The 2013 season will be indoctrination by fire for the offensive tackles that win starting spots

Posted Jul 14, 2013

Within the NFC North, the Lions offensive tackles will face some of the NFL's best edge rushers twice in 2013

The Detroit Lions have a lot of confidence that second-year left tackle Riley Reiff can step in for retired veteran Jeff Backus and protect quarterback Matthew Stafford's blind side in 2013.

"When we drafted him, the reason we drafted him is we thought he was a long term left tackle," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of Reiff last month.

"Whether he can hold that position, whether he can be productive for us there, that will be determined, again, training camp and preseason games and things like that. That's where he's going to settle in."

The Lions seem to have the same kind of confidence on the right side with whomever wins the competition for that starting job between Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard.

"Guys like Riley Reiff or Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard, those guys have been around here for a few years now," Schwartz said. "They've been through a lot of training camps and things like that. So, it's not like we're really working a lot of new guys in there."

There will be at least three new starters on the offensive line this year after the departure of Backus (retirement), tackle Gosder Cherilus (free agency) and guard Stephen Peterman (release). How good the offensive line can be and how soon they can mesh together as starters is one of the really big question marks remaining on a Lions roster that might be its most talented in more than a decade.

Last season, the offensive line allowed just 29 sacks, which were the ninth fewest of 32 teams. The NFL average a season ago was 37 sacks allowed and 35 among the 12 playoff teams.

The Lions will find out starting Week 1 vs. Jared Allen and the Vikings how good their new tackles can be. In fact, 2013 will be indoctrination by fire for Reiff, Fox, or whomever else might win the tackle spots.

The Lions faced five of the league's top 13 sack leaders last year. Among those, they'll see Allen (12.0), Green Bay's Clay Matthews (13.0) and Chicago's Julius Peppers (11.5) twice.

The Lions are looking for a smooth transition from the old guard to the new upfront. How smoothly that goes will be a big factor in how good the Lions will be on offense this year.

Edge pass-rushers on the Lions' 2013 schedule

WkPlayerTeam2012 sackscareer sacks
1, 17 Jared Allen Vikings 12 117.0
4, 10 Julius Peppers Bears 11.5 111.5
5/13 Clay Matthews Packers 13 42.5
7 Michael Johnson Bengals 11.5 23.0
8 DeMarcus Ware Cowboys 11.5 111.0
15 Terrell Suggs Ravens 2* 84.5
16 Jason Pierre-Paul Giants 6.5 27.5
* - 5 games