Lions' starting job at right tackle too close to call

LaAdrian Waddle came out of nowhere as an undrafted rookie last year to make eight starts, but Corey Hilliard, entering his sixth season in the league, made seven starts despite injuries.

Lions offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle came out of nowhere as an undrafted rookie last year to make eight starts.

Tim Fuller / USA TODAY Sports

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The starting job at right tackle appears to be too close to call going into the final preseason game for the Detroit Lions.

LaAdrian Waddle came out of nowhere as an undrafted rookie last year to make eight starts, but Corey Hilliard, entering his sixth season in the league, made seven starts despite injuries.

Hilliard started the third preseason game last week, which suggests he has the edge, but coach Jim Caldwell insists the competition between the two is "very, very close."

"The guys have been battling for it," Caldwell said. "We haven't named one as of yet. We have a while before our first game (Sept. 8 vs. New York Giants).

"Let me tell you something about those two guys. There is a comfort level with them because they both are performers.

"At this point, we would feel very, very good regardless of which one ends up winning that particular job."

BALANCING ACT

Caldwell not only pulls quotations from authors and others out in team meetings, he also occasionally does it with the media.

Like when he was asked about how the team handles expectations entering a season, whether they're favorable or not from the outside.

Caldwell turned to a theologian from the 1800s to make his point.

"There's a guy named Charles Hodge who's a great theologian," Caldwell said. "He said that you have to be able to 'exalt men without inflating them' and the other part of it is 'humble them without debasing them.'

"That's kind of a balancing act for us. We've got to make sure we make them feel good about what they're doing but not to the point they feel overconfident.

"We tell them the truth about the things they've done wrong, but we don't have to dog-cuss them and tear them down. It's a delicate balance to keep a team on even-keel all across the board. Never too high, never too low."

Caldwell said the ideal temperament is to come in the day after a game and not be able to tell by reactions whether the team won or loss because the players are all "focused on the next game."

As for handling praise, Caldwell added, "Flattery is much like flowers. You smell them but you can't eat them."

FINAL TUNE-UP

Caldwell was noncommittal when asked whether quarterback Matthew Stafford will play Thursday at Buffalo.

"That remains to be seen," Caldwell said. "We haven't made a declaration in terms of who's playing.

"It will be depending upon who we want to see and need to see, and who we don't need to see at this particular time.

"A great majority of guys will probably get some playing time."

PERSONNEL UPDATE

-- Caldwell said a shoulder injury is what put safety DeJon Gomes on the injured list.

"That's about all I'm going to go into," Caldwell said.

-- Running back Reggie Bush was back on the field Tuesday, but he did miss a couple recent practices.

"Just rest," Caldwell said.

-- The Lions released Jacob Maxwell after claiming Michael Egnew, a third-round draft pick in 2012, off waivers from Miami.