Detroit Lions Review and Offseason Plan: Inside Linebacker


Photo credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Today we take a look at how Stephen Tulloch performed during the 2012 season with a little help from the fine folks at Pro Football Focus.

The radar chart below shows the Pro Football Focus grades for Tulloch and compares him to the best, worst and league average ratings for all inside linebackers who played at least 25% of his team’s snaps. PFF grades each player on each play to produce a massively useful tool for evaluating the totality of a player’s season compared to others at his position.

2012 Season Review
If you simply look at season stats you would think that Stephen Tulloch’s 2012 season was essentially identical to his fine 2011 season that earned him a long-term deal from the Lions last offseaon. But fans that watched every game probably noticed that Tulloch wasn’t as impactful, or at least as consistently impactful, as he was a year ago. This is where a resource like Pro Football Focus is so helpful. They gave Tulloch a +13.3 overall rating (sixth best) for the 2011 season but that rating fell to -5.8 (35th best) this past season. Of particular concern is the rating swing against the run where Tulloch went from a +5.9 to a -6.0.

Offseason Plan
Tulloch is entering year two of a five-year deal and will be the Lions starting linebacker. As long as he can get back to stopping the run like he has through his career until 2012, the Lions don’t have much to worry about. What they may need to worry about is depth behind Tulloch. The Lions don’t have another true middle linebacker on their roster, instead showing a preference for outside linebacker types that can fill in in the middle if needed. The Lions unofficial depth chart listed Ashlee Palmer and Travis Lewis as Tulloch’s backups – one or both of whom will have an opportunity for a starting outside linebacker job depending on what happens with DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant. The Lions coaching staff will need to make sure that the focus on the OLB position battle doesn’t leave them in the lurch should Tulloch suffer an injury.

Previously: Wide Receivers, Offensive Tackles, Guards, Center, Tight Ends, Quarterback, Running Backs, Outside Linebackers

*Those that have been around the Detroit Lions blogosphere for a while may recognize the approach presented as similar to Ty Schalter’s ‘Old Mother Hubbard’ series on The Lions in Winter. Don’t worry, he’s cool with what I’m doing here and has assured me that he’ll be back with Old Mother Hubbard later in the offseason.

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