Lions Report: Inside Slant
The Lions don’t necessarily want to move DeAndre Levy from middle linebacker to outside linebacker, but circumstances could lead them to do just that.
And Levy, who has started 21 games in two seasons, is ready and willing to move to the outside if need should arise.
“Whatever happens, I am willing to play any position,” he said while cleaning out his locker back on Jan. 3. “I am always ready. I know both positions and I have no preference.”
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz seemed puzzled when asked about the possibility of moving Levy.
“He could play anywhere he wanted,” Schwartz said. “We’ll see. He’s our middle linebacker right now. We’re not actively looking to move him. Why? Are you trying to give us a draft pick? Do you have a free agent for us?”
Levy gave the Lions absolutely no reason to move him out of the middle. Once he got healthy last season, he validated the coaching’s staff’s belief that he could lead the defense.
“That’s why we drafted him; we drafted him to play that position and at the end of his rookie year (2009), he finally got a chance to play it and played well,” Schwartz said. “Most of this year he was dealing with injuries but over the last three or four weeks, we saw him play the way we expected him to play.”
In the team’s last four games, all wins, Levy delivered a game-saving interception against Green Bay, a game-winning pick-six at Miami, and a pair of 11-tackle performances at Tampa Bay and against Minnesota.
All of that after missing five games and most of a sixth with a groin injury.
“The last couple of games I was feeling the groin less and less, but every game prior to that I was just trying to make it through, as opposed to letting it loose and making plays,” Levy said. “It’s part of the game, but it was incredibly frustrating.”
Levy had surgery on the groin on Jan. 18 and is expected to be healthy and ready whenever he’s allowed to get back to work.
So why would the Lions consider moving Levy? Because the Lions presently have no true starter at either outside linebacker position and it is possible that a quality middle linebacker will be easier to acquire than two outside linebackers.
If the Lions can acquire a proven middle linebacker and move Levy to the outside, they will have essentially strengthened two spots with one move.
Certainly there is no guarantee the Lions will be able to acquire a middle linebacker, especially one who would be an upgrade from Levy, but it is one of the scenarios the Lions would consider.
Presently, the only outside linebackers on the roster are Bobby Carpenter, Ashlee Palmer and Caleb Campbell, none of whom the Lions consider full-time starters. General manager Martin Mayhew said that two-year starter Julian Peterson would not be back. Opening-day starter Zack Follett’s career is in jeopardy because of the neck injury he sustained in Week 6 last year. His eventual replacement, Landon Johnson, is an unrestricted free agent.
Although neither Mayhew nor Schwartz will discuss the team’s offseason priorities, they will be looking hard at linebackers, both inside and outside, in the upcoming draft (April 28-30) and when the free-agency period begins, which will be whenever a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
The consensus among draft experts thus far is that Von Miller of Texas A&M and Akeem Ayers of UCLA are the top prospects at outside linebacker. Miller is expected to be long gone by the time the Lions pick at No. 13, and some believe it would be a stretch to take Ayers at 13.
What happens if the Lions fall in love with an inside linebacker at the scouting combine later this month? What if somebody like Kelvin Sheppard of LSU, for example, wows defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham more so than any of the outside linebacker prospects?
The Lions will not over-reach with the 13th pick just to fill the greatest need. Mayhew made that clear during his post-season press conference.
“We are going to take the best player available and you have to understand that at that point we’re talking about a group of players with a similar grade,” Mayhew said. “We will not suspend common sense, but we will take the best player. We could go a lot of different places with that pick.”
But here’s another scenario that could impact Levy. What if Mayhew thinks the Lions can land a quality inside linebacker through free agency, somebody like, just as an example, Tennessee’s Stephen Tulloch or Buffalo’s Paul Posluszny?
Would they not move Levy to the outside in that scenario? It’s something they would have to at least consider.
Like Schwartz said, the Lions believe that Levy is their guy at middle linebacker and they aren’t actively looking to move him. But the goal is to upgrade the entire linebacker unit and if the best way to do that is to bring in another middle linebacker and move Levy to the outside, that’s what they will do.
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