A few weeks ago, Damien Woody lost his job as the Lions' starting right guard. But now, as the Lions look for an upset Sunday at San Diego, Woody is a starter again.
At right tackle.
Woody took over a position he hadn't played since high school, and after just two games, the coaches are raving about him.
"The hopes that we had of him playing real well, he exceeded those hopes," offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. "He was outstanding."
It is much more common for tackles to move inside and become guards. Rarely is a guard athletic enough to move outside to tackle, where he is on an island and facing quick defensive ends one-on-one.
But Martz makes it sound as if tackle fits Woody's skill set even better than guard does.
"What he can't demonstrate inside is his quick feet and his athleticism, and outside, boy, it really shows up," Martz said. "He had this ability that was never really probably taken advantage of, other than when he was at center at New England. He's got the ability to recover on the pass rush and stay stout on the bull rushes. He just does things naturally out there that you spend years trying to teach guys."
If Woody is so good, then that begs the question: What took the Lions so long to move Woody to right tackle? George Foster was struggling. Jonathan Scott was hurt. Blaine Saipaia, who is listed as a guard, struggled when pressed into service against the Giants' Michael Strahan and the Packers' Aaron Kampman.
Martz said it wasn't that simple.
"It's not just, OK, you put him over there and he's ready to go," Martz said. "He'd been alternating over there for a good six weeks. That's a hard deal to do. You just don't make that transition. You just don't do that. It's like saying, 'OK, you're a linebacker. We're going to play you at free safety today.' It's that big of a difference, so it's hard. We didn't know. We thought he'd be good out there. We had no idea he'd be this good."
Now that the Lions know, will they try to bring back Woody as a right tackle? Woody renegotiated his contract before the season, taking a pay cut, and can become a free agent after the season.
"Would I come back as a right tackle?" Woody said. "Why not? Why not? Definitely. I would come back to whatever position they need me to come back to help the team. That's the bottom line."
But by demonstrating his versatility, Woody has increased his value on the free-agent market and could get a better opportunity elsewhere.
"I'm just a lineman," Woody said. "That's what I am. I'm a lineman. I just go out and play. I love competition. If they asked me to go play tight end, I'd give it a try. It doesn't matter."