The Detroit Lions made a point to find upgrades in a number of personnel areas over the offseason, most notably in the additions of Reggie Bush and Glover Quin. Those additions come with a level of certainty that they will make the Lions a better team while for other changes, the proof will be in the pudding.
One important area that is still shrouded in uncertainty is the change at left tackle. The retirement of Jeff Backus puts the responsibility for protecting Matthew Stafford‘s blindside on Riley Reiff.
As a former first round pick, there is optimism that Reiff will be able to take over in a satisfactory way. However, the Lions’ interest in adding an elite left tackle in last April’s draft might put some doubt in the minds of Lions fans.
If you find yourself feeling more angst than comfort, you might be interested to hear that former NFL offensive lineman and current ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth believes the Backus to Reiff transition could be an upgrade. The nugget comes from a Carlos Monarrez piece for USA Today:
Schlereth and Gannon like Stafford’s toughness and ability. And even though both expect teams to test Riley Reiff, Jeff Backus’ replacement at left tackle, he might pass easily.
“I think that could be an upgrade at the left tackle position,” Schlereth said. “So I actually think that could be a better overall fit. Now, it’s going to take a little bit of time, obviously.”
The key question, if it does turn out to be an upgrade, is how long will it take? Backus took more than his fair share of criticism but he was a consistent reliable fixture of a Lions offensive line that did a good job keeping Stafford’s shirt clean. It is probably asking too much to expect Reiff to immediately pick up where Backus left off but might it happen by mid-season? By the end of the season? The start of 2014?
How that question is answered will likely go a long way towards determining what kind of season the Lions have in 2013 and where they put their focus in the offseason.
What are your expectations for Riley Reiff in 2013?