"Did the Lions improve?" is our latest series analyzing the Detroit Lions' roster in comparison to their 7-9 2015 season. Next up, we look at the linebackers.
2015 LBs: DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Tahir Whitehead, Josh Bynes, Kyle Van Noy, Travis Lewis, Brandon Copeland
2016 LBs: DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch*, Tahir Whitehead, Josh Bynes, Kyle Van Noy, Jon Bostic, Jerry Franklin, Zaviar Gooden, Khaseem Greene, Antwione Williams
The Lions didn't make many changes to the linebacking crew this offseason. However, there will be a major change in the starting lineup. Stephen Tulloch will not be a part of the team's 2016 plans, despite the fact he is still technically on the roster. Instead, Tahir Whitehead will man the middle linebacker position, while DeAndre Levy, presuming he will be healthy, will take his spot back on the weak side.
Did they improve?
At this point, it is hard to say the Lions will be improved at the linebacker position this season. Though Tulloch became a pass coverage liability last season, he did still provide decent run defense. The Lions were probably right to move on from Tulloch, but moving Whitehead to the middle is a bit of risk, despite the fact that he played the position in 2014.
Still, if Levy is healthy, this position could be vastly improved with the All-Pro linebacker back in action. Levy was becoming a dominant defensive player before a hip injury sidelined him for 2015. The Lions could certainly use that playmaking ability back on the defense this year.
Still, to say definitively the Lions are better at the linebacker position requires a leap of faith, especially considering the limited depth. Early reports are bullish on Kyle Van Noy, but he needs to do something in pads before he'll make a believer out of most.
What about compared to 2014?
2014 LBs: DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Tahir Whitehead, Josh Bynes, Ashlee Palmer, Kyle Van Noy, Julian Stanford, Travis Lewis
It's really quite impressive how little changes have been made in the linebacker depth chart over the past three years. The Lions linebacker crew is going to look almost identical to the situation they were in for the 2014 season. Tulloch was out for the majority of the year with a torn ACL, so Levy, Whitehead and Bynes were your leaders at the linebacker position. Detroit could be in the very same situation two years later.