Then and Now is a SideLion Report mini-series in which we look at each position group from the 0-16 season of 2008 and compare it to the current roster.
Our look back at the historically bad defense of ’08 concludes with the linebackers. Remember when Ernie Sims was supposed to be a playmaker? How did that work out? If you don’t remember, go ask a Philadelphia Eagles fan. He isn’t working out for them either. Sims was the closest thing the 2008 Lions had to a linebacker that the team could build with and the fact that Paris Lenon had his most productive years while playing in Detroit speaks for itself. Here are the linebacker stats from 2008:
Flash Forward to 2010 and the Lions linebackers are better but definitely not a team strength. Julian Peterson probably wouldn’t have been part of the team had it not been for an otherwise paper thin roster and the Zack Follett experiment wasn’t going too well prior to his season ending surgery. Ashlee Palmer and Bobby Carpenter played well in spots but not well enough where they should be counted on to cover both outside linebacker spots going forward. The individual tackle numbers are lower than we’d like to see but some of that may be explained by the distribution of playing time – particularly as it relates to DeAndre Levy and the time he missed due to injury. Here are the full stats for Lions linebackers in 2010:
Like the situation at cornerback the “now” is a little bit like a more recent “then” as it is a position that could see some changes before the start of the 2011 season. Even if two of the three linebacker spots are manned by returning players, as expected, it still remains to be seen whether DeAndre Levy continues as the team’s middle linebacker or slides outside due to a free agent acquisition. For more on the possibilities in free agency I refer you to The Lions in Winter for a well put-together and well-timed piece on this very subject.