Stafford”. When your season is resting on the shoulder of the talented signal-caller, there’s reason for concern. When he’s protected by an offensive line in it’s current state, you’re entitled to a full-out panic attack.
You know it’s bad when there’s a collective sigh of relief because Gosder Cherilus comes back to work. Yes, the same Gosder Cherilus who makes Jeff Backus seem appreciated. A healthy Backus and Cherilus are OK as a tackle tandem, but Cherilus’ set-backs in microfracture surgery coupled with Backus’ PUP visit for a chest injury puts a definite dark cloud over the season. The offensive line was thought to be one of the Lions top three needs going into the off-season and it wasn’t addressed at all. The Lions are seeing the repercussions of there lack of moves on the line now.
After Cherilus and Backus, Corey Hilliard showed a little promise at right tackle as did back-up left tackle, Jason Fox. Fox, however, injured his foot last week leaving his status in serious doubt. After that, the Lions have a former second round bust, Tony Ugoh, and seventh round pick Johnny Culbreath. Until the injury situation settles itself, and/or the Lions make a move for a veteran tackle, Matt Stafford’s play should be severely limited during the preseason…maybe to a couple of series total this preseason.
Honestly, if I were Martin Mayhew I wouldn’t even allow Stafford to take a snap in Friday’s game vs. the Bengals. While his continued development is important to the team, his health is far more crucial at this point and his first game action in nine months shouldn’t come with Ugoh as one of his starting tackles. According to reports out of Indianapolis, Ugoh filled in for a revolving door at Lucas Oil Stadium while it was under repair.
The last thing this team needs is a camp-fodder tackle blowing an assignment leading to another serious injury for their $42 Million signal caller. The easiest way to avoid this, is simply not play Stafford until it matters. It won’t make fans happy who are hungry to see if Stafford’s shoulder is truly sound, but it’s the right call.