By: Will Burchfield
@burchie_kid

Lions’ fans are hoping to see linebacker DeAndre Levy recover his 2014 form this season, but Jim Caldwell doesn’t think that’s realistic.

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No, the coach is expecting more.

“I would not expect him to stand still. I’m not going to make a comparison [to 2014]. We expect him to be better than he was, which he’s certainly capable of,” Caldwell said.

Levy finished first in the NFL in solo tackles in 2014, anchoring a Lions defense that held opponents to under 18 points per game. He was memorably snubbed for the Pro Bowl that year, but still garnered second-team All-Pro honors.

Then 2015 rolled around and Levy, quite literally, fell apart.

A preseason hip injury kept him out of the first four games of the season, before he returned in Week 5 and aggravated things further. He was shut down following that game and underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip.

Levy hasn’t played since.

A knee injury he sustained this summer placed him on the non-football injury list entering training camp, leaving the linebacker on the sideline for the Lions’ first two preseason games. He returned to practice about week ago, but the fact remains Levy hasn’t taken a live snap in almost a year.

Until he plays in a game – which may or may not be this weekend – it will be hard to tell whether his long layoff has had any ill effects. From what Austin has seen in practice, though, there’s little reason for concern.

“In terms of how sees the game and how fast he reacts, that hasn’t changed,” he said.

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That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Levy has always been known as a prescient player, ever a step or two ahead of his opponents. Back in minicamp, in fact, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was so impressed by Levy’s reads that he asked Jim Caldwell if Levy knew which plays were coming.

“I mean, he moves and it’s really uncanny,” Caldwell said.

So here’s an unnerving thought for opposing offenses: Caldwell believes Levy’s foresight has grown even sharper.

“I think his knowledge of the game is expanding, I think his sense has gotten better,” he said. “Even though you haven’t seen him, I’m just telling you that these guys get better. You can see it in his eyes, in his quickness and in his ability to read.”

Levy has stated that he’ll be ready for Week 1, but his status for Saturday’s game against the Ravens remains up in the air. The linebacker has lobbied to play, but the Lions seem wary of bringing him back too soon.

And though there are benefits to playing in the preseason, both Caldwell and Austin feel Levy can do without it.

“Any time a guy steps on the field there’s risk. So you have that, that’s inherent in our game,” said Austin. “But I think, is there a reward? The fact that he gets to go full speed the first time in a while, that would be the reward. Other than that, I just look at it what’s best for our team moving forward. Does he need it? Does he absolutely have to have preseason to be a good player? No.”

Caldwell said on Wednesday that he is always worried about his team’s health – “everyone, all across the board.” But Levy isn’t a guy causing the coach to lose sleep.

Asked for his concerns about Levy – from a health standpoint or otherwise – Caldwell responded without a blink.

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“I don’t have any.”