SideLion Bold Prediction: DeAndre Levy Will be the best linebacker in the NFC North


When it comes to middle linebacker DeAndre Levy, head coach Jim Schwartz has made his feelings clear. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has been in love with him since the moment he stepped onto the Detroit Lion facilities. Including a comparison to Brian Urlacher at one point last season, after Levy made a game-saving touchdown stop against the 49ers.

"“As I see that play, that is something that Brian Urlacher is capable of doing, and most middle linebackers don’t have enough skills to do that. He is very athletic and has the ability to burst and run, and that’s showing up. He made a couple of outstanding big-time tackles inside the box,” Cunningham said. “Overall, I was really impressed.”"

The overall consensus doesn’t isn’t just between coaches. General manager Martin Mayhew made it clear his guy in the middle was Levy when the Lions didn’t even offer veteran Larry Foote a contract. According to Foote, The Lions didn’t even consider him a part of their plans.

This is the same linebacker that came home and led the team in tackles, even after missing the last two games of the season.  A man that didn’t demand any more money than he had previously signed for. The only thing he did was threaten the future of a promising stud in the middle.

With an even better defensive line up front, DeAndre Levy is going to have all the flexibility in the world. Without a doubt a lot of pressure will be on the youngster. Something I believe he will thrive under. So much so that he will be the best statistical linebacker in the NFC North next season.

My first bold prediction here at SideLion Report. Another Lions fan falling off the rocker.

My chair might be teetering, but a look at Levy’s numbers from last season  season are promising. As a rookie he was able to record 85 tackles.  His instincts matched that of the veterans in the linebacking corps. He can physically make plays that other players can’t do.  Yes, he is still raw to an extent, but if you were to average his numbers out in the middle to a whole season’s worth of work, Levy would reach the 130 tackle plateau next season.

That’s more tackles than any other starting middle linebacker in the division.

Granted Brian Urlacher is back and healthy, but will he really be the wrecking machine of old? At 31 it is going to be difficult. His last full season in 2008 was the first time since 2004 that he accumulated less than 100 tackles. It’s too early to tell if the wheels are falling off, but without a doubt there is some wear and tear there.

Packers starter Nick Barnett has quietly put together some of the best numbers in the league. He bounced back after missing half of the year in 2008 to post his best sack total of his career. His tackle totals far outnumber anyone who donned the yellow and green. At age 28, Barnett already has 8 years of experience under his belt. Despite his success as arguably being the best linebacker in the division for quite some time, I don’t think that will be the case for the 2010 season.

Then there’s E.J. Henderson. He’s mean and quick off the snap, but the real question is can he stay healthy? The last two seasons he has fought off injury, including a broken leg last season. Henderson plans to be back at full strength by August, but will he be capable of plugging the middle of the field or covering in passing situations? Only time will tell.

In Levy, the Lions have a player who is young, hungry and smart. He might even have a little chip on his shoulder. The reason I am so excited and believe that he will be the best linebacker in the division has a lot to do with the man he reminds me of.

Not since Stephen Boyd have the Lions had a real threat at middle linebacker.

Both guys began their careers backing up solid NFL linebackers (Chris Speilman and Larry Foote). Both got their chance to shine in their second season in the NFL. Both stand a little bit above six feet.

One replaced a legend in Detroit and made a name for his self by accumulated to pro bowl appearances, an uncanny 192 tackle season and an all-pro selection late in his career.

The other has just the right opportunity and skills to do the same thing. The only question is will he be able to move up from potential star to the leader of a defense searching for it’s general on the field.

This season should be a lot of fun for DeAndre Levy, and extremely exciting for fans of a top notch defender.

(Joe Dexter is the lead blogger at SideLion Report. You can follow all of SideLion Report’s  commentary on twitter and contact Joe here.)