Riley Reiff, the Lions first-round pick last April, was thought to be Jeff Backus’ replacement at left tackle. Now it’s not so clear. (Daniel Mears/Detroit News)
Phoenix — Riley Reiff, the Lions first-round pick last year, is going to start in 2013.
The question right now is where?
"On the one hand, it's great he can play so many positions," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said Monday. "On the other hand, it's really causing a problem because he probably wants to know where he plays more than anybody else so he can start preparing himself mentally. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
"I can see him at left tackle, but we'll have to wait and see how things go."
The Lions are in the midst of overhauling an offensive line that had been intact the last three seasons. Three-fifths of that line — right guard Stephen Peterman, right tackle Gosder Cherilus and left tackle Jeff Backus — are gone.
Veteran center Dominic Raiola is coming back at a very-reduced salary and may, for the first time in a decade, have to fight for his spot.
Only left guard Rob Sims will enter offseason workouts with a spot fairly secured.
"There's a lot to be seen," Mayhew said. "(Reiff) can play four positions. Obviously, we're still acquiring players, whether through free agency or the draft, or any other trade possibilities. A lot of things out there are in motion. Because he can play four spots, he's sort of that moving piece at this point."
The other pieces currently involved include tackles Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard, guard-centers Bill Nagy and Dylan Gandy and guard Rodney Austin. Coach Jim Schwartz explained Wednesday that Nagy, who spent last season on injured reserve, was 50-50 between guard and center.
"You will see him at both positions through the offseason, camp and preseason," Schwartz said. "Once we get into the season, if he is a starter, then he will stay at one position.
"If not, then he will continue to work at both."
The Lions drafted Reiff to replace Backus at left tackle, and in one start last season, handled the position well.
But, Fox and Hilliard could end up being the starting tackles.
Or, with the fifth pick in April's NFL draft, the Lions could select one of three highly-touted left tackle prospects — Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel or Oklahoma's Lane Johnson.
If that happened, Reiff could end up at right guard, which would intensify the competition at center between Raiola and Nagy. Or, Reiff could end up at right tackle, Nagy at right guard and Raiola at center.
Schwartz, though, stopped short of saying the waiting game was in any way hurting Reiff's development.
"He is a little bit in limbo, but we're not practicing right now," he said. "It's not like he's being set back. It's not like we're spinning our wheels with him playing defensive line or anything like that. All of our guys are just training and conditioning on their own.
"There is no setback. We cross-trained him at a lot of positions last year."
Schwartz was asked if Reiff had to change his body weight depending on his position?
"We want him to be as big as he can and as agile as he can," Schwartz said. "As soon as more size takes away from agility and movement, then it's too much weight. He's a young guy and he's just going to naturally put on weight. He wasn't undersized where he was."
Schwartz said he felt no trepidation about retooling the line; far from it. He said the team was ready to do this last year.
"We got wiped out at receiver, defensive tackle and in the secondary last year, but the offensive line stayed healthy but for one game," he said. "The depth we had there was never tested. There was never a chance for those guys to show what they can do. We were prepared for Gosder's departure and for Jeff's retirement. I have confidence in the guys we have, who we've worked hard to develop.
"Last year if it would have happened, we would have been prepared for it."