Caldwell: Riley Reiff is Lions’ left tackle

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
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Boca Raton, Fla. — As they have the past couple of years, the Lions looked into the possibility of improving the left tackle position this offseason, most notably visiting with Russell Okung before the former Seahawks starter signed with the Broncos this month.

The Lions still could look at options in the draft and the free-agent market. General manager Bob Quinn said Tuesday the team hasn’t been involved in trade talks at that position.

So, for now, Riley Reiff is far and away the favorite to start at left tackle for a fourth straight season, and Lions coach Jim Caldwell gave him a vote of confidence on Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL annual meetings.

“He’s our left tackle,” Caldwell said. “No one was perfect. He played hard, played well.”

The Lions offensive line has struggled mightily the past two years with quarterback Matthew Stafford taking 45 sacks in 2014 and 44 in 2015, both the highest totals of his career. On a young line in 2015, though, Reiff was the best of a lackluster bunch for much of the year, and Caldwell said his evaluation of Reiff hasn’t changed since last year when there were similar questions about a position change existed.

Caldwell didn’t feel pressure in meeting with Quinn

“Here’s the thing: Riley is our starting left tackle at this point,” Caldwell said. “We’re always going to look to try to improve our team, and you may hear about a number of guys that come in that we look to. But what we do with them when they arrive, those things all depend upon where we think they best fit for us.

“With Riley, he’s played well for us, he’s played tough, he’s been our most consistent guy on that line, and so let’s not diminish what he’s done. But this game is a competitive game, and one of our desires is to make certain that at every position there is an immense amount of competition. And I think we’re heading that direction.”

Quinn hasn’t met with Reiff yet, but, like Caldwell, said he’s the left tackle for now.

“We’re still in the evaluation process, and if he comes in and has a great offseason program, a great training camp, there’s opportunity,” Quinn said.

Really, Reiff is no different than most players on the team despite playing a premium position. Quinn said the Lions hope to have competition for most of the starting jobs.

“That’s what the NFL is all about,” Quinn said. “It’s not handing people jobs; people earn jobs. So, that’s where I’m at with most of the guys on the team right now.”

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