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Right tackle an open competition for Lions

8/8/2014

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The competition is different now than a season ago in almost every facet for Detroit Lions players Corey Hilliard and LaAdrian Waddle.

To start, there is no third person involved, as Jason Fox was in 2013 when he won the right tackle gig out of training camp. He's in Miami now after another injury-plagued season, leaving Hilliard and Waddle by themselves to compete for the starting right tackle position.

It is one of the more even situations in training camp. Hilliard has more experience, but both started games a season ago and Waddle turned into one of the better undrafted free-agent rookie finds of 2013. Neither one of them is really competing for a roster spot, either. Not with a lack of experienced depth behind them, so the confidence both will end up on the 53-man roster is fairly high.

So the focus and level of anxiety is just a little bit different.

“It's more kind of just trying to solidify that spot, you know what I mean,” Waddle said. “You just have to have that mentality and go into it like that.”

The Lions’ coaching staff has fostered that, in part, by alternating Hilliard and Waddle with the first team offensive line by the day. Every other lineman, except for when the staff gives Rob Sims or Dominic Raiola some veteran's rest, has his spot essentially secured.

Then there is the right end of the line, which is completely wide open as the Lions enter their first preseason game Saturday against Cleveland. It is a competition that will likely continue throughout training camp and barring injury, gives the Lions option through the regular season as well.

Both players recognize the opportunity that exists. In Hilliard's case, he can lock up a starting job in the final year of his contract and in Waddle's case, he can increase his hold on the gig for the present and future.

But there is no animosity between the two. There doesn't need to be since both figure to have jobs this fall.

“We’re both good players. They trust both of us to put us in a position where one of us is going to play and the best man’s going to win,” Hilliard said. “That’s just the way it is.

“There are no layers to it or oh my god, psych-out, or what do I do to win the job. You go out, play to the best of your ability and then whoever wins the job wins it.”