The biggest addition to the Detroit Lions next year won’t be a free agent signing or a high round draft pick. It will be the return of DeAndre Levy, the best linebacker to wear the Honolulu blue and silver in the last 20 years.
After recording an astounding 151 tackles in 2014 and earning second team all-pro honors, a core muscle injury limited Levy to just 17 snaps on defense in 2015.
All signs seem to be a go for the 2016 season though as Levy looks to return as the leader of a defense that figures to pretty good with impact players at every level. One man excited to have Levy back is head coach Jim Caldwell.
“You just don’t find a whole lot of guys who can make 100 tackles year in and year out. He’s one of those guys,” Caldwell told reporters at the NFL League Meetings Wednesday. “There’s no question he’s going to help us tremendously.”
Lions new General Manager Bob Quinn also sang the praises of Quinn when asked about what the return of Levy means to the defense.
“It impacts it,” Quinn said. “I mean, DeAndre’s one of our better players. I have yet to meet him, but the stuff I’ve seen on film, he’s a difference maker when he’s healthy.
“So, we’re looking forward to getting him back in the building and getting him ready for the year.”
The Lions went from ranking second in total defense in 2014 to 18th last season. Part of that was due to Levy’s absence, part was also the decimation of the defensive line and the easier schedule the Lions faced in 2014. The good news is the Lions schedule doesn’t appear to be too daunting, so that defensive ranking should be in better standing this year.
Levy is not only a sure-tackler, he’s also great in coverage. He ranked first in interceptions among linebackers two seasons ago and with his keen ball skills and football instincts he should be able to stop some of those just-past-the-sticks 3rd down passes that plagued the Lions last season.
“I’m fully expecting him to be able to do the things he’s always done for us,” Caldwell said. “Make plenty of tackles. Be able to cover guys in terms of pass routes out of the backfield and detached.
“And certainly give us some help in terms of rushing the passer and blitzing once and a while. I expect him to be the same active guy he’s always been.”
Levy isn’t cleared just yet, though. He will have to check with team doctors when the players return for the offseason training program to determine when he’ll be allowed to actually get on the field. Until then, Levy has been going hard in the training room trying to improve.
“One of the things I do know about him is the fact that he trains so well,” Caldwell said. “He’s one of those guys that will take advantage of every single opportunity he has to get better. He’s a rare breed in that sense.”
A rare breed indeed. It’s also a rare opportunity for the Lions to have a chance at a top tier defense two out of three years. It can be argued that last year was an anomaly and that with the Lions having their best defensive players tied up for the next few years. This defense has a chance to stay consistently good, which is something we in Lion Land haven’t seen in a very long time.