The Detroit Lions have an open competition at their strong-side linebacker spot and it would appear it is Kyle Van Noy‘s to lose. The 2014 second-round draft pick has disappointed so far, but entering year three, he understands what’s at stake. New GM Bob Quinn will have a much smaller tolerance for poor play considering he did not draft the linebacker.
Since this will be a make or break year for the former BYU standout, he took full advantage of a healthy offseason to fine tune his body. In a very succinct response, Van Noy was able to express why this offseason was unlike year’s past.
Per Kyle Meinke of Mlive:
“Didn’t have surgery,” Van Noy said.
After a little more pestering, he succumbed to the reporters inquiries and elaborated on his newfound physique.
“I give credit to my trainer I worked with,” he said. “But me and him had a good plan, worked hard and dropped 15 pounds. Things are cooking.”
Coaches seeing improvement from LB @KVN_03
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) June 3, 2016
At the 2014 NFL combine, Van Noy weighed in at a trim 243-pounds. Now with the official Detroit Lions website listing him at 248-pounds, you could deduce that the scale tipped over 260-pounds last season.
If that were truly the case, it was noticeable in open field situations. Van Noy often looked sluggish and lost, mostly due to bad angles. It is possible that the additional weight and recent surgeries hobbled the once quick-footed backer and his lines of pursuit. Being only five pounds heavier than his rookie weight–where he ran a respectable 4.71-second forty yard dash–the extra speed could unveil his productive college form.
Van Noy’s transformation has not gone unnoticed by Lions coaches.
“When he came back, he’s in better shape than he’s ever been — body fat percentage, strength levels, all of those kinds of things,” coach Jim Caldwell said last week. “During our time off, he didn’t take time off it appears, looking at his numbers. He just went right to work, and I think you can see a difference out there.”
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin rewarded Van Noy’s hard work by giving him the chance to prove himself with the first-team. Although OTAs are padless and not the best place to demonstrate toughness, it seems that the speed of the game has slowed down for him.
“Kyle’s doing much better,” Austin said last week. “He’s in phenomenal shape, running around. I think he’s put himself — he’s in much better positions now than he was last year, in terms of once the ball’s snapped. So I think that’s good. Again, we’ll see how he does in the preseason, but right now, I’m pleased with where his development is.”
Maybe things have finally clicked. Not every player has elite instincts and can adapt to the fast-paced NFL as quickly as some would like.
“Everybody kind of develops at their own pace,” Teryl Austin said last week. “Sometimes in our league, sometimes it’s not fast enough, and that’s why you see sometimes guys get cut and they go to another team and, all of a sudden, they turn into good players. That’s because their learning curve and their development. So I’m hopeful — we don’t have pads on, but right now, I’m pleased with where he is.”
As previously mentioned, linebackers will be best judged when tackling and hitting is permitted. Another aspect of Van Noy’s game which left some to be desired, as Van Noy has always been a wrap and drag tackler. Even with an added boost of athletism, the upcoming months will determine if his mindset towards physicality has improved as well.
Unlike other boisterous teammates, Van Noy has minded his own business and put in the work to make this upcoming season his best. If there is going to be a breakthrough year, this better be the one, or it might be his last.
“I know what I’m capable of doing,” Van Noy said. “I know what I can do. I just have to continue to play this game. It’s been three years now, so I feel I’m comfortable with (the scheme). There’s little nuances that I’m getting cleaned up and getting better at.”
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) June 7, 2016