Detroit Lions’ early 53-man roster projections: Linebacker

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 25: Aaron Rodgers
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 25: Aaron Rodgers /

Despite the great deal of effort made by the Detroit Lions in the offseason to resolve the woes at linebacker, this group still has a long ways to go.

There is a lot of optimism for the new linebacker unit to help rebound from a dismal season in 2016. Other than a few familiar faces, most of the players competing in 2017 are either rookies or newly acquired via free agency. Things really need to go the Detroit Lions‘ way to see a significant improvement.


Expect a total overhaul at this position. I predict only one linebacker from last year’s unit to make the squad. There will be more change than most people realize, but anticipate the usual number of five linebackers to stick around.

Jarrad Davis

No doubt this rookie from the University of Florida is the face of the future after being taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. Playing middle linebacker is no easy task, especially for a rookie. Health concerns along with a learning curve are cause for concern, but he is undoubtedly locked into a roster spot and expected to start immediately.

Paul Worrilow

The ex-Atlanta Falcon signed this offseason on a starters’ salary. Considering the guaranteed money involved in the deal, it is highly improbable he gets released. He’s looking to prove people wrong and earn a starting spot at weakside or middle linebacker after being benched last season in 2016.

Antwione Williams

The second-year player from Georgia Southern is expected to make a splash this season. Being touted by teammates and coaches in the offseason is an added bonus to his case. He has a legitimate shot to start at the strongside spot with little stopping him.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin

If he can stay healthy, this young buck can earn some serious snaps this season. Although taken in the fourth round out of the University of Tennessee, he is a first/second round caliber talent. Weakside linebacker is his best fit and should be a special teams demon from the start.

Nick Bellore

No linebacker is more under-the-radar than this stud. Fresh off an impressive 2016 season with an unimpressive San Francisco 49ers team, he was solid as a fill-in starter for the first time in his career. He enters this competition as the only linebacker in 2016 with a turnover and/or sack in the NFL, making his case to survive the final cuts a strong one.


A player shouldn’t be guaranteed a spot just because of their familiarity within the system. There are a few linebackers that make sense to move on from and some others just not quite good enough to make the cut. Sometimes the best moves to make can be the most difficult to follow through on.

Tahir Whitehead

Considering how he missed OTAs with an apparent knee injury and he is being asked to play weakside linebacker, a position he is unfamiliar with and quite frankly a bad fit, the Lions need to move on. The lack of justifying a spot for him means he should be cut or put on the trade block. $3,487,500 can be saved against the cap if he was released or traded.

Steve Longa

He could be added as the sixth linebacker depending on how the final roster shakes out. With gobs of athletic potential, the practice squad member from a year ago will be a serious contender to earn a roster gig. He is a little buried on the depth chart and still has to come to his senses about the game of football, which presumably means he will be waived but hopefully re-signed to the practice squad.

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Thurston Armbrister

Mostly a special teams ace and injury fill-in last season. He faces a steep, uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. There are better players ahead of him, making him expendable.