Kyle Van Noy may be on last legs with Lions


Kyle Van Noy was a tremendous player while in college at BYU. He played alongside current Lions’ defensive end Ziggy Ansah while there, forming a dynamic duo of versatile pass-rushers. When the Lions drafted Ansah and Van Noy in back to back years, they thought they were recreating some of that defensive magic on the Lions’ defense.

Former Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Kyle Van Noy (3) and Ziggy Ansah (47) haven’t had the same success together so far on the Lions. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming into the third year of his NFL career, Van Noy has shown very little to justify his selection early in the 2nd-round of the 2014 Draft. After playing as a 3-4 outside rush-linebacker in college, he wasn’t thought to be a great fit for Detroit’s 4-3, base defense.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had come from Baltimore where he was a secondary coach for the Ravens’ 3-4 defense. Many draft analysts viewed the decision to trade up for Van Noy in 2014 as a sign the Lions were beginning a shift to a 3-4 defense.

That wasn’t the case, however, with the Lions only tweaking a few minor things that year. Austin essentially changed them into 4-3 hybrid. It could have been that they were expecting more from Van Noy and when he was injured his rookie year, they felt the roster was better suited to stay as they were. After all, they did have a dominant front four with former starters– Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

Once Suh left, many expected a healthy Kyle Van Noy to emerge last season as the starting outside linebacker, with an ability to rush like a defensive end when needed. Van Noy just hasn’t seemed like the same player and has been relegated to mostly backup/special teams duties. He is a physical freak, but has struggled to catch up to the speed of the NFL game.

Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (94) celebrates his sack with former BYU teammate Kyle Van Noy (53) during the second quarter the game on Thanksgiving against the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Three years is about when most NFL players are judged as a success or failure. Van Noy has a huge opportunity next season, with only Tahir Whitehead and DeAndre Levy as the sure-fire starters. The team just traded for Jonathan Bostic last week and still have Josh Bynes on the roster. Bynes, who has been been fairly productive so far in Detroit, is more of a true middle linebacker. Whitehead has that spot locked down after re-signing a few months ago.

Van Noy was one of the few Martin Mayhew draft picks that fans generally loved initially. He jumped off of the screen at BYU and looked to be talented enough to thrive in either scheme. Even though that hasn’t been the case thus far, this is really his first chance to compete for a starting job. Time will tell if he can get back to looking like the player he was at BYU.