In the third game of 2014, when Stephen Tulloch was lost for the season with a knee injury, Tahir Whitehead got the call to go in at linebacker.
Mind you, he had never taken a snap on defense — although he excelled on special teams. He stepped in at middle linebacker and made it look easy which, obviously, it is not.
Here are three reasons Whitehead is so important to the Lions:
He is good at what he does on defense. With Tulloch returning, Whitehead will be in the mix for a starting outside linebacker spot opposite DeAndre Levy. Because of experience Whitehead probably has the edge. It could be a training camp battle between him and Kyle Van Noy, a pass-rushing specialist.
Whitehead might even be better on special teams. He was greatly missed on special teams last year when he played so much defense. Because the Lions run the nickel package so much, as the other outside linebacker Whitehead wouldn’t get as many snaps on defense which would give him more opportunity on special teams.
He has emerged as a leader on defense as he enters his fourth season. He was a fifth-round pick in 2012.