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Lions camp battles: Starting left outside linebacker

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Who will emerge as the Detroit Lions' starting left outside linebacker?

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

As we continue to get ready for Detroit Lions training camp, we're going to examine some of the position battles that will be worth keeping an eye on over the course of the next month and a half or so. Next up is the battle for the starting left outside linebacker job.

Earlier this year, the Lions had two of their three starters at linebacker set to become free agents. They needed to decide if they should bring back both, just one or neither of them. A number of factors went into their decision, and they ultimately opted to just re-sign DeAndre Levy.

With Levy back as a starter at one of the spots at outside linebacker, the Lions decided to let Justin Durant leave. He ended up signing with the Dallas Cowboys, and now the Lions have a spot to fill in the starting lineup with him gone. The Lions let him depart mainly because they already have some young talent at outside linebacker, and they seem to be pretty confident in their plan of simply replacing him from within.

The candidates

The Lions are set to enter training camp with three strong candidates for the starting left outside linebacker job: Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis. The three players split reps with the No. 1 defense during OTAs and the Lions' minicamp, meaning this seems to be a pretty even competition going into training camp.

It does need to be said that Palmer is the only player in this competition with actual starting experience. He made two starts for the Lions last season and five starts back in 2010. He's been dressed for all 16 of the Lions' games in each of the last three seasons, which Whitehead and Lewis can't even say about last year. Whitehead was active for 14 games in his rookie season, while Lewis appeared in 13 games in his first year in the NFL.

Who has the edge right now?

Just based on the experience factor, Palmer pretty clearly has the edge going into camp. Things could obviously change once practices are held and games are played, but if the Lions had to assemble their depth chart tomorrow, I feel pretty comfortable in saying that Palmer would be the starting left outside linebacker.

Previously: Third-string quarterback, No. 4 wide receiver, starting right guard, starting right tackle