By: Eric Thomas
Reports trickled out on Monday that the Lions were in the discussion for former All Pro defensive end Osi Umenyiora. The report piqued fan interest and had journalists in Metro Detroit google-ing the correct spelling. If the Lions have interest in the former two time Super Bowl winner, that means they aren’t thinking DE in the draft and that leads one to believe they’re looking for an offensive tackle.
The most upsetting news from this offseason is that Riley Reiff isn’t a lock for the LT position. Lions GM Martin Mayhew may be employing his usual cloak and dagger routine, but if Reiff becomes a guard it’s the latest Lions disaster in the draft. The Lions took him to be a LT, easily the most important position on the OL, protecting Stafford’s blind side. Guard is a luxury in the NFL, reserved for teams that are going to pound the ball up the gut on the dive play. That’s not the Lions. They need OL guys who can get to the sideline and set up the screen.
Lions fans should still be celebrating, licking dried champagne off their knuckles from the big time signing of Reggie Bush. Instead, twenty-four hours later, the Lions had the equivalent of a plague of frogs raining on their parade. Suddenly the most reliable Lion, regardless of how he frustrated you, was hanging his cleats on a hook. This is bad. They signed Reggie Bush, whose entire game involves running along the sideline, and there is no starting tackle on this team.
It’s been the common call of Lions fans to complain about the offensive line. The OL has obviously had some noticeable mistakes over the years, chief among them in 2010 when the Lions lost two quarterbacks and Jason Hanson to injury, but overall it hasn’t been bad. When Jahvid Best was in the lineup, he ran the ball effectively. Stafford takes hits but he often has time to let Calvin get downfield. That’s all you can really ask for in a line.
Spin the radio roulette wheel in any city and the callers sing the same song. No matter who it is, the fans who played in High School (and of course the guy who coached a pee wee team) will tell you it starts up front. That’s true; it’s one of the most often used clichés in the game. If your team has a losing season, it must be the offensive line’s fault.
Never mind that the majority of the defenses the Lions faced were in nickel for much of the game and the offensive line went often unchallenged as teams played the pass, it must be the O-line. That’s the reason they couldn’t run the ball. Never mind that Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure have the same acceleration as a GMC Single Axle Dump Truck in open space, it must be the O-line regardless of the fact that none of them physically carry the ball.
It’s a common thing to say, but you might see it next year. There is going to be massive turnover on the line, maybe featuring a rookie in the most important place. You can only hope that Dom Raiola’s leadership and colorful use of profanity can get the job done on a rebuilt line. It’s not hopeless, but it would be nice to see a veteran free agent on the offensive line and a rookie allowed to go wild on the outside defensive line.
Either way, after a decade of calling Jeff Backus everything single name in the book there is something poetically ironic about how much every Lions fan will miss him. If the Lions spend their pick on the OL this year, there are plenty of candidates but it’s hard not to dream about one more year of Backus with a certified psycho DE playing next to Suh and Fairley.