Did the Lions just move sideways at linebacker?
While the Lions did fail on almost every level defensively last season, the linebacking corp continued to play inconsistently and has been one of the real weak points of Matt Patricia’s defense since his arrival two years ago. Considering that Patricia was the linebacker coach for the Patriots from 2006-2010, one would think he might have been able to get more out of this unit.
In an effort to upgrade the linebacker position, the Lions have signed former Patriot Jamie Collins, Elijah Lee from Fan Francisco and Reggie Ragland formerly of Kansas City. In the aftermath of signing Collins, Bob Quinn released linebacker and team captain Devon Kennard as part of the overhaul.
One would have to assume that Kennard was released so Collins could take over his spot on the edge. Yet Kennard wasn’t the Lions weak link at linebacker.
The biggest disappointment at linebacker has been Jarrad Davis who has a world of talent but hasn’t performed as Bob Quinn expected when he selected the former Florida standout in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
With that being the case, the natural move would be to have Collins, who knows this defense from his days in New England, replace Davis at middle linebacker. A role Collins has experience with and could provide veteran leadership and guidance to a defense that is all to often lost.
Collins is much better in pass coverage than Davis and the difference between Collins and Kennard rushing off the edge is negligible. Therefore if they had kept Kennard and allowed him to continue on the outside, one could make the argument that the linebackers would have been improved.
Instead, this seems like a move sideways and if the production doesn’t change drastically, then it will have been nothing more than a waste of time and resources.
So assuming that Collins will be in Kennard’s old position, which certainly seems to be the case, that means Jarrad Davis will continue to roam the middle and most likely continue to be inconsistent at a position that is second only in importance to the nose tackle in Matt Patricia’s defense.
This leads to the question of whether there is perhaps another plan in place to upgrade the middle of the Lions defense? And is that plan viable?