From now until the draft, we’re going to look at each Detroit Lions position group and where things stand as offseason workouts begin this month.
Today continues the series at defensive tackle.
What the status of the position group is: It’s complicated. The Lions lost Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and, so far, C.J. Mosley from last year’s group. The team wanted Suh back, didn’t necessarily want Fairley back (especially at a high price) and to this point doesn’t seem interested in a Mosley return.
Instead, they traded for Haloti Ngata as a run-stopping, space-eating replacement. At 31, Ngata likely is at the tail end of his prime but should still have a good year or two left. Walker is young and could fit in an expanded role, but he never has had to do that before. Cudjo didn’t play in 2014 and had his best season in 2012, when he had 20 tackles and a sack for St. Louis. Reid barely played last season; Philon and Proctor were on the practice squad.
It is a position group still in a bit of flux for multiple reasons. The first is the likely addition of at least one more player -- if not two -- via the draft. The second is the flexibility of some Detroit defensive ends, such as Jason Jones, Darryl Tapp and even Devin Taylor, to move inside if necessary. So there are options. It’s just not entirely clear how they will shake out.
What needs to happen: This starts in a little less than two weeks with the NFL draft. The Lions are going to draft at least one tackle who could end up being a Day 1 starter. At worst, the Lions are drafting their No. 3 tackle in a rotation. Depending who is available, this could be a first-round pick or almost certainly at least a Day 2 selection for Detroit.
Expect them to limit Ngata’s work during the offseason and preseason in an attempt to keep him as fresh and healthy as possible for the regular season. He should have an understanding of the scheme from his time in Baltimore and is a vet. If anything, the Lions should work Walker more than they might a typical semi-veteran in an attempt to get him physically ready for the amount of snaps he’s going to need to play throughout the season.
Beyond those two, it’ll be a matter of figuring out who could be a competent rotational player. Cudjo has the most experience. Reid was a Lions draft pick and has potential. Proctor has the size to be dominant if he can translate the skill necessary to finally move beyond the practice squad.
And as mentioned above, Mosley is still out there -- as is Andre Fluellen -- if the Lions realize they need another veteran who knows the scheme. So there are a lot of options still available.
Draft priority: Very high. Drafting a defensive tackle is almost a certainty.