Although the Detroit Lions are at full strength in practice, not all of their bodies are at 100%.
As the team prepares for this Sunday’s match-up with the New Orleans Saints, linebacker Tahir Whitehead appears to be fighting through a knee injury, which he has felt the effects of since the Thanksgiving Day victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
Whitehead has played every defensive snap at middle linebacker this season, which is his first full year as a starter. He has accounted for 101 tackles to this point of the season, which ranks sixth in the league. Although he has struggled at times in pass coverage, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been plenty encouraged by Whitehead’s growth this season.
“I think you see a lot of growth from Tahir,” Austin told Mlive.com before today’s practice. “I think as the year’s gone on, he’s gotten better. You see he’s more active. He’s triggering better. In terms of the pass coverage each week, when you have a guy that’s moved around different positions, but now as he’s settled in each week he gets a little bit more comfortable in the pass. But he’s really good in terms of running our defense, making checks, calling out, getting us lined up. And I think one of the things when you watch us, I think if you watch us earlier in the year, we might have been a little bit kind of haphazard at times, a little late getting lined up. But you don’t see that very much anymore and I think that’s because he’s taken charge in there and done a really good job.”
Fellow linebacker DeAndre Levy is participating in practice again, but appears unlikely to play on Sunday. With the expected absence of Levy, and a potentially limited Whitehead, expect to see a healthy dosage of Josh Bynes and Antwione Williams at linebacker for Detroit.
The Saints boast the league’s most potent passing attack, averaging 319.5 yards per game through the air. Detroit, who already allows 250.9 passing yards per game, could be in for a long day if they head into Sunday’s match-up at anything less than full strength.