COMMENTARY | The Detroit Lions' roster and front office are filled with people who need 2013 to be a good year.
However, no one has as much on the line as DeAndre Levy.
The third-year linebacker is coming to a crossroads in his career. Levy was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft to hold down the middle linebacker position for the next decade or so, but things haven't quite worked out that way. A part of the reason Stephen Tulloch becoming available has been his play hasn't met expectations.
Things weren't always this bleak. After struggling through most of his rookie season, Levy was only able to play in one of the first six games of 2010. But the final four weeks of the season gave a glimmer of hope that he was putting it all together.
The then-middle linebacker was a leader of the defense, as is to be expected of the position, and his play sparked a four-game win streak. He racked up two interceptions over that period, including one that put away the Miami Dolphins in the season finale.
And just like that, it looked like Martin Mayhew's first third-round selection was going to be a big part of the defense moving forward. But that's when fate intervened in the form of Tulloch's one-year deal. The Lions simply couldn't resist adding a proven commodity at one of the defense's more important positions.
Levy enjoyed one great game on a Monday night against the Chicago Bears, racking up 12 tackles and two quarterback hurries but the remainder of the season was difficult, at best. Whether it was the feeling of being demoted or the transition to a new position, the flaws in his game were being exposed.
Much like the rest of the team, Levy regressed in 2012. But unlike the team as a whole, there's a genuine concern that Levy's best days might be behind him.
You don't have to believe me. Check out his contract. Levy is going to make less than $10 million over the next three years, assuming he is kept around for the entire deal. If the Lions get a chance to add a genuine playmaker next offseason, it's likely that they would swallow the $2 million in dead money for the upgrade.
So what does Levy need to do in order to get the front office and fans behind him? Become exactly what the Lions would replace him with: a playmaker.
For starters, he needs to become a better tackler. Too often people are able to run through Levy's tackles, which is a linebacker's main duty. The best performance of his career was when he "only" missed 13% of his tackles. Even worse, he has twice allowed 23% of his tackles to be broken. That's barely better than missing one out of four tackles. Deion Sanders probably had a better tackling metric.
As for those pesky impactful plays, Levy needs to drastically outperform his past.
In four years, Levy has forced a grand total of two fumbles. Those are the type of game-changing plays the Lions enjoyed in 2011 and were missing last year. As far as how that concerns Levy, if you're not a part of the solution, you're a part of the problem.
And despite the excitement he generated against the Dolphins, his interception numbers have been miserly as well. He's hauled in a grand total of five, which isn't enough to offset his inability to punch the ball free.
At this point, Levy is someone you insert into the lineup because he's not a complete disaster. Or, as it's known on the other side of Tulloch, Ashlee Palmer. There is a lot to like about Detroit's future, but Levy must take a step forward if he wants to be a part of it.
Brandon Alisoglu is a Michigan native and has been covering the Detroit Lions for two years. He has been published at Yahoo!, Bleacher Report, CNN and other websites. He also co-hosts a podcast called Lions Central Radio with Nick Kostora that can be found on ITunes and Stitcher.
- Sports & Recreation
- Detroit Lions
- Stephen Tulloch
- DeAndre Levy