Lions won’t be hesitant to start Decker at left tackle

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Lions rookie tackle Taylor Decker, right, works against rookie tight end Adam Fuehne during offensive line drills at OTAs.

The Lions have three more months to decide who will start at left tackle, but the team has no hesitancy about the possibility of having a rookie — first-round pick Taylor Decker — at the premium position.

“If he’s the best left tackle, then I’d be happy with it,” general manager Bob Quinn said Monday about having a rookie protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford’s blind side.

The Lions haven’t had a rookie start at left tackle since 2001 when Jeff Backus, the 18th overall pick, filled that spot immediately. Decker was the 16th overall pick this year.

Many teams like to be patient with young offensive linemen. Of the four offensive tackles taken in the first round of 2015 — not including tackle-turned-guard Brandon Scherff — the Giants’ Ereck Flowers was the only guy to start Week 1 at left tackle. One of those guys — Arizona’s D.J. Humphries — didn’t even appear in a game as a rookie.

Some teams — like Cincinnati with Cedric Ogbuehi last year — take offensive tackles high in the draft to build future depth at a critical position, but the Lions don’t really have that luxury. They had the fewest rushing yards in the league last year and allowed the 10th most sacks. Barring an unforeseen breakout, Decker is likely the only potential upgrade at tackle.

Thus far, Decker has been the primary left tackle in offseason practices while Riley Reiff has been the right tackle. Reiff is another example of teams being patient with tackles as he played mostly as an extra blocker as a rookie, starting just one game at left tackle when Backus was injured.

In theory, the Lions could improve two positions if Decker is better than Reiff and if Reiff can make a smooth transition to the right side. Michael Ola, last year’s right tackle, is the next best option, but it’d be shocking to see anyone other than Reiff and Decker starting at tackle, even if their sides are still unclear.

Behind Ola, Cornelius Lucas, Corey Robinson and rookies Joe Dahl and Dominick Jackson will also compete for backup roles. With Ola and Robinson nursing injuries, the rookies have had more opportunities, too.

“It’s going to be a competition amongst a lot of players, so Taylor’s definitely right in the mix,” Quinn said.

Twitter: @jkatzenstein

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