As we start to look ahead to training camp, we're going to take a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions roster. Next up is the linebacker position. (The final year of each player's contract is listed in parentheses.)
Back from last season: DeAndre Levy (2015), Stephen Tulloch (2016), Tahir Whitehead (2015), Josh Bynes (2016), Kyle Van Noy (2017), Travis Lewis (2015), Julian Stanford (2015), Jerrell Harris (2016)
New to the team: Brandon Copeland (2015), Kevin Snyder (2017)
Last season, the Lions' linebackers put together an excellent performance despite some shuffling going on. That shuffling was caused by Stephen Tulloch tearing his ACL early in the season, resulting in Tahir Whitehead sliding inside and a variety of players stepping into the strongside linebacker spot. The unit actually didn't see much of a drop-off, which had a lot to do with DeAndre Levy having another stellar season.
This year, with Tulloch back in the middle and Levy still at the weakside spot, the expectation is that Whitehead will return to the strongside spot. Granted, that means Whitehead will likely only be on the field when the Lions are in their base defense, but all together, that's a pretty excellent trio of starters. When you add in backups like Josh Bynes and Kyle Van Noy, who could have situational roles on defense, this is a pretty deep position for the Lions.
Continuing down the depth chart, the Lions also have Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford, Brandon Copeland, Jerrell Harris and Kevin Snyder. These guys will be battling for the sixth and likely final spot at linebacker, and they will mainly be called upon to play on special teams. I suppose they could always step in on defense in a pinch, but their path to the 53-man roster will be based around their special teams abilities more than anything.
Need going forward?
As long as everybody stays healthy, this position appears to be set. The Lions have some solid starters, some promising backups and lots of competition on special teams. That's pretty much exactly what you want out of your linebackers, so it's tough to imagine any significant moves being necessary at this position.
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