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Reiff’s versatility will be a key for Lions moving forward

Jeff Backus, Riley Reiff

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus (76) talks with Riley Reiff (71) after NFL football practice in Allen Park, Mich., Monday, June 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


The good news is that Lions first-round pick Riley Reiff has impressed enough in offseason workouts to convince the team he can start.

The bad news is they don’t know where.

The college tackle has worked at both outside spots, and he could begin the year as Jeff Backus’ backup on the left side. Or he could replace Backus. Or he could push Gosder Cherilus for the right tackle job.

Or he could end up playing guard.

“The great thing about him is his versatility,” Lions GM Martin Mayhew told Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s played primarily tackle out here, but I think he could probably play guard if he needed to.”

The Lions are likely to find a starting job for him somewhere this year, but he was a pick made with the future in mind.

The 34-year-old Backus has been solid for a long time, but is obviously nearer the end of his career than the beginning (or even the middle).

Cherilus, the 2008 first-rounder, is in the final year of his rookie contract, meaning the time will come soon to make a decision on his future.

Reiff’s progress will give them some flexibility in dealing with both.