Taylor Decker might be Lions' future LT, but first he needs to earn it

Last week at minicamp, rookie tackle Taylor Decker (center) wouldn't commit to which side of the line he prefers, saying, "Right now, my preference is just to become a better football player." AP Photo/Duane Burleson

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Jim Caldwell wouldn’t commit to a side of the offensive line for new tackle Taylor Decker last week. And on Tuesday, despite saying during the NFL combine that he’d like to be a left tackle, Decker wouldn’t commit to being on one side of the line or the other, either.

This isn’t too worrisome considering he’s less than two weeks into his tenure with the franchise and that he is still months away from his first padded practice and still a couple of weeks away from the team’s first true OTA session.

So he’s just getting acclimated.

“Right now, my preference is just to become a better football player,” Decker said. “Because if I don’t become a better football player, I can’t play either position. I need to become a lot better football player to play either side.”

It’s not clear what Detroit’s preference would be for Decker in the short-term as no one involved has indicated it yet, but considering the team invested a first-round pick in Decker -- and almost $11 million in guaranteed salary -- the thought would be that Decker becomes the team’s future left tackle.

Detroit would like him to become the franchise left tackle down the road, the blind-side protector for Matthew Stafford for the rest of the quarterback’s career. With Riley Reiff, the team’s incumbent left tackle, in the last year of his rookie contract, it is possible it could happen by next season. There’s also a chance the Lions could make the move this season if Decker proves to adapt to the speed of the NFL quickly.

The Lions are hoping he’s a plug-and-play tackle as a rookie, something he wasn’t when he made the jump from high school to college at Ohio State. But what made his offensive line coach, Ed Warinner, believe that Decker would eventually become the player he did in college is also what could help him transition to the pros.

“All the tools are there and all the characteristics, the work ethic, the desire, the intelligence. Just now he has to do it enough over time to become proficient at it and we knew he would work at it. So [he was] a developmental player [entering college],” Warinner said. “Yeah, I would categorize him as that coming out of high school.

“For the NFL, I think he’s ready to play right now, left tackle or right tackle. I don’t have any concerns at all.”

There’s still time to figure all of that out -- Decker and Reiff haven’t even been on a field during a true football practice yet -- and Decker knows he still has a bunch to learn.

Grasping the playbook at an expert level would be a start. If he can’t do that, staying on the field would be difficult once he reaches it. That doesn’t seem to worry Decker much, though.

“This install these past couple days is more than I’ve gotten in this amount of time prior in my career, which is to be expected,” Decker said. “But of course, not anything I don’t think I can digest and learn and handle.”

How fast he picks it up could play a large role in the success or failure of the Lions season.