The Detroit Lions' depth and needs along their offensive line are starting to come more into focus after head coach Dan Campbell spoke to the media via Zoom on Monday.
Asked specifically about the plans for veteran tackle/guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Campbell said while Vaitai does have position versatility, the thought right now is to play him inside at guard.
"Until we get our eyes on him and see kind of where he fits the best, it's hard to just put that in stone," Campbell said. "But I will say this, and we've talked to him about it, we're a little intrigued about moving him inside to guard. That does intrigue us. We may as a starting point work there and see where we're at."
Vaitai missed six games this past season due to injury, beginning with a foot injury suffered right before the start of the regular season that lingered all year. In the 10 games Vaitai did play, he played guard for every snap in five games, right tackle every snap in four games, and split between right guard and right tackle Week 6. He played 282 snaps at right guard and 168 snaps at right tackle last season, his first year in Detroit after signing as a free agent last offseason.
If that indeed ends up being the plan, Detroit would have Taylor Decker at left tackle, Jonah Jackson at left guard, Pro Bowler Frank Ragnow at center, Vaitai at right guard and Tyrell Crosby, Matt Nelson and Dan Skipper in the mix at right tackle. That's a solid foundation with opportunities to add in free agency and the draft. The Lions hold the No. 7 pick in the draft.
"We've got enough guys on this roster where between (Vaitai), Crosby and Nelson, and you kind of let them fight it out a little bit and just see who comes out and who fits best where," Campbell said.
"Again, that's tentatively right now before we've done anything else free agency or in the draft. But I would say the thought of moving (Vaitai) inside would intrigue us a little bit."
Crosby, who is entering a contract year in 2021, has been a capable tackle when given the opportunity to play. Nelson, who was converted from defensive line to offensive line after entering the NFL, was thrown into his first action last season and didn't allow a sack or quarterback hit in 152 pass-blocking reps.
Oregon's Penei Sewell and Northwestern's Rashawn Slater are considered the top tackle prospects in the draft, and there's certainly a possibility one of those players could be there for the Lions at No. 7.
Detroit's got a new quarterback in Jared Goff, a completely revamped receiver corps and some new pieces at both tight end and running back. The glue to keep it all going are those five guys upfront along the offensive line. That's an area where Detroit looks to be in a pretty good spot – with the potential to get even better – heading into 2021.