The Detroit Lions have an opening in their starting lineup at outside linebacker. Both DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch are back and will occupy two of the starting jobs, but with Justin Durant not expected to be re-signed, the Lions will be in need of one new starter at outside linebacker in 2013.
Three players are in the mix to take over for Durant: Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis. Palmer is known best for his excellent play on special teams, but he impressed the Lions at linebacker last season when he was called upon to start in two games. Whitehead and Lewis were pretty much limited to special teams last year as rookies, so they haven't had much of a chance to prove themselves at linebacker. That doesn't mean they haven't impressed coaches behind the scenes, though. From the Free Press:
"We saw good things from those guys as we went through the practices and everything else," Schwartz said. "You guys might not see the development of a Jason Fox or Tahir Whitehead or Travis Lewis, except for what they do on Sundays, in special teams and things like that. But the accumulation of reps and what they do on the practice field gives us confidence that we’ll be able to find that."
Jim Schwartz also had good things to say about Palmer, noting that coaches didn't even notice that a starter was missing when Palmer filled in last season. In other words, there wasn't any real drop-off when Palmer was in the game. That, along with the emergence behind the scenes of Whitehead and Lewis, is why the Lions feel comfortable moving forward with those three fighting for a starting job. Durant had a solid 2012 season for the Lions, but with other players stepping it up, he became expendable moving forward.