Lions rookie Decker ‘doing well’ at left tackle

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Lions offensive linemen Taylor Decker, right, and Laken Tomlinson work during drills Thursday.

Allen Park – If the two organized team activities practices the Lions opened to the media are any indication, the team is hoping rookie Taylor Decker can replace Riley Reiff at left tackle.

As was the case last Thursday, Decker played exclusively left tackle during this Thursday’s practice while Reiff was at right tackle, a position he never played during his first four NFL seasons.

Obviously, it’s too soon to handicap the competition, but there are plenty of reasons the Lions would prefer Decker on the left side. First, with Reiff on the final year of his deal, he’d be presumably cheaper to re-sign if he’s a right tackle instead of a left tackle.

Most importantly, though, if Decker can match or improve on the performance Reiff had as the starting left tackle the last three years, and Reiff can be better at right tackle than the several players who held that role the past couple years, suddenly the entire line is better.

The question is, how would Decker handle playing a premium position as a rookie?

“He’s working,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “You know he’s smart, you know he’s athletic and he’s working at it, and I think he’s growing and developing. He’s still a long ways off and we haven’t had pads on, but he’s working extremely hard at this point and doing well.”

Caldwell went on to say that, generally, players switching sides along the line can be difficult “if that’s the only thing that they’ve done for a number of years.” That’s the case with Reiff, who has played left tackle every year since 2010 — including two years at Iowa — except his time as an extra blocker as a rookie in 2012.

Reiff started one game at right tackle for the Hawkeyes in 2009. Caldwell said having experience at the new position can help a player, but it still takes time to adjust, especially with star pass rushers coming from both sides.

“He is a warrior,” Caldwell said of Reiff. “He does not flinch, does not complain. All he wants to do is find a way to get better. He’ll do whatever is asked of him, and I think that’s admirable, particularly in this day and age where you have so many individuals that are pretty selfish in that regard.”

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