There are long shots to make the roster and there are locks, and in the middle there are some players fighting to make the roster and others that are failing to do so. Kyle Van Noy, along with Nevin Lawson and Travis Swanson who we’ve covered recently, fall into both categories rather than falling somewhere between. Inches away from starting, yet inches away from having to find a new team, Kyle Van Noy is one of the most embattled players on the roster. The former second-round pick has barely played since he was drafted out of BYU and his lack of action has only been made more noticeable by the quality of his play (and lack of) when he sees the field. The Detroit Lions have been hyping him as the starter at Sam linebacker, but his chances of being cut are almost equal if not slightly better.
Why it’s obvious he’s safe
Second-round picks are hard for teams to give up on, even when they haven’t had much success. Draft status aside, there are some parallels with how Van Noy’s career has gone and Tahir Whitehead, who actually did less than KVN did prior to becoming an entrenched-then-embattled starter at middle linebacker. There is plenty of precedence of a player finding their bearings after a year or two waiting in the wings, and it happens often enough that the Lions may pump the breaks on dumping him. Add to that how his play wasn’t quite terrible in 2015 when he was able to see the field and a healthy starting corps, and the chances aren’t bad at all that Kyle Van Noy starts at Sam linebacker with Whitehead and DeAndre Levy.
Teryl Austin didn’t get to run his defense fully in 2015 due to injuries, so there’s no telling if Van Noy would have done better than someone like Josh Bynes or Travis Lewis, both of whom were called up ahead of him when injuries struck due to their abilities to play every facet of the game. Van Noy was drafted to be a ‘flamethrower’, not a traditional linebacker, so his liabilities in overall game were on constant display every time he saw the field, and he was rarely asked to play the role he was drafted for.
Why there’s trouble
No team in the NFL has given up on draft picks faster or more consistently than the New England Patriots, from which Bob Quinn hails. Tavon Wilson, now fighting for a job with the Lions, is one such player along with second-rounders Ras-I Dowling, Aaron Dobson, and even first-round picks like Dominique Easley and Chandler Jones. The mentality that draft status buys you longevity isn’t one the Patriots have had, and it’s highly probable that has been brought over to the Detroit Lions.
Playing poorly in most areas in 2015, regardless of why, isn’t going to endear Kyle Van Noy to Bob Quinn and his staff. They have made it a point to light some fires at the linebacker position, too, re-signing Tahir Whitehead, drafting Antwione Williams, and acquisitions of Jon Bostic, Zaviar Gooden and Khaseem Greene. Levy, Whitehead, Williams, and presumably Bynes are locks to make the roster, pitting Kyle Van Noy against a group that contains, generally, more athleticism and pro experience than he has.
If Van Noy is unable to take hold of that starting linebacker spot, it’s possible he falls off the roster completely due to the depth that has been built there. If that’s the situation, it’s probably better for him as a player to move on and get a fresh change of scenery in a new scheme. Then again, he might just suck. Considering this scheme was tailor made for a player of his talents, I’m doubtful a move on would be particularly fruitful, but with such a move, you have to hope only good things come in his future.