This offseason, the Detroit Lions' linebacker position was the beneficiary of some outstanding news. Stephen Tulloch, Detroit's tackling machine, signed a long term contract adding some needed stability to a position which had previously been lacking it. With that commitment, fans can truly believe in the notion that this defense is strong up the middle.
Today, we take a closer look at the last line of the defense, often times the difference between who scores near the goal line and who doesn't.
Who's The Guy? Stephen Tulloch. The unquestioned leader, Tulloch's steady veteran hand is guiding Detroit's second line of defense back to prominence. Though he didn't register 160 tackles like he did with Tennessee, 111 is still a fantastic total. In his first year, Tulloch was everything the Lions expected and more. Now, he'll try to remain steady as he sets down roots in Detroit.
Second In Command? DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant. Both Levy and Durant had very solid 2011 campaigns, with the new addition Durant perhaps being the most impressive linebacker. Each will have to replicate their excellent development to supplement Tulloch. Both are thumpers who can tackle, and in order to help a run defense which is lagging, that will have to continue.
Others Worth Noting: Ashlee Palmer, Doug Hogue, Travis Lewis and Tahir Whitehead. Out of this group, Palmer is the lone veteran with Lewis and Whitehead being rookies and Hogue playing the second year role. After Bobby Carpenter moved on, Palmer will need to play the role of qualified elder statesman. Out of Hogue, Lewis and Whitehead, a few difference makers must emerge for special teams and situational play in games. All are worth watching whenever they're on the field, because each has the talent to become a solid NFL player.
Biggest Key To Positional Success: Developing more young talent. Everyone knows that Tulloch, Levy and Durant can play. Palmer has become a capable back up. Who's next? As previously stated, at least one of Hogue, Lewis and Whitehead will have to emerge so the unit has more players to throw at teams with diverse skill sets.
Best/Worst Case Scenarios: Best? In 2012, the song remains the same and Tulloch, Levy and Durant remain the heartbeat. A young player emerges and becomes a viable player in game situations, helping the position sustain itself further with more depth. Worst? A few injuries hit and starters miss time. Run defense remains a problem. All of the rookies turn into Jordan Dizon part two. Other than that, not much could go wrong with this solid group.
Outlook: The Lions linebackers are a quiet strength. In 2012, they will remain that way and the team will continue to benefit from their silent but deadly play. Young players will step up and give the group some additional bite.
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