Detroit Lions: DeAndre Levy

W2W4: Detroit Lions vs. Carolina

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Here are four things to be paying attention to Sunday, when the Detroit Lions face the Carolina Panthers and try to pick up their first road win of the season in their first road game of the season.

1. The rush from the right: If the Panthers are smart -- and Ron Rivera is an intelligent riverboat gambler -- they are going to line Greg Hardy up right near the Lions' right tackle and basically attack either Garrett Reynolds or Cornelius Lucas. If Carolina does this, it could either force a tight end -- Brandon Pettigrew -- to almost exclusively line up there to assist or force Larry Warford to shade over to help consistently. That could be a tricky part of the game plan, including potentially hurting the running game for Joique Bell and Reggie Bush.

2. How the Lions track Newton: It could be interesting if the Lions use a player to essentially shadow Cam Newton as a spy throughout the game to account for his legs and his arm. Personally, I'd use linebacker DeAndre Levy in that role. It might seem like an odd thing to do with your best linebacker and second-best defensive player, but consider Levy's ability in coverage. If he is a spy off the line of scrimmage, he can shadow Newton while also dropping back in coverage when Newton drops back to pass off the zone read. He's smart enough to handle the assignment if Detroit decides to do that.

3. Defensive alignment: This is a matchup that could favor Detroit using more of its base 4-3 -- and maybe even some 4-4 -- instead of nickel, which the Lions lined up in often against the New York Giants. This would mean more time on the field for Tahir Whitehead than the handful of snaps he played Monday night against New York. The Lions would obviously do this to pay more attention to Carolina's run game both with Newton and with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, if Williams plays. This would also allow the Lions to hide rookie Nevin Lawson a little bit more in nickel as he continues to get accustomed to the position.

4. The coin toss: This is more in fun, but now that Ndamukong Suh is a captain for this week, it'll be interesting to see if there is any jawing or nasty looks given between Suh and Newton. Newton, who was clearly having fun with it during his press conference this week, called Ndamukong Suh “Donkey Kong” Suh. Suh hasn't talked about it and his Detroit teammates didn't seem too concerned about it, either, but I'll be watching that to see if there is anything out of the ordinary. As I asked Lions defensive lineman C.J. Mosley this week, “Why would anyone want to possibly anger Suh?” His response: “Why would he try? That's something you have to ask him, man. Maybe he wants to have a closer conversation, in-depth conversation in the game. I don't know. I don't know why he would do that.” So watch the coin toss. See if anything happens there because it might give a clue to how Suh could react during Sunday's game, too.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 35-14 win over the Giants at Ford Field.

What it means: The Lions have to be pleased with what they saw Monday night in Jim Caldwell’s head coaching debut. It is only one game, to be sure, but the Lions saw a much more efficient and smarter Matthew Stafford at quarterback. He was patient with his receivers. He looked more mobile than ever, and he was willing to wait out a play for an open receiver instead of just chucking the ball to Calvin Johnson -- a huge difference from prior seasons.

Stock Watch: Rising: Stafford, Johnson, Golden Tate and DeAndre Levy. The three of them were extremely efficient Monday night. Stafford, who went 22-of-32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns (one rushing), looked possibly even better than his 2011 self. Johnson caught two touchdowns and almost had two others. Tate was the No. 2 receiver the Lions always hoped for. Levy picked up from where he left off in 2013, and he made 10 tackles and intercepted a pass.

Falling: The Lions rushing game was abysmal until the final drives of the game. In the first half, Detroit had 13 carries for 15 yards, and 10 of those came on one run from Joique Bell.

Levy continues ascent: The linebacker went from being an average player prior to the 2013 season to a fringe Pro Bowl-caliber player the past season. Not much changed in the season opener. He intercepted a pass -- one that led to a Detroit touchdown and broke open the game on the next offensive possession -- and continued his consistent sideline-to-sideline performance. He finished with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and the interception.

Game ball: Matthew Stafford. Although Johnson caught both of his touchdown passes, it was Stafford who made those plays happen. He used his feet to create time for Johnson to break free on both touchdowns and threw perfect passes both times. He also, in a rarity for him, had a 5-yard touchdown run on which he actually juked a New York defender. For a night at least, he looked like the quarterback Detroit has always wanted him to be.

What’s next: The Lions go on the road for the first time and head to Carolina on Sunday to face the Panthers (1-0).
Question of the Week is a weekly feature here where we take a cross-section of opinions from Detroit Lions players and coaches (and sometimes opponents) about a singular topic. Most of the time, they have nothing to do with football. Have a suggestion for a question? Email

Previous Questions of the Week. This week: Rookie nerves.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Detroit Lions players, when they could, tried to get away this offseason. They tried to escape their own workaday worlds of being professional athletes either to have some family time, see the world or perhaps create a little family of their own.

With this, the first week of the Lions’ NFL camp, we caught up with some players to find out the most exciting things they did during the offseason.

Wide receiver Jeremy Ross: “I got engaged (to former Cal runner Tracey Stewart). I took her to the Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco and went up to the top on the 40th floor, looking over the whole bay. Had a table for two with strawberries with chocolate, chocolate-covered strawberries with rose petals leading to the table with a violinist playing and a photographer present as well. June 13. We’ve been together for a while. We’ve been really good friends for like seven years.

Linebacker DeAndre Levy: “This offseason I went to Nicaragua and Venezuela. I did that in March, April. In Nicaragua, actually, there was a volcano that I wanted to [see], you can hike and sled down. You hike and sled down it. Mount Roraima in Venezuela is an unbelievable experience. It has endemic species of frogs and plants that are just untouched, unchanged and I camped out there for two days and hiked it for four days.”

Defensive tackle C.J. Mosley: “I’m pretty boring in the offseason, man. I don’t do much, man. Nah, man. I try to make sure, I look at it like this, man. I got drafted in the sixth round. Each and every year, I just feel like I make it by the skin of my teeth. So I just try to limit distractions and make sure that I don’t get caught in nothing.”

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew: “Anniversary in Puerto Rico. It’s one year. It’s nice. It’s pretty low-key down there, chill. Everybody’s like happy down there. It’s not really too lively like a Miami or something like that. It’s pretty chill.”

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy (other than getting married): “Go on vacation. I’ve never been on vacation in my life. (Went to) St. Lucia and then went to Vegas. Of course, I’ve been to Vegas, but it’s my little vacation.”

Reporter: No vacation ever?

Van Noy: “I’ve never been outside of the West Coast for vacation, never been outside of the U.S. or have taken longer than three days, a weekend.”
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder -- unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

Position: Linebacker

Starter: WLB -- DeAndre Levy; MLB -- Stephen Tulloch; SLB -- Kyle Van Noy

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Levy
AP Photo/rick OsentoskiDetroit outside linebacker DeAndre Levy seems on the cusp of becoming an elite player.
Depth (in training camp): Outside -- Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis, Brandon Hepburn, Cory Greenwood. Inside -- Tahir Whitehead, Julian Stanford, Justin Jackson.

Likely roster spots: 5-6.

What to expect in camp: Like a lot of the other positions on the roster, much of the competition during camp will be to spell the starters and win special teams spots. DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch are entrenched as starters and won’t be losing their jobs during camp barring injury.

The one starting spot somewhat up for grabs is the Sam linebacker, where rookie Kyle Van Noy is expected to win the job but will face a tough competition from veteran Ashlee Palmer, who had the job last season. Van Noy missed part of spring workouts because of injury, so the second-round pick might be a little bit behind when training camp opens next week. But he will be given every possible chance to win the job. If he does, it will be interesting to see if Palmer hangs on to a roster spot.

Tahir Whitehead might be close to a roster lock as well because of his special teams capability. He was a four-team player last season and was named the Lions’ special teams MVP. Considering the team retained John Bonamego and Evan Rothstein as the special teams coaches, this bodes well for Whitehead’s ability to remain on the roster.

The rest of the linebackers will potentially be competing for one roster spot, so it should be a pretty intense battle throughout camp. It will be primarily a special teams slot, and multiple guys -- including Stanford and Lewis -- have extensive experience there.

What Detroit needs to see: This starts with Van Noy. Much like Eric Ebron on offense, he needs to show Detroit he is ready to be a capable starter from the beginning of the season. Though he won’t be relied on quite as much as Ebron because the Lions will play a fair amount of nickel throughout the season, he needs to show he can handle a starter’s role after the team traded up in the second round to draft him.

At some point this season, Van Noy will end up as the starter there. His pass rush and coverage capabilities are too valuable for Detroit to keep him off the field, but the quicker the Lions see he can handle it consistently and without many mistakes, the faster he will supplant Palmer at the top of the depth chart. Ideally for Detroit, it happens by the middle of training camp.

Detroit knows what it has in Levy and Tulloch, although they wouldn’t mind if Levy completes his progression into one of the game’s top linebackers.

With reserves, if Whitehead can become a viable backup, that will give the Lions some flexibility because of his special teams capabilities. Entering his third season, he has to take that step now or be cast as a special teams player throughout his career. Lewis and Stanford are in similar positions. If they show they are able to be good in situations -- much like Rocky McIntosh was in short-yardage last season -- they have a chance to stick beyond special teams.

Justin Jackson is a player to pay attention to when it comes to a potential practice squad spot because of his athleticism, but he will have a rough road to a 53-man spot.
The Detroit Lions' offseason is already a week old and the team made one somewhat surprising move in releasing cornerback Chris Houston a year after signing him to a $25 million contract.

What else is there to potentially look for before training camp starts in late July? A few things pop up as possibilities between now and then.

The Suh situation: Whenever team president Tom Lewand has discussed Ndamukong Suh's contract situation, he has pointed to when the Lions signed Matthew Stafford to an extension a year ago. It took until the summer. Well, summer has begun so it would seem to fit when Detroit is hoping to extend its defensive star. If this doesn't happen over the next month or so, it is legitimately time for the Lions to wonder if an extension will happen at all.

A veteran signing: Yes, cornerback Brandon Flowers is on the market, as are a multitude of veteran wide receivers. These seem to be the two areas of need for the Lions at this point and general manager Martin Mayhew has shown in the past he is comfortable making veteran moves to improve his roster whenever necessary. Look at the Rashean Mathis signing from last year. So don't be surprised if there is a little bit of a roster shift between now and training camp. Another player to watch here could be defensive tackle Derek Landri, whom the team brought in earlier this spring.

Improvement of Larry Warford: Warford told me he is heading to work with his offensive line guru, LeCharles Bentley, for a portion of June and July. It was during this same time frame last year when Warford made the jump into being the player who started every game and played every snap for Detroit in his rookie season. In talking with Warford this spring, he's still not completely happy with his game, so he's headed to Bentley for a tune-up and some tweaks for his second season.

Accountability and the unexpected: Without fail, during every offseason around the NFL, something happens. Before the players left, new head coach Jim Caldwell preached accountability both on the field and off of it. This will be their longest time away from the team until next offseason, so whether his message stuck will be displayed here.

Cool traveling on Twitter and Instagram: This is the time of year where players often take some of their more exotic vacations. Reggie Bush -- it's for a sponsorship thing, it seems -- has been in Australia most of this week. DeAndre Levy is likely headed somewhere interesting as well and he already spent part of that offseason out of the country. Then there's Suh, who will be on television again in an episode of "American Muscle" on July 16 on the Discovery Channel. (It was already filmed with former Michigan strength coach Mike Barwis at Barwis' training facility in suburban Detroit.)
The offseason workouts have concluded and with players and coaches about six weeks away from the start of training camp, one last rest and individualized training period will commence.

After a month of workouts, though, there have been some players who have made cases for potential roster spots in the fall and others who did not help themselves nearly as much.

Just like the start of the spring workouts, here is a look at the Detroit defensive and special teams depth chart -- along with a post-minicamp guess at the 53-man roster that could end up being the Lions' team in the fall. Remember, a lot can change between now and then.

Changes from our May defensive prediction are in parentheses. The offensive roster prediction lives here.


Starters: Ezekiel Ansah (open); Jason Jones (closed)

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Devin Taylor, Darryl Tapp, Larry Webster, George Johnson, Kalonji Kashama.

Thoughts: Ansah didn’t practice this spring but he is a starter and should have a good year. Jones started to look healthier and will likely be pushed by Taylor throughout camp. Taylor may end up winning the job. Tapp is a good veteran and Webster is raw. Really raw.

Roster locks: Ansah, Jones, Taylor. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ansah, Jones, Taylor, Tapp, Webster. (Webster up from practice squad)


Starters: Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley.

Backups: C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Andre Fluellen, Xavier Proctor, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Greg Hickman.

Thoughts: The Lions cut a lot of marginal veteran weight here during the spring and really somewhat set their defensive tackle depth chart. Suh and Fairley, at least in the spring, look like they could be the dominant pairing the Lions wanted the past few seasons. Both Jones and Taylor can play inside, so that gives the Lions flexibility.

Roster locks: Suh, Fairley, Mosley (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Suh, Fairley, Mosley, Reid, Proctor (practice squad) (Add Proctor to practice squad)


Starters: DeAndre Levy (weak side); Stephen Tulloch (middle); Kyle Van Noy (strong side)

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead, Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford, Cory Greenwood, Brandon Hepburn, Justin Jackson.

Thoughts: The starters are pretty set here with the two veterans and the rookie, Van Noy. Palmer will end up playing his way onto the team, but watch for Whitehead here. He is a potential candidate to push for playing time or at least be a stable backup in the middle. The last spot here could be between Stanford and Lewis for a mainly special-teams spot. In this version, I cut both Stanford and Lewis in favor of a sixth cornerback, but could easily see that changing by the time the next roster projection is done before camp.

Roster locks: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy, Palmer, Whitehead, Hepburn (practice squad). (Jackson off practice squad, Palmer to the 53-man roster).


Starters: Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis (Chris Houston off team).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Chris Greenwood, Nevin Lawson, Jonte Green, Aaron Hester, Mohammed Seisay.

Thoughts: The release of Houston opens up this competition and a roster spot for another cornerback, potentially. Slay and Mathis are likely starters here with everyone else fighting for time and, other than Lawson, a roster spot. It’ll be one of the toughest battles of camp. This was one of the toughest cuts I had to make.

Roster locks: Slay, Mathis, Lawson. (Add Mathis, subtract Houston)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Slay, Mathis, Bentley, Vaughn, Lawson, Greenwood, Seisay (practice squad). (Houston, Green off; Seisay on practice squad).


Starters: Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo.

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Don Carey, Isa Abdul-Quddus, DeJon Gomes, Jerome Couplin, Gabe Lynn.

Thoughts: The Lions are good with their top three safeties in Quin, Ihedigbo and Carey. Carey can play both nickel and corner in an emergency, which makes him imminently valuable for the Lions. Abdul-Quddus and Gomes might be competing for one roster spot and that should be an intense battle throughout camp. Between these two was the last cut I made. Initially had both making the roster until the end.

Roster locks: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey, Abdul-Quddus, Couplin (practice squad)


Starter: Nate Freese

Backup: Giorgio Tavecchio

Thoughts: Still Freese's job to lose, but this might be a tougher competition than anticipated. Tavecchio has the stronger leg and if he can add consistency, he’ll win the gig. Otherwise, it’s Freese’s. Right now, it’s a toss-up.

Roster locks: None.

If picking the roster today, this guy would be on it: Freese.


Starter: Sam Martin

Backups: None.

Thoughts: None. It’s Martin.

Roster locks: Martin.

If picking the roster today, this guy would be on it: Martin.


Starter: Don Muhlbach.

Backups: Jordan Thompson.

Thoughts: None. Barring injury, Muhlbach will be the team’s long-snapper.

Roster locks: Muhlbach.

If picking the roster today, this guy would be on it: Muhlbach.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – There is now one day left.

The Detroit Lions finished up the second day of their mandatory minicamp Wednesday and it was probably the most balanced day the team has had during their sessions. After the first two weeks of open practices where the defense was dominant and the last couple of practices where the offense has been better, neither group seemed to take over the practice.

That might be a good sign for the Lions that the offense is catching up to the defense even if both sides of the ball were without key contributors. Here are some thoughts, notes and observations from the day.
  • A decent amount of players missed practice Wednesday. Wide receiver TJ Jones, cornerback Chris Houston and linebacker Stephen Tulloch were not spotted at practice. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), guard Rob Sims, wide receiver Golden Tate (shoulder), wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, running back Mikel Leshoure and running back Joique Bell (knee) all sat out practice. Ansah, Tate and Bell were expected. Sims has missed team drills all offseason, as had Glover Quin, who only worked in individual drills Wednesday.
  • Jason Jones appears to be slowly moving back to health. He seemed more active Wednesday than he has during past open practices, including working some with the first unit. He is still coming back from a ruptured patella tendon suffered last season, but he will be a contender for the closed defensive end spot in the fall opposite Ansah on the defensive line.
  • Player of the practice: For the second straight day, it is Calvin Johnson. Any question about Johnson’s health are now gone. He was once again the best player on the field and caught everything around him. He appears to be completely over his injuries and has his timing with Matthew Stafford down once again. He beat any cornerback the Lions lined up against him during 1-on-1 periods and on one play leapt over DeAndre Levy to catch a pass that he ended up running in for a touchdown.
  • During those 1-on-1 drills between defensive backs and receivers, the receivers clearly won the day. They had at least six completions to start the drill, including Kris Durham reaching out to make a difficult catch in front of Darius Slay. Corey Fuller also beat Aaron Hester on a post route that was pretty impressive.
  • Sequence of the day: Two impressive plays in a row. First, safety James Ihedigbo jumped a route from Stafford to Brandon Pettigrew to break up the pass. It was a great break on the ball by Ihedigbo. Stafford followed it up, though, with a perfectly threaded ball to Patrick Edwards into a small window over safety Don Carey. It was the best throw Stafford made on the day.
  • Carey is starting to really emerge as the probable third safety, although this is not unexpected. He once again filled in for Quin during team drills and has been a decent presence back there. In the secondary, Jonte Green is the one player who doesn’t seem to be getting as many reps as one might think.
  • As they did Tuesday, Rodney Austin and rookie Travis Swanson both took first-team reps at guard and center. While Austin worked some at center Tuesday, Swanson was there Wednesday. In some ways, this is a test from Jim Caldwell to see if both of them can play both guard and center, something imperative for a reserve interior lineman. With Sims out, Austin has spent the majority of spring working with the first team at left guard.
  • This is getting repetitive, but Theo Riddick continues to be impressive. He seems a little faster than last season and might have improved more than anyone else on the roster from last season. He is putting himself in position to have a real role in this offense this season after being primarily a backup in 2013.
  • Written about Eric Ebron’s drops here a bit, so worth noting when he makes the type of catch the Lions drafted him for. He extended on what looked like a poorly thrown ball to stretch in front of safety Isa Abdul-Quddus to make the grab before hitting the ground. It is one of the best catches he has made in the open practice setting this spring.
  • With Tulloch not in attendance, Tahir Whitehead took a lot of the first-team snaps at linebacker next to Levy. He was pretty active there. While he is primarily a special-teams standout – he’ll end up having a roster spot because of his special-teams play – that the Lions staff inserted him there behind Tulloch would appear to indicate he is having a pretty good spring. After practice, Caldwell cited how Whitehead controls the movement of other players in that space as one of the reasons they like him behind Tulloch.
  • Really good day for Sam Martin. The second-year punter had some help with the wind, but he crushed almost all of his punts. It is tough to see yard lines because of how the Lions’ outdoor practice fields are set up, but he said after practice one of his punts went over 80 yards and had a few go at least 70 yards. He said his shortest on the day was 63 yards. Strong day for him.
The actual offseason, when players take leave of Michigan for the most part until training camp starts, is only a week away.

But until then, there are still a lot of questions to be answered about the Detroit Lions so let's get to them.

As always, if you have questions for the Mailbag, either tweet them with the hashtag #LionsMailbag or email The Mailbag is only as good as the questions you ask.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – The Detroit Lions finished up their first open practice of the organized team activities period Wednesday afternoon – and after Ndamukong Suh dropped that he controlled his own draft fate in 2010 – there are other things to get to.

Here are some observations and thoughts after watching the Lions' practice under head coach Jim Caldwell, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin for the first time.
  • The defense appears faster and certainly more excited than anything I remember from last season. They celebrated plays a lot and seemed to be a fairly cohesive unit throughout the practice. They also seemed to be playing a lot better than the offense throughout the majority of Wednesday’s practice, from individual periods to team periods.They seemed sharper, from a couple of interceptions of the first and second groups to just being more aggressive throughout the practice.
  • Of those players, cornerback Cassius Vaughn stood out heavily. He made a beautiful break on intercepting a Dan Orlovsky pass and had it been a real game, Vaughn might have scored on the play. He seemed to be aggressive and realizing there was an opportunity to be had with Chris Houston and Chris Greenwood both out of practice Wednesday.“At this point in time, he’s been here with us for a while,” Caldwell said of Vaughn. “He’s a guy that loves to play and he loves to tell you about it once in a while as he’s playing. But nevertheless, he’s a guy that’s working extremely hard trying to win a spot on this team. He does bring some energy.”It’s only one practice, but if Vaughn keeps playing as he did Wednesday, he may end up in contention for a roster spot come the fall.
  • Calvin Johnson did not look like his typically sharp self. He dropped a couple of passes and looks like he is still finding his way into playing shape. Don’t forget, he did have offseason surgery and it is May – so nothing to be concerned about yet. Also not looking particularly precise was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was intercepted by Stephen Tulloch on one play and had a couple of other balls dropped.
  • Michael Williams is going to have to put on some weight – and he knows it. He said after practice he probably needs to add another 15 to 20 pounds – he’s put on six to seven already – and hasn’t played offensive tackle in his life. Yet playing tackle instead of tight end might end up being his best path to a roster spot in the fall and in the future, so it makes sense for him to make that switch.
  • DeAndre Levy’s beard is intense – that much was known beforehand – but he looks like he could end up building well off of last season’s breakout season. He seems pretty comfortable already and in strong shape. This is going to be important for Detroit’s defense this season.
  • Was also impressed by the size of undrafted free-agent safety Jerome Couplin. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, but when I noticed him in the defensive backfield, he didn’t look like your typical safety. He’s longer, rangier and perhaps has a longer stride than most of your typical defensive backs. He almost looks more like a taller receiver than someone in the defensive backfield. He’s going to end up being a player to watch in contention for a roster spot at points during this camp.
  • Jeremy Ross also looks like he has improved from a season ago. Possibly a bit bigger – especially in his arms – and perhaps with a little bit more speed as well.
Other notes:
  • Golden Tate was not at the Lions’ open practice Wednesday. He was a bit busy with other things – like going to the White House with his old team, Seattle, to meet President Barack Obama.
  • Others not participating (in at least some extent) were running back Joique Bell, defensive end Kourtnei Brown, cornerback Chris Greenwood, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, left guard Rob Sims, linebacker Brandon Hepburn, defensive tackle Nick Fairley and cornerback Chris Houston. Of those players, only Houston, Tate and Fairley were not spotted as at least being in attendance. Some of these players participated in walk-throughs or individual drills.
  • The Lions have one more organized team activity in this period – Thursday – before being off for the weekend.
The true workout portion of the Detroit Lions' offseason activities begins Friday with the start of rookie minicamp, followed by OTAs and then the mandatory minicamp in June.

Before that officially begins, here's a look at the Lions' depth chart -- along with a first shot at what the 53-man roster could look like come fall. And please remember, a lot can change between now and then.


Starters: Ezekiel Ansah, Jason Jones

Backups (in projected order of depth for now): Devin Taylor, Darryl Tapp, Kourtnei Brown, George Johnson, Larry Webster.

[+] EnlargeDarius Slay
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiCornerback will be a position to watch in the upcoming year, including keeping tabs on Lions' second-year player Darius Slay.
Thoughts: Ansah is a lock and has the potential to break out in his second season after a good rookie year. After that, the position is unsettled. Jones is coming off a season-ending knee injury. Taylor played well in spurts last season, but not consistently. Webster is raw. Tapp and Brown are likely competing for the fourth spot.

Roster locks: Ansah, Jones, Taylor.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ansah, Jones, Taylor, Tapp, Webster (practice squad).


Starters: Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley

Backups (in projected order of depth for now): C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Andre Fluellen, Corvey Irvin, Vaughn Martin, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Xavier Proctor.

Thoughts: Suh and Fairley are entering the final year of their contracts, but are one of the more dominant duos in the league when Fairley decides to play well. Reid could be the steal of the draft for the Lions, and Mosley provides good depth and leadership. Everyone else is likely fighting for a roster spot at best.

Roster locks: Suh, Fairley, Mosley.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Suh, Fairley, Mosley, Reid.


Starters: DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Kyle Van Noy.

Backups (in projected order of depth): Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead, Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford, Brandon Hepburn, Justin Jackson.

Thoughts: The starters are locks at this point. Levy, if he takes another step, could turn into a dominant linebacker. Tulloch is one of the defensive leaders, and Martin Mayhew already said Van Noy could end up starting right away. The depth is still questionable, but Whitehead is a good player who at least can be strong on special teams.

Roster locks: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy, Whitehead, Stanford, Hepburn (practice squad), Jackson (practice squad).


Starters: Chris Houston, Darius Slay.

Backups (in projected order of depth): Rashean Mathis, Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood, Aaron Hester, Nevin Lawson, Mohammed Seisay, Gabe Lynn.

Thoughts: This was one of the positions that appeared to be in need of help in the draft and the Lions didn't really address it. This is a massive year for Bentley, Green and Greenwood, as well as an important development year for Slay. Other than Matthew Stafford, the level of success Detroit has this season might depend on how these players end up improving or not. It could end up being the most competitive battle in camp. The toughest decision I had on this roster was between Bentley and Greenwood, but went with Bentley. Cornerback is going to be a position to watch over the next four months.

Roster locks: Houston, Slay, Lawson.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Houston, Slay, Mathis, Vaughn, Green, Bentley, Lawson.


Starters: Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo

Backups (in projected order of depth): Don Carey, Isa Abdul-Quddus, DeJon Gomes, Jerome Couplin.

Thoughts: Quin and Ihedigbo are set, and Carey can be a serviceable backup at safety and also play down at nickel. Abdul-Quddus is a special teams player the Lions targeted early. Watch for Couplin. He may be more intriguing than some of Detroit's draft picks.

Roster locks: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey, Abdul-Quddus, Couplin (practice squad).


Starter: Nate Freese

Backups (in projected order of depth): Giorgio Tavecchio

Thoughts: This is Freese's job to lose as the team used a draft pick -- albeit a seventh-rounder -- on him. If Tavecchio outkicks him, he could steal the job.

Roster locks: None

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Freese


Starter: Sam Martin

Backups: None.

Thoughts: Martin's the guy.

Roster locks: Martin

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Martin.


Starter: Don Muhlbach

Backups (in projected order of depth): Jordan Thompson

Thoughts: Muhlbach is one of the best in the league here. With a rookie kicker, he's not going anywhere. What could be intriguing is if the team keeps Thompson on the practice squad as the snapper of the future.

Roster locks: Muhlbach.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Muhlbach.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Some thoughts on the Detroit Lions’ second-round pick.

The pick: Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU

My take: It was thought the Lions might trade up or back in the first round for a player. Instead, it happened in the second round, as Detroit made the move up from No. 45 to No. 40 to take a linebacker, filling one of the many defensive needs the team has. This will give the Lions the pass-rushing linebacker they needed -- and puts him back with his former college teammate Ezekiel Ansah, the defensive end the Lions selected in the first round last season.

Van Noy is a smart player who is productive, having made 226 tackles in his career with 62 tackles for loss, 26 sacks and seven interceptions. He should be able to step in immediately in 4-3 settings along with Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy.

In return for the No. 40 pick, Detroit gave up its fourth- and seventh-round picks this year. It got back a fifth-rounder.

Two for two: The Lions appear to be loading up on engaged players so far in this draft. First-round pick Eric Ebron proposed to his girlfriend, Brittany Rountree, before the first round of the NFL draft Thursday. Now there's Van Noy, whose official bio handed out by the Lions says he is engaged to Miss Utah USA, Marissa Powell.

What’s next: The Lions pick at No. 76, the 12th pick in the third round.
Over the last two weeks, we took a look at the last 10 first rounds from the Detroit Lions -- all of the drafts that had Martin Mayhew as either the team's general manager or assistant general manager.

This week, we're looking specifically as the Lions' drafts since 2009, when Mayhew has been in charge. This will be a look at the entire class, not just the first round picks, which garner the most attention.

We'll take a peek at each of the drafts, what worked, what didn't and one pick that in retrospect we would change with Detroit. Hopefully, this can also give a window into the way Mayhew drafts and some of the decisions he has made in the past that could help influence the 2014 draft and beyond.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Rodger Mallison/Getty ImagesThe Lions scored a hit with Matthew Stafford -- the top overall pick of the 2009 draft.
Complete draft (pick number in parentheses): Round 1 -- Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia (1); Round 1 -- Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State (20); Round 2 -- Louis Delmas, S, Western Michigan (33); Round 3 -- DeAndre Levy, LB, Wisconsin (76); Round 3 -- Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State (82); Round 4 -- Sammie Hill, DT, Stillman (115); Round 6 -- Aaron Brown, RB, TCU (192); Round 7 -- Lydon Murtha, OT, Nebraska (228); Round 7 -- Zack Follett, LB, California (235); Round 7 -- Dan Gronkowski, TE, Maryland (255).

Picks left on the 2014 roster: 3 (Stafford, Pettigrew, Levy)

Picks left in the NFL at the end of the 2013 season: 5 (Stafford, Pettigrew, Delmas, Levy, Hill)

Best pick: Stafford. This might seem like the easy selection, but in his first five seasons in the league he has set franchise records and actually become the best Lions quarterback since Bobby Layne. Of course, that's not exactly a high bar considering the motley group of quarterbacks between Layne and Stafford, but he is a strong-armed quarterback who turned out to be, by far, the best quarterback in his draft class.

Thus far in his career, Stafford has thrown for 17,457 yards, 109 touchdowns and 73 interceptions. While his accuracy (career 59.5 percent passer in the regular season) and decision-making are still major questions for him entering his sixth season with the Lions, the team has completely committed to him after giving him a massive contract extension prior to the 2013 season. For better or for worse, Detroit will be at the mercy of the play of its newly-engaged quarterback.

Worst pick: Williams. The third round pick signed a three-year deal with the Lions when he was drafted out of Penn State and didn't even it make it to the end of his first contract before being released. Williams played in 18 games during his two seasons with the Lions and caught nine passes for 82 yards. He never caught a touchdown. Even more telling -- he only had 17 targets and only 14 yards after the catch in his career.

Best value pick: Levy. The No. 76 overall pick, Levy took a step this season toward becoming one of the top linebackers in the NFL. He had 118 tackles in 2013 -- the second time in his career he topped the 100-tackle mark -- and also had six interceptions. He was Detroit's second-best defensive player in 2013 behind Ndamukong Suh and appears to be heading into the prime of his career. He graded out as the seventh-best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league this season by Pro Football Focus and the third-best in pass coverage. Considering the mess that was the 2009 draft, if teams were to re-draft today, Levy could have been a late first-rounder in 2009.

One pick I'd change (other than the worst one): This one will be a little bit shocking, mostly because it is a higher pick and not fixing part of the Lions' late round miscues this season. If I had to switch one pick in this draft, it would have been taking Jairus Byrd over Delmas in the second round. This has little to do with Delmas' production as he was a good player for the Lions and a starter during his time with the tea,. Rather, Byrd went less than 10 slots later and has turned into a Pro Bowler who was too expensive for Detroit during free agency. He would have offered more stability at the position than Delmas did and would have been healthier as well.

Draft grade overall: B. Detroit got four starters out of this draft class -- Stafford, Pettigrew, Delmas and Levy -- and a contributor for four seasons in Hill. That's not terrible out of a 10-pick class where four of those picks were sixth or seventh round selections. The Lions ended up hitting on their first four picks in that draft with those four starters. Detroit should want that type of success rate every draft. The reason the grade on this draft is not higher is because none of the starters have made a Pro Bowl yet or been named All-Pro. But they have been solid starters and two of those players, Stafford and Levy, could end up at that elite level soon.
Recruiting has been deemed a completely inexact proposition seemingly forever. Guys who are highly rated don't pan out. Guys who were walk-ons turn into NFL players and, sometimes, stars.

So as teams across the country sign players Wednesday, here's a look back at where the Detroit Lions were ranked when they were high school seniors. For rankings from 2006 forward, the rankings used are ESPN's rankings. From 2002 to 2006, we used the rankings.

In some cases, no rankings were available. If something is not denoted as coming from another site, it is ESPN's ranking from that year.
What you'll see is most of Detroit's players were not highly rated players coming out of high school. Some had no ranking at all. Just goes to show how blue chip recruits in high school don't always turn into top-level college or NFL players.

This post covers the defense and special teams. This post from earlier took care of the offense.

Defensive linemen:
  • Suh
    Ndamukong Suh (2005): Rated as the No. 6 defensive tackle by and the No. 51 player overall. Signed with Nebraska.
  • Nick Fairley (2007): Rated as the No. 31 offensive tackle. Signed with Auburn but went to Copiah-Lincoln Community College for two years before heading to Auburn.
  • Willie Young (2004): Rated as the No. 14 defensive end by Signed with N.C. State and went to Hargrave Military Academy in 2004 before going to N.C. State in 2005. Was the No. 18 prep school player in the country in the Class of 2005.
  • Ziggy Ansah (2008): Not rated in ESPN's database. Not surprising considering he went to BYU from Ghana. He tried out for basketball, was on the track team in 2009 and started playing football in 2010. His story is documented here from colleague Ohm Youngmisuk.
  • Devin Taylor (2008): Rated as the No. 69 defensive end in his class and No. 21 player in South Carolina. Signed with South Carolina.
  • Jason Jones (2004): Not rated by, but was labeled a two-star prospect by the service. Signed with Eastern Michigan.
  • C.J. Mosley (2001): Not in Tom Lemming's Top 100 for 2001 but Missouri's website says Mosley was one of the top 55 defensive line prospects in the country in 2001. Signed with Missouri.
  • Andre Fluellen (2003): Rated as the No. 28 defensive tackle in the country and No. 22 player in Georgia his year. Signed with Florida State.
  • Israel Idonije (2000): Played football at Manitoba in Canada.
  • Xavier Proctor (2008): He was not rated by either service in 2008 and signed with North Carolina Central. Here's an interesting story about his past from the Baltimore Sun.
  • Jimmy Saddler-McQueen (2005 or 2006): No information is available on Saddler-McQueen. He signed with Texas A&M-Kingsville, where he played from 2006 to 2009.
  • Stephen Tulloch (2003): Rated as the No. 28 inside linebacker in his class and No. 51 player in Florida by Signed with N.C. State.
  • Levy
    DeAndre Levy (2005): Rated as the No. 49 outside linebacker in his class and the No. 4 player in Wisconsin by Signed with Wisconsin.
  • Ashlee Palmer (2006): Information on Palmer's recruitment is confusing. Was unranked in the Class of 2007 by ESPN. He was the No. 38 junior college player in the class of 2006 by as a safety. He initially signed with Nebraska out of high school, then signed with Washington out of Compton Community College before landing at Mississippi. There are some nuggets about Palmer's recruiting saga in this story.
  • Rocky McIntosh (2001): Rated as the No. 15 linebacker in the nation by SuperPrep according to the Miami (Fla.) website, where he signed.
  • Tahir Whitehead (2008): Not ranked as a safety out of high school. Signed with Temple.
  • Julian Stanford (2008): Not rated by either service in 2008. Signed with Wagner.
  • Brandon Hepburn (2008): Not rated by either service in 2008. Signed with Florida A&M.
  • Travis Lewis (2007): Rated as the No. 79 running back in the country by ESPN and No. 20 outside linebacker by Signed with Oklahoma.
  • Cory Greenwood (2006): Played football in Canada.
Defensive backs:
  • Delmas
    Louis Delmas (2005): Not rated by, but was a two-star recruit. Signed with Western Michigan.
  • Glover Quin (2006): Not rated by either service out of Southwest Mississippi Community College in 2006. More interesting -- both Rivals and ESPN had his name spelled at Glover Quinn with two "n's" in their bios.
  • Rashean Mathis (1998 or 1999): Mathis broke his leg his senior year at Englewood High School according to, costing him high Division I scholarships. He ended up at Bethune-Cookman. No recruiting information exists about him.
  • Chris Houston (2003): Rated as the No. 32 cornerback in his class and No. 66 player in Texas by Signed with Arkansas.
  • Darius Slay (2009): Rated as the No. 109 safety and No. 76 player in Georgia in 2009. Signed with Mississippi State but went to Itawamba Community College before re-signing with Mississippi State in 2011, when he was unrated.
  • Don Carey (2005): Not rated as a safety by in his class. Signed with Norfolk State.
  • Bill Bentley (2008): Went from Pahokee, Fla. to Dodge City Community College. Didn't play there, but signed with Louisiana. Was not rated by ESPN.
  • Jonte Green (2007): Not rated out of high school by either service. Signed with Benedict College before transferring to New Mexico State.
  • Chris Greenwood (2007): Not rated out of high school. Went to Division II Northwood and then Division III Albion.
  • DeJon Gomes (2007): Not rated out of high school. Attended City College of San Francisco and then Nebraska in 2009. He was not rated then, either.
  • John Wendling (2002): Not rated as a running back out of high school by Two-star recruit. Signed with Wyoming.
  • Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (2006): Not rated as a running back. Signed with Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania and had an interesting recruiting story in Sports Illustrated.
A coach has been hired. A staff is being filled out. The Detroit Lions offseason and planning for the 2014 season is officially here.

To start that process, we will look at each position group over the next two weeks, analyze what worked and what didn’t before projecting what could happen between now and training camp in 2014, which is only a mere seven or so months away.

Today the series continues with linebackers.

Previous positions: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers; Tight ends; Offensive tackles; Interior linemen; Defensive ends; Defensive tackles.

2014 free agents: Rocky McIntosh; Julian Stanford (exclusive rights)

The good: It starts with DeAndre Levy, who had a Pro Bowl-level season for the Lions. His six interceptions were tied for second in the NFL, only behind Seattle’s Richard Sherman. He had 119 tackles and was a force stopping the run and sniffing out screen passes. By the end of the season, he became the Lions best defender. Stephen Tulloch had a team-high 135 tackles -- the second-highest total of his career -- and a career-high 3.5 sacks. He and Levy were part of one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Ashlee Palmer, the team’s third starting linebacker, played decently in essentially spot duty since he split snaps with Detroit’s nickel cornerbacks. Tahir Whitehead was the Lions’ top special-teams performer.

The bad: Detroit’s linebackers struggled in coverage even with Levy’s interceptions, particularly on tight ends. Travis Lewis was suspended for using Adderall and missed the final four games of the season. The team’s depth at the position was also highly suspect beyond the veteran McIntosh, who is an unrestricted free agent.

The money (using 2014 cap numbers from Roster Management System): Tulloch has a fairly high cap number at $5,050,000 and with three years left on his deal is a tough candidate for a restructure. Levy is a manageable $3,250,000 cap number. Palmer, entering the final year of his contract, is at $1,583,334. Whitehead is at $623,000 and Lewis at $584,793.

What Caldwell might favor: This is probably a coincidence, but almost all of coach Jim Caldwell’s starting linebackers in Indianapolis were 6-foot tall and weighed between 230 and 240 pounds. The exceptions were 6-foot-2 Philip Wheeler and 5-foot-11 Gary Brackett.

Potential cuts: Palmer is a possibility, depending on what the Lions do in the draft or free agency. Lewis could be a cut as he is a special-teamer and the team didn’t appear to struggle on special teams without him.

Draft priority: Somewhat high. The Lions need depth at the position behind Levy and Tulloch and could even be shopping for a starter if the Lions aren’t big on Palmer.

Numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information and Roster Management System.
Not surprising at all, really, but Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh were named to the Associated Press All-Pro first team Friday.

They were the only two Lions to make either the first or second team, which shouldn't be too surprising considering the plethora of good running backs and linebackers in the league.

The only players who could have argued to be on the team were right guard Larry Warford, center Dominic Raiola and outside linebacker DeAndre Levy.

Levy not making the team is not a surprise, again, due to the difference between 3-4 and 4-3 outside linebackers and the statistics 3-4 outside linebackers accrue. Thought Warford would have a shot to slip in on the second team, but he did not.

Also, Warford was not among the five finalists for the NFL Rookie of the Year. No offensive or defensive linemen were among the finalists. Instead there were two wide receivers (Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen), two running backs (Giovani Bernard and Eddie Lacy) and a linebacker (Kiko Alonso).