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Levy's a middle linebacker; Lions content to pass on defense

Third-round draft pick DeAndre Levy will get first crack at the Lions' vacant middle linebacker position, coach Jim Schwartz said Sunday.

Levy started three years at outside linebacker at Wisconsin in a scheme that frequently placed him over the ball. At 6-foot-2 and 236 pounds, he doesn't have prototype middle linebacker size, but Schwartz said Levy is enough of a “thumper” to play in the center of his defense.

“Watch him hit,” Schwartz said.

The Lions honed in on Levy two weeks ago when they were studying film on Ohio State running back Beanie Wells in case Wells dropped into the second round. Arizona drafted Wells with the 31st pick overall, two picks before the Lions took safety Louis Delmas.

Levy visited the Lions April 17, the last day prospects could travel to NFL teams. The Lions presumably had him No. 1 on their Day 2 board among middle linebackers. Western Illinois outside linebacker Jason Williams was the only linebacker drafted in front of Levy Sunday.

“He had been high on our radar before," Schwartz said. “Beanie Wells is such a downhill running back and Levy knocked him back a couple times and caught our eye again.”

Besides Levy, the Lions drafted a tight end, two return men, an offensive lineman, defensive tackle and another outside linebacker after making two trades Sunday. They've had the NFL's worst defense each of the last two seasons, and just two of their 10 picks – Delmas and Levy – are expected to contribute on defense next year.

Schwartz said fourth-round defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill is a “developmental” prospect who “it's probably unrealistic to expect” much from next year. Seventh-round linebacker Zach Follett is more polished, but with less upside and a murkier path to make the team.

The Lions still have several holes left on defense – there are no immediate plans to sign another middle linebacker – and patchwork to do on both lines, but Schwartz said there was no thought of straying from their board.

“You don't want to strictly draft need just to take players that your scouts don't really have a feel for or your coaches don't really have a good feel for,” he said. “You'd rather take somebody that you like. We still have opportunities to fill some holes.”

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Blogger Bret said...

Dave- Jesse made a very good observation on an earlier story about moving to a 3-4 D. Since you seem to be the new "Lions insider", can you do some nosing around a bit to see if there is anything to this? I see they picked up Northwestern defensive tackle John Gill as an undrafted free agent and states he's "(a) three-technique who could also project to defensive end in a 3-4 scheme".

If they were moving in the direction of 3-4, who would be left out of the equation?


12:50 AM 
Blogger Dave Birkett said...

Yeah, sorry I didn't address that over there. ... I think you will see some hybrid sets out of the Lions. Schwartz has done that some in the past, especially on third downs, and Peterson and Avril are both the type of player who can play standing up or with their hand in the dirt. Schwartz likes versatility in his players and I think that's why Levy and Follett were attractive second-day picks.

Now, Follett's going to have a tough time making the team and in minicamp last week they began installing their base defense, which is a 4-3 with the defensive ends split wide to rush the passer and (in theory) two lane-clogging tackles in the middle. They still a lot of holes defensively, obviously, but I think Dewayne White can have a good year.

So to answer the question, no, they haven't been hiding their true intentions all along. They'll be primarily a 4-3 team, but with enough flexibility to show different looks from time to time.

10:10 AM 

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