Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez preview the Lions’ game against the Bills. Recorded Dec. 13, 2018.
Carlos Monarrez and Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
Tyrell Crosby is in line to make the first start of his NFL career Sunday at right tackle, but Detroit Lions offensive line coach Jeff Davidson said it’s too early to tell whether Crosby’s future is at guard or tackle — or on the left or right side of the line.
“I see him as an offensive lineman,” Davidson said earlier this week. “I like the fact that he’d be willing to go in anywhere that we put him, and the more guys that we can develop with that trait, the better off we’re going to be.”
Crosby played both left and right tackle in college at Oregon, but some talent evaluators pegged him as an interior lineman heading into April’s draft.
He has served primarily as the Lions’ backup swing tackle this year, and saw his most extensive action of the season in last week’s 17-3 win over the Arizona Cardinals after right tackle Rick Wagner left with a concussion.
Wagner has not yet practiced this week, and Crosby is his likely replacement for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
“He’s a guy that really for me in watching him through the course of the season (I’ve seen him) develop and become a professional and understand what it takes week in and week out to prepare and be ready to go,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “I just have been impressed with his ability to kind of grow through the course of the season.”
Davidson said the Lions have used Crosby at guard some in practice, and given the makeup of the Lions’ offensive line, it’s not unrealistic to think he could compete for a starting job somewhere up front next fall.
The Lions have all five of their starting offensive linemen under contract for 2019, but right guard T.J. Lang, on injured reserve with a neck injury, is not expected back at his current salary. Kenny Wiggins, who’s started five straight games in Lang’s place, also is under contract for 2019.
At tackle, the Lions control both Wagner and left tackle Taylor Decker through at least the 2020 seasons, but could open the right tackle spot to competition next year. Decker is eligible for a contract extension starting in the spring.
“(What he’s done behind) closed doors I’ll leave behind closed doors, quite honestly,” Davidson said of Crosby. “But he has made progress. I think the guy, No. 1, he has a very high care about his job. … He has a pro style of going about business. Each day, he wants to find a way to get better and that’s what we ask of those guys.”
Crosby played 35 of a possible 60 offensive snaps last week against the Cardinals and more than held his own with his play.
He allowed two pressures but no sacks, and helped clear the way for 122 yards on the ground, the Lions’ third best rushing day of the year.
“Sometimes (as a backup), you necessarily may not get as many reps through the course of the week as you’d like, but you have to be ready to go,” Patricia said. “And when those opportunities come up that you have to go in and play, I feel confident that he’s done everything possible to prepare himself to go do that. I just think his ability to prepare week in, week out and be in multiple roles and potential situations depending on how the game goes is something, for me, that you really need as a coach to rely on players to do that, and he’s someone from that standpoint that has impressed me from that facet.”
Wagner and four other Lions missed practice Thursday: Running back Kerryon Johnson (knee), wide receiver Bruce Ellington (hamstring), defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand (knee) and special-teams ace Charles Washington (hamstring). The Lions could be without all five players against the Bills.
Contact Dave Birkett: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.