The release of veteran T.J. Lang this offseason left a void along the Detroit Lions’ offensive line at right guard. But Lions head coach Matt Patricia believes he has a number of options to fill that void.
“I think the thing is all of our players are out there competing and we'll give them opportunities to do anything they can to help the team,” Patricia said. “In the end, it may not always look conventional, so you may not always know what we're evaluating at the time but we are evaluating those guys.”
The Lions signed Kenny Wiggins last offseason. He made 10 starts for the injured Lang. He’s still under contract for the 2019 season.
The Lions also return fourth-year guard Joe Dahl, and they signed veteran Oday Aboushi, who’s made 32 career starts at guard, in free agency. Detroit could further bolster its numbers along the interior by taking an offensive lineman in next month’s draft with one of their nine picks.
Patricia also didn’t rule out the possibility of second-year offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby playing some guard.
“The game's a little bit different inside than it is outside for Crosby, so some of those situations we're gonna have to see if he can do that, but we'll do that with all of those guys,” Patricia said. “There will be a constant flux of positional – I don't want to call them situational where we're just seeing what they can do – but we'll put our guys in as many possible situations as we can, because what happens is you do it in the spring, you do it in training camp and even if that's a situation where you're like 'alright, this really isn't a great fit,' you do it then because, look, we go to a game, we're only gonna bring so many guys to a game, we're only gonna have so many active players.”
What it really comes down to for Patricia and the Lions is getting the best five players on the field upfront come September, so they may move a lot of players in and out of the lineup in the spring and in training camp to try and put together what they think is the best five-man combination.
Crosby played both guard and tackle in college, but the Lions used him as their third tackle last season during his rookie campaign.
Between Wiggins, Dahl, Aboushi, Crosby and a potential rookie, Patricia is confident they’ll find the right player to fit in at that open spot.
“You try to (give players reps) as much as possible ahead of time,” Patricia said. “So we'll mix that in or we'll put those players in those situations and try to simulate that whenever we can. And sometimes you do it and find out, ‘This guy's actually OK in this spot' and that's how they build a role from there.”