NOTEBOOK: Lions value Riley Reiff's versatility

Heading into the free agency period and NFL Draft last offseason, there was some discussion as to what position Riley Reiff was best suited for – left or right tackle.

The simple fact those discussions can be had is a credit to how this coaching staff views Reiff's versatility.

"I think the good offensive linemen are flexible enough to play anywhere," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said of Reiff. "You see certain O-linemen that can only play one spot and I think that limits you as a offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, offensive line room when you have one guy that can only play one spot.

"I think having guys that are flexible, guys that could play another spot has a lot of value and I think (Reiff's) athletic enough and smart enough to handle whatever we would need."

But where might that be in 2016?

"I see him locking down our left tackle spot going forward," Cooter said.

The Lions selected Reiff in the first round in 2012 and he stands to make $8 million next year as the team picked up the fifth-year option of his rookie contract.

The only tackle drafted since Reiff by the Lions is Corey Robinson in the seventh round last season, but the position could be high on their wish list this offseason because of the rotating door they've had at right tackle since Gosder Cherilus left in 2013.

Michael Ola's given the position some stability at right tackle the second half of this season after being claimed off waivers, but adding a tackle via free agency or the draft is certainly a possibility this offseason.

If the Lions find an upgrade at left tackle, they could move Reiff to right tackle and kill two birds with one stone.

"I think that's worth considering," Cooter said when asked what position he sees Reiff playing in the future.

Pro Football Focus grades Reiff right in the middle of the pack as the 16th-best left tackle in the league. The website views him as a much better run blocker than pass blocker and credits him with having given up 38 hurries (sixth most by all tackles), six sacks and six quarterback hits.

"I just know one thing that he handles the toughest rushers there are in our league," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Reiff. "Some of those guys, he's not going to pitch a shutout. It doesn't happen. But I can tell you this, he'll win his fair share."

Reiff gives the Lions options this offseason. Having options come free agency and draft time is a good thing when the front office and coaching staff eventually sits down and tries to figure out how they can improve the play along the offensive line heading into next season.

"I think he's shown that he can play left tackle because he's done it," Caldwell said. "If you can play left tackle, you can play anywhere."

View practice photos from the Lions' final practice of the season.


The permanent general manager hired after the season will determine Caldwell's future as the head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Players have stood up for their head coach all week long, saying they want him back for a third season.

"Yeah man, I love him," Calvin Johnson said of Caldwell. "Everybody in the locker room would probably say the same thing.

"He commands respect, but he doesn't have to do much, it's just his character guys gravitate towards. Easily, one of my favorite coaches. I've had a couple good ones and (he's) one of my favorites."

As for Caldwell, he said it's never been his style to fight for his job.

"I don't defend myself in any way, shape or form," Caldwell said. "I don't believe in it. It's not a matter of fighting for my job.

"When you take a look at it, the record speaks for itself. I'm not going to go into any long sort of explanation or those kinds of things. I never have, never will."

The Lions are 17-14 under Caldwell in two seasons, with a playoff berth in 2014.


After nursing some injuries early on this season, Haloti Ngata has been playing better and showing up more on the stat sheet throughout the team's resurgence the second half of the season.

"That's a very difficult position to quantify his effect on what's happening in the defense, but when you watch the film, you know the scheme, he's been very productive for us," Caldwell said.

Ngata has 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks and has defended three passes in 13 games this season. He missed the Arizona and Chicago games Week 5 and 6 with a calf injury.

He had just six tackles and no sacks during the team's 0-5 start.

"He's been able to get some middle pressure in terms of his push, but he's also been able to help us in terms of the run game, keeping our linebackers free to run to the ball and he's been making some plays himself," Caldwell said.

"After he got through a few weeks there where he was kind of still nursing his injury a little bit as he was coming along, he's been playing well."

Ngata will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.


Safety Glover Quin (defense), quarterback Matthew Stafford (offense) and safety Don Carey (special teams) are the captains for Sunday's season finale in Chicago.

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