Phoenix — The release of T.J. Lang has created a massive void along the Detroit Lions' offensive line. But what is a void but an opportunity for someone to step up?
The Lions have a number of contenders for the position.
There's Kenny Wiggins, the veteran who filled in when Lang was injured last season. Joe Dahl is back in the fold. He's still a young, developing player who excelled when asked to play some fullback last year, bringing some positive momentum into this year. And there's free-agent addition Oday Aboushi, a journeyman who coach Matt Patricia praised for his toughness.
Of course, there's also the possibility the Lions add more competition for the job via the April NFL Draft.
But there's still another possibility, second-year offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby.
When the Lions drafted Crosby in the fifth round out of Oregon, general manager Bob Quinn raved about the value of the selection and noted the team viewed the college tackle as a versatile option who could play multiple spots.
As a rookie, Crosby, 23, was largely utilized on the edge of the line, either as an injury replacement at tackle or as a blocking tight end. But with Lang gone, the team won't discount moving Crosby inside in 2019.
"The game's a little bit different inside than it is outside for Crosby, so some of those situations we're gonna have to see if he can do that but we'll do that with all of those guys," Lions coach Matt Patricia said Tuesday.
And even if Crosby doesn't emerge as a strong contender for that role, Patricia explained why it's important to make sure the second-year lineman is properly cross-trained.
"We'll put our guys in as many possible situations as we can," Patricia said, "because what happens is you do it in the spring, you do it in training camp and even if that's a situation where you're like 'All right, this really isn't a great fit,' you do it then because, look, we go to a game, we're only gonna bring so many guys to a game, we're only gonna have so many active players.
"We've all seen it, a tight end that's gotta play tackle, a tackle that's gotta play guard, a guard that's gotta play center. So, you can't just put them in those situations in a live game, without any reps, because that's not fair to the player. So you try to do as much as possible ahead of time. So we'll mix that in or we'll put those players in those situations and try to simulate that whenever we can. And sometimes you do it and find out, 'This guy's actually OK in this spot' and that's how they build a role from there."