Help Wanted: Defensive tackle

The injury to defensive tackle Luther Elliss is worse than originally feared. Elliss tore a pectoral muscle during off-season workouts two weeks ago. The Lions are taking a cautious approach and hope that the muscle will heal with four weeks rest, but with Elliss' dicey health history, who's going to bet on that? More inside, including possible replacements.

(ALLEN PARK) This is a problem the Detroit Lions didn't need.

The injury to defensive tackle Luther Elliss is worse than originally feared. Elliss tore a pectoral muscle during off-season workouts two weeks ago. The Lions are taking a cautious approach and hope that the muscle will heal with four weeks rest, but with Elliss' dicey health history, who's going to bet on that?

Add to the equation the fact that Detroit didn't address the position in the NFL draft. Now, what was once considered a strength is fast becoming one of the weakest positions on the team.

What can Detroit do to possibly address this matter? One option is to do what was loudly speculated this offseason, move veteran Robert Porcher inside to the tackle position he played in college at South Carolina State. Porcher played briefly at the tackle before making his mark as a pass rushing end under coach Wayne Fontes.

If Detroit does this, it would pave the way for Kalimba Edwards, a rising star, to take over the end position next to Porcher. Edwards has a knack for getting to the passer and appears ready to take the next step to the reach the double-digit sack total of premier sack men.

The Lions are counting heavily on a return to form by third-year man Shaun Rogers. Rogers was robbed of a pro bowl appearance in his rookie year when he dominated opposing offensive lines. Last year, Rogers slumped badly while gaining excess weight that slowed his productivity.

Kelvin Pritchett is a good situational player, but entering his 11th year in the league, he isn't an every down player adding to Detroit's need for depth.

Rookie Corey Redding of Texas could help solve the puzzle by turning in a great preseason and making himself the starter at the right end making a move of Porcher to the inside more plausable. Detroit would then have Redding, Edwards and holdover James Hall at the ends providing rush with Porcher working in tandem with Rogers. If not, here are some of the players the Lions might take a look at acquiring in reverse order.

5. Sean Gilbert, Carolina Panthers: at 6' 5", 318, he has the size but eleven NFL seasons have robbed this former productive player of much of what made him a $6 man for the Panthers. At 33, he's available, but doesn't seem to have much left in the tank.

4. Gilbert Brown, Green Bay Packers: Gilbert, a native Detroiter, would likely jump at the chance to come back to the Detroit area. He's often involved in camps and charitable activities in Michigan. Brown isn't a bad player and at 32 figures to have at least one season left in his tank. He would be a stop gap until Detroit could address the problem in the offeseason.

3. Bernard Holsey, New England Patriots: A situational player for New England, Holsey is young enough (29 years old) but he hasn't been very productive. Holsey entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and in 2000 had his breakout year with the Indianapolis Colts, recording 42 tackles and two sacks. He sat out all of 2001 with an injury and barely made it back, contributing in just nine games for the Pats last season. Still he's young enough to make a comeback.

2. James Cannida, Indianapolis Colts: A good choice would be Cannida, who at just 28, could become a permanent part of the solution to the problems in the interior defensive front. Cannida recorded 24 tackles for the Colts and at 6' 2", 295, Cannida has the necessary bulk and the ability to move laterally that Detroit desires. Cannida played behind Warren Saap in Tampa Bay for the first three years of his career before moving to Indianapolis last season.

1. Bernard Whittington, Cincinnati Bengals: Whittington is a player who is still young enough and productive enough to make plays and be a factor in a defensive line. At 6' 5", 295, Whittington recorded 28 tackles a sack and two fumble recoveries. Detroit will have to move fast to nab this player who's already in talks with the New York Jets.

Others include: Darius Holland, Green Bay, Henry Ford, Tennessee Titans.

Lions Report Top Stories