NEW ORLEANS -- The truncated NFL owners meeting still allowed for a 90-minute coaches breakfast Tuesday morning, one that gave us an opportunity to assemble reams of information for future blog posts. I plan to sift through it over the coming days and weeks, and we'll start with what I thought was the most interesting part of the 20 minutes I sat with Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
Many of you have noted the Lions' depth deficiency at outside linebacker and wondered if the team would be tempted to move middle linebacker DeAndre Levy to that position, especially if the Lions draft or sign a starting-quality middle linebacker later this spring or summer. Levy has told Detroit-area reporters that he wouldn't fight the change, which would return him to the position he played at Wisconsin.
When asked Tuesday, Schwartz noted how comfortable he is with Levy calling defensive signals and getting players lined up. But notably, he wouldn't rule out the possibility of a position change.
"Part of our criteria for linebackers is we like multidimensional players," Schwartz said. "And that means the ability to play inside and outside. That means the ability to play pass and run, all those things. One of the reasons we drafted him is that he is a multidimensional player. He's a little bit like [quarterback] Matt Stafford. We just need to keep him on the field. When he's played and he's been healthy, he's done very, very well for us. He could move around a lot of different places."
The Lions have released 2010 starter Julian Peterson, and Zack Follett's neck injury makes him a wild-card at best to resume his role as a starter in 2011. The Lions have two reserves who could figure into the equation, Ashlee Palmer and Bobby Carpenter, but a big-picture look at their roster still suggests outside linebacker is a top offseason priority.
Moving an established middle linebacker might not be your first choice, but it might be the Lions' best option depending on how the draft plays out.
"We're very happy with him inside," Schwartz said. "One of his strengths is his ability to control the defense. It's something we were very pleased with when he was a rookie [in 2009]. ... It's very rare that a rookie can do the things that he did. ... [Then] he was very, very impressive in our offseason program, just in getting us set, what our checks were, all those different things. He's a very, very good communicator. So there is also a value to having him in the middle of your defense."
Schwartz said he didn't talk to Levy about changing positions before the lockout started, but added: "I don't need permission."
If all things are equal, my guess is the Lions don't want to move Levy. The middle linebacker is the quarterback of a 4-3 defense, and Schwartz has been talking about him playing this position since the day of the 2009 draft. Chances are, Levy isn't going anywhere. But if multiple breakdowns occur elsewhere, the Lions can be comforted knowing they have this option.