Time to start Cherilus (and a Dizon addendum)
Eight offensive linemen were taken in the first round of April's NFL draft. Six started their season openers last week (Miami's Jake Long, Denver's Ryan Clady, Kansas City's Branden Albert, Carolina's Jeff Otah, Atlanta's Sam Baker and Houston's Duane Brown), one is injured and possibly out for the season (Chicago's Chris Williams), and one didn't play a single offensive snap. The unlucky soul? Lions' right tackle Gosder Cherilus.
Some felt the Lions reached when they traded down from the 15th pick (where Albert went to K.C.) and drafted Cherilus No. 17 overall. But, considering their glaring need at right tackle, it was hard to pan a decision that was supposed to net an immediate starter.
To that end, Cherilus played well in the preseason. He showed some of his trademark on-field nastiness and rotated with starter George Foster even as offensive coordinator Jim Colletto hounded him to be more consistent in his leverage, hand placement and pass sets. Foster, to his credit, had a solid preseason, too. He committed just one penalty a problem last year when he was benched midway through the season and seemed more at home in the Lions' new zone-blocking offense.
But Foster did not play particularly well Sunday. He was hardly the reason the Lions lost to Baker's Falcons, but he wasn't exactly confidence-inspiring either. John Abraham beat him with an inside move for his first of three sacks late in the first quarter, and Foster got manhandled into the backfield or whiffed completely on several other occasions. At one point, Lions coaches told Cherilus to get ready for action, then reconsidered and left him on the bench.
At the risk of making Foster look like a scapegoat for their Week 1 woes and again, he's not; he had less of an impact on the loss than Jon Kitna, Roy Williams and nearly every player on defense the Lions should turn their right-tackle job over to Cherilus in time for Sunday's home opener against Green Bay. The rookie will endure some growing pains, but at worst he's a wash with the man he'd be replacing, only with a higher ceiling and a competitive fire too hot to ignore.
I can't advocate the same for second-round pick Jordon Dizon. Not now, at least. I wrote here during training camp that I'd stick Dizon at middle linebacker and move Paris Lenon to the strong side, mostly because Dizon always seemed to make plays. He was at it again Sunday, notching five tackles in 14 snaps and playing error-free football when it came to setting the defense.
By not making that change in the preseason, however, the Lions tied their hands at linebacker until at least the bye week. Lenon is a good player though he had his tackling issues against Atlanta. He needs to be on the field. But his best position is SAM linebacker and Dizon is good enough to be in the playing group.
It wouldn't surprise me if Lenon took a few snaps on the strong side when practice resumes tomorrow, but the Lions don't need to make a panic move and realign their linebackers one week into the season. They'd be best served working Dizon into the playing group now and waiting until the Sept. 28 bye to make that important and complicated a change to their defense.