The Detroit Lions linebackers are not full of high dollar, high caliber players like their defensive line is. Martin Mayhew has pieced together an effective unit though and did make an upgrade in the 2014 draft.
Mayhew drafted Kyle Van Noy in the second round of the draft. At this point, Van Noy is listed second on the depth chart behind Ashlee Palmer at outside linebacker, but that appears to be just a formality as Van Noy should not only start, but as the season goes on he should end up being their best linebacker. Van Noy was effective versus the run and the pass in college and lining him up behind his former teammate Ziggy Ansah appears to be a perfect fit. The size and speed of the two of them together should be great at shoring up the right side of the defense.
Stephen Tulloch is solid at the middle linebacker position. He followed former coach Jim Schwartz here from Tennessee and has outlasted his boss. He should lead the Lions in tackles and he does a good job of cleaning up the mess that the defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley create. With Suh and Fairley in front of him, Tulloch gets little to no attention from offensive coordinators and he uses the space they create well. Tulloch isn’t glamorous, but the Lions don’t really need him to be.
DeAndre Levy put himself on the NFL map last season. His six interceptions in 2013 led NFL linebackers and his impressive speed helped him rack up 85 tackles and 32 assists. The former third round pick has developed slowly into a leader on the defense and actually found himself rated as the 59th best player in the league by his peers.
Van Noy, Tulloch and Levy are all solid and Ashlee Palmer will provide experience as a backup. As long as they stay healthy the Lions will be just fine at linebacker, but there is no depth after Palmer and one injury could leave the Lions in a bad situation. Linebackers aren’t a weakness for the Lions, but not exactly a strength either. They won’t be a major reason that the Lions win or lose many games. That isn’t their job. Their job is to just play the way they can and that should be enough from this group.