Detroit Lions: Can Kyle Van Noy Make an Impact?


Detroit Lions fans who also follow college football were ecstatic (myself included), last year when they moved up, to pick BYU star linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the 2nd round.

Prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, Coach Caldwell expressed his desire to add an outside linebacker, who could rush the passer, to the defense. With 26 career sacks on his college resume’, Van Noy certainly fit the bill in that regard. Though not particularly fast, (4.71) or sudden, Van Noy’s innate instincts and football intelligence (FBI) are off the charts, resulting in him finishing his college career with an impressive stat sheet (226 tackles, 26 sacks, 62 TFL and seven interceptions).

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Unfortunately, Van Noy missed half of his rookie season with a sports hernia. When he returned, he seemed unable to adjust and fell down the depth chart behind emerging third year player, Tahir Whitehead, who enjoyed a breakout season.

With Whitehead, Levy and Tulloch likely penciled in as starters in 2015, how does Van Noy fit into the rotation?

Will he be limited to a back-up and special teams role?

Perhaps. There’s a chance he may even beat out Whitehead in camp to start on the strong side.

Another possibility is that an embarrassment of riches at the linebacker position could lead to another, more creative option. Good coaches like Teryl Austin manufacture plays that utilize the strengths of their players to create mismatches, and then build them into their scheme.

Aug 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) runs with the ball after getting away from Detroit Lions linebacker Kyle Van Noy (95) during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Detroit runs a base 4-3. However, in today’s NFL, teams are mixing in odd and even man fronts, regardless of scheme.

Van Noy excels at backfield penetration.

He has a quick first step, knows how to set up offensive linemen and possesses an explosive close to finish. With a versatile DT like Ngata who is capable of two-gapping, it’s very probable that Van Noy could see the field on passing downs as a fourth “Jack” or “Joker” linebacker, a hybrid DE/OLB type whose primary role is to rush the passer.

One thing is clear – Van Noy’s opportunity to prove he can be the impact player he was in college ultimately rests with him.

When asked earlier this offseason how big of a role Van Noy could have in 2015, General Manager Martin Mayhew’s answer wasn’t complicated.

"“He can have a huge role if he has a great offseason and plays great. If he doesn’t have a great offseason, and doesn’t play great, then his role won’t be as big.”"

Next: Power Ranking Detroit Lions Opponents in 2015

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