Saturday, February 23, 2013
Jason Fox as part of Lions' O-line solution?
By Kevin Seifert
INDIANAPOLIS -- Watching offensive linemen work out Saturday brought to mind the Detroit Lions' efforts in that regard.
The Lions have spent a few drafts building to a moment when they would turn over their own line, and that time has arrived. All that's left to know is whether it will take place in one season or be a two-year transition.
Already, the Lions have released right guard Stephen Peterman. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus is a pending free agent and left tackle Jeff Backus could retire. Center Dominic Raiola appears to have bought himself another season by restructuring a contract that will expire at this time next year.
So who will take over? We know that 2012 first-round draft pick Riley Reiff will start somewhere, be it at guard or tackle. Here at the NFL scouting combine, I was a little surprised to hear general manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz repeatedly mention Jason Fox -- a little-used fourth-round draft pick in 2010 -- as a leading candidate to start as well.
Fox was limited by injuries in college as well as in his first two seasons with the Lions. He has played in five NFL games, only one over the past two seasons, and that was a six-snap outing on special teams in Week 12 last season. But he is 6-foot-6, 314 pounds and won't turn 25 until May.
"Jason Fox obviously had the injuries in his first couple seasons," Mayhew said. "He was able to stay healthy all last year, but we also stayed healthy at the tackle position. He didn’t play very much for us. We think he has starter-type talent level. He has the size. He's a strong enough guy. He's a good technician. He's a hard worker. We think he has the ability to start for us."
It would be rare, but not unheard of, for an injury-plagued player to emerge from three years of inactivity to become a starter. But if the Lions need or want to replace most of their starters in one offseason, that's the kind of elevation they'll need to make.
There are some other little-used players remaining from the Lions' 2012 roster who could compete for starting jobs as well, including: guard-center Billy Nagy to guard Rodney Austin to tackle Corey Hilliard, a pending free agent himself.
In either case, by 2014, four of the five positions will assuredly have new starters. Left guard Rob Sims is the only player who figures to still be in his current role. The Lions are about to get young in a hurry on their offensive line.