The NFL offseason is still far off. Unfortunately, at 1-5, the Detroit Lions are more likely jockeying for draft position, instead of playoff contention. And if this season has proven anything, it’s that the Lions have many more holes and deficiencies to address than most of us thought. The Lions might as well get an early start on addressing their weaknesses, and start grooming tight end Brandon Pettigrew to become the starting right tackle for the 2016-2017 season.
That is not a typo. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew should be given the opportunity to improve the right tackle position for the Lions, moving forward.
Why Pettigrew? He is just as viable an option as anyone else on the current Lions roster. Sure, he’s no spring chicken, and of course there would be a learning curve involved (that would take at least an entire offseason) in adjusting to a new position. But considering the Lions current situation, Detroit has nothing to lose in thinking of a creative solution to their right tackle woes. Grooming Pettigrew as a right tackle would also not be the first time the Lions have considered playing him as a lineman.
That past circumstance was a bit of an emergency, due to injuries and lack of depth. Still, the Lions current situation at right tackle is pretty dire. They have big problems. The position has been an abomination this year, and the issue is even older than that. The right tackle position was also a weak link last year, partly due to injuries, partly due to performance, and perhaps partly due to lack of cohesion and chemistry with the offensive line as a unit.
Since Gosder Cherilus manned the right tackle spot for the Lions from 2008 – 2012, Detroit has had a revolving door at the position. LaAdrian Waddle, Cornelius Lucas, Corey Hilliard, Garret Reynolds, and Jason Fox have all started games at RT for the Lions in recent years. Waddle has had the most success of the bunch, but he has also had the much difficulty staying on the field (due to multiple injuries).
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This past offseason, the Lions had opportunities to upgrade/provide depth to the position. Michael Oher, Marshall Newhouse, and Joe Barksdale were all free agents (now starting for Carolina, New York (Giants), and San Diego, respectively). The Lions chose not to go the free agent route. The 2015 draft saw six offensive tackles selected in the first two rounds. The Lions, however, chose to upgrade the interior of their line and the running back position. They did not draft a tackle until the 7th round, when they selected Corey Robinson.
In fact, the Lions traded tackle depth away, when they dealt Michael Williams to the Patriots at the beginning of this season. Speaking of Michael Williams, the Lions converted him from tight end to tackle, which brings us to our solution – Brandon Pettigrew. Why not Pettigrew? He has been a Lion, (as a tight end) since 2009. However, his targets in the passing game have decreased significantly (every year since 2011).
Pettigrew’s contract runs through the 2017-2018, increasing signficantly the next two seasons. Simply put, his lack of involvement as a pass catcher doesn’t justify the size (or length) of his contract.
And while injuries have robbed him of much of his effectiveness as a pass-catcher, he still has value as a blocker. At this point in his career, the Lions might as well play to Pettigrew’s strength, while giving him (and themselves) an opportunity to improve the level of play at right tackle, for future seasons.
Converting a player from another position to become an offensive lineman would not be unprecedented (not only within the Lions organization, but also within other organizations). The Seattle Seahawks have had recent success in this regard.
Again, this would not be an immediate fix, as Pettigrew would need time to learn the right tackle position (as well as time to gain some extra weight). And sure, the Lions could wait until this upcoming offseason to upgrade the position via free agency and/or the draft. Or we could all believe that left tackle Riley Reiff will finally slide over to the right side of the line. But we waited for any of those things to happen this past offseason, with minimal results. The Lions might as well get started now. It’s time for a grooming, Brandon Pettigrew.
What do you think? How would you choose to solve the Lions problems at right tackle?