Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis is now confirmed out this week as he tries to work his way through concussion protocol. Davis, despite being a rookie, was one of the centerpieces to this reformed defense. From Day 1 of the offseason, Davis had been planted as the first-string middle linebacker, much like the Lions utilized Taylor Decker as the bonafide left tackle last year.
With Davis out, the Lions are forced to shuffle their entire linebacking squad, which isn’t very deep after overhauling last year’s crew. With such limited options and questionable talent, the Lions will be forced into some tough personnel decisions on Sunday, specifically at weakside linebacker.
Though Davis plays in the middle, the assumption is that Tahir Whitehead, who started in the middle last year but now plays the weakside, will move over to that spot, as he did on Monday night when Davis went down. That leaves a gaping hole at weakside linebacker.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
Who should be the Lions’ starting weakside linebacker against the Atlanta Falcons?
My answer: There are really only two viable answer to this question, and neither of them are ideal: Paul Worrilow and Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
Although Worrilow is the savvy veteran, he comes with plenty of drawbacks. He doesn’t quite have the athleticism to shine in coverage, which could be particularly costly against a team like the Falcons, who has a pair of extremely talented pass-catching backs. He is also not really a reliable tackler, something that could prove frustrating on Sunday.
But Worrilow may also be extra motivated this week. The Falcons are his former team, and he could be out to prove them wrong for not offering him another contract. He’s also, by all accounts, a smart, fundamentally-sound linebacker.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, on the other hand, is still learning everything. The fourth-round rookie has barely had any playing time on defense, and although he looked electric in the preseason, he wasn’t often lined up against first-string players.
That being said, Reeves-Maybin brings all of the athleticism that Worrilow lacks. He’s fast, he’s instinctive and he’s extremely athletic. That’s why, according to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, he received some playing time after Davis went down against the Giants.
“I think one of the things that you saw early with Jalen that we see is very athletic, can run, really can excel in pass coverage because he does have the ability,” Austin said. “He moves like a big defensive back is what he moves like and so that’s why we put him in the game last week.”
But Reeves-Maybin’s inexperience could prove costly. He may overcommit to run fakes or be prone to double-moves. He’s shown that on tape before.
However, there is a third option that I think may be worth considering. Because Tahir Whitehead is clearly at his best at the weakside, maybe the Lions should consider keeping him there and replacing Davis’ spot in the middle with someone else. One of the things Lions coaches like about Worrilow is his versatility, and they have said in the past he can certainly play in the middle.
Worrilow’s leadership and veteran presence would make him a better fit in the middle than he would be on the weakside. His best asset is his brain, and that would fit well in the “defensive quarterback” role in the middle. He also wouldn’t be asked to play pass coverage as often as he would be on the outside.
However, there has been little indication that the Lions are considering this move. So, while I think that may be worth considering, I think the most likely outcome is playing Reeves-Maybin for the majority of the game. The Lions need speed and athleticism against Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and the rookie linebacker is going to have to take off his training wheels at some point.
Who should start at weakside linebacker on Sunday?
This poll is closed
Tahir Whitehead (move Worrilow to MLB)