What to do at defensive tackle?
I don't know if Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji is legitimately in the mix for the No. 1 pick. I can't imagine he ranks as the top player on many draft boards, including the Lions'. But if general manager Martin Mayhew could somehow trade down a few spots Raji seems like the best fit for a team short on interior linemen.
As of now, 36-year-old Grady Jackson and 33-year-old Chuck Darby are your presumptive long-in-the-tooth starters, and there's no telling if Darby will be on the roster when training camp opens in July. Andre Fluellen and Landon Cohen, third- and seventh-round choices last year, respectively, could play their way into the mix, but there's legitimate questions whether either fits into new coach Jim Schwartz's scheme.
Fluellen could play defensive end on early downs and move inside in pass-rush situations, as he did some last year, but Schwartz favors bigger linemen and Fluellen and Cohen were built with Rod Marinelli in mind (on the shorter side and under 300 pounds).
The emphasis last year was on smaller, quicker guys where they didn't want them getting too big, where our emphasis is on, hey let's get them big and strong, as strong as you can, Schwartz said. The fine line there (is) you want to gain the right kind of weight. You don't want just guys that are fat and overweight, you want guys that are doing it the right way. When you have guys like Fluellen and Cohen, you can put it on the right way.
This is an important offseason for Fluellen and Cohen. If they can add bulk in the new strength and conditioning program, they might be able to change the organization's perception about their long-term role with the Lions.
Asked about Fluellen and Cohen in the context of last week's Cory Redding trade, Mayhew said the Lions intended to play Redding some at left end anyway and were on the lookout for his replacement.
It really doesn't change our thoughts at defensive tackle, Mayhew said. We needed a tackle before this and we still need a tackle.