Jason Fox spent the final two months of the 2011 season on injured reserve, and while he was rehabbing from his second knee surgery Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn kept him busy with weekly homework assignments.
Fox’s task at the time was to watch film of offensive tackles across the league, analyze their strengths and weaknesses and see if he could glean any tips.
In his second NFL season at the time, Fox found the exercise eye-opening.
“It was always a continual development,” Fox said. “(I’d) look for stuff in their game I can apply to mine as far as how they set different people, the different schemes they use, different techniques they use, whether it’s how they reach an end or where they keep their hands in pass protection, whether they short set guys, just everything. Just watching and seeing what’s got them to where they are.”
Two years later, Fox is close to being in the position he once studied — a starting tackle in the NFL.
Coach Jim Schwartz said Monday position battles at right tackle and right guard have “come into focus
” a month into the preseason.
Schwartz declined to name favorites for the jobs, but Fox has quietly drawn praise for his play while competing with Corey Hilliard at tackle.
Fox and Hilliard shared first-team reps in practice Monday, as they have most of the preseason, while rookie Larry Warford and veterans Dylan Gandy and Jake Scott continue to get most of the work at guard.
“I think there’s still possibilities there, but it’s come into focus over the course
of training camp,” Schwartz said. “There could still be something that could change our minds. It’s important to finish strong and finish the way we started. But it’s starting to come in. All our positions are starting to come into focus, but none of them are cemented yet.”
Fox has started the last two weeks at right tackle and hasn’t allowed a sack in 80 snaps this preseason.
He said he feels like he’s “played well overall,” and considering how rocky his first two NFL seasons were — he fell to the fourth round of the 2010 draft because of a college knee injury that limited him most of his rookie year — starting Week 1 against the Vikings would be special.
“The injuries are in the past, which is a great thing, and sometimes it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Fox said. “But they’ve stuck with me and I’m very appreciative of that and yeah, it’d be great to come out on the other side of it where I’m healthy and playing.”
While he doesn’t study
opposing offensive tackles like he did in 2011, Fox remains an avid film watcher. He regularly charts the pass rushers he’ll go against, and he’s found a new way to get an edge.
Several times this preseason, Fox has reached out to former teammate Jeff Backus for tips on the defensive ends he’ll play.
Before his preseason start against the Browns, for instance, Fox inquired about outside linebacker Paul Kruger, how quick he is, his pass-rush moves and the Browns’ new defensive scheme coordinated by Ray Horton, who the Lions played in Arizona last year.
Backus dropped in on Lions practice Monday, and Fox said he’s “a great resource” to have.
“It’s been helpful,” Fox said. “It’s something I’m probably going to carry throughout the rest of the season.”
Perhaps as starter.