Levy’s snub from Pro Bowl glaring mistake

This is actually the second straight year that DeAndre Levy got snubbed for the team, but last season was understandable.

Tim Heitman

The Pro Bowl can be considered a farce for many reasons, but this year none more so than the absence of Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy.

All Levy did was lead the NFL in solo tackles with 117 — 16 more than anybody else — and finish second overall in combined tackles (151), two behind Carolina’s Luke Kuechly.

A total of six outside linebackers were selected for Sunday’s game being played in Glendale, Ariz., but Levy wasn’t one of them.

There’s always going to be so-called snubs with these types of all-star games. That’s inevitable.

But most aren’t quite as glaring as this one.

With all of the players who back out each year from the Pro Bowl, citing injuries most of the time, it seemed that justice would prevail in the end and Levy would eventually get a spot.

However, there was no such turnover at linebacker. Not this time.

Fan voting is what typically gets blamed for these oversights, but in this case, it’s the players and coaches who should be embarrassed they apparently didn’t get it right, either.

The Pro Bowl rosters are supposedly determined by a consensus of votes from three groups — the fans, the players and the coaches — with each counting for one-third of the final tally.

You can understand how the fans would vote for the players who rack up big sack numbers, but the players and coaches?

How could they not recognize Levy’s value and fix the problem accordingly?

They should be ashamed.

Here’s the problem: Levy plays in a 4-3 defensive scheme for the Lions while the six outside linebackers chosen all play in a 3-4.

The 3-4 outside ‘backers are generally "designated pass rushers" while Levy is an every-down player who is not only a tackling machine but also excels in pass coverage.

He finished second in the NFL with six interceptions in 2013, which was his breakout season.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is part of an NFL advisory committee and hopes to correct the flaw in the system in the near future.

"DeAndre has been an outstanding player, should be in the Pro Bowl," Mayhew said. "I’m going to make a recommendation that we elect a Pro Bowl team with a 3-4 defense and a Pro Bowl team with a 4-3 defense.

"You see guys like DeAndre and like Lavonte David (Tampa Bay, finished third in tackles) that don’t really get the credit they deserve and get an opportunity to be Pro Bowlers because in the 3-4, those guys have so many sacks.

"There’s some 4-3 outside linebackers who are outstanding players. They should be recognized as such."

You can take any two of the outside linebackers selected, combine their total tackles, and it wouldn’t be as many as Levy made by himself.

Levy, a third-round draft pick by Detroit in 2009 coming out of Wisconsin, is a grinder. Maybe he’s the type that you have to watch game in and game out, play after play, to fully appreciate.

The Lions rarely use him as a blitzer so he finished with just 2 1/2 sacks, which simply didn’t compare with the outside linebackers picked as Pro Bowlers.

Kansas City’s Justin Houston had 22 sacks, Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil 17, Philadelphia’s Connor Barwin 14 1/2, Denver’s Von Miller 14, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews 11 and Kansas City’s Tamba Hali six.

Hali’s total was down after gaining a reputation in recent years with double-digit sacks.

This is actually the second straight year that Levy got snubbed for the team, but last season was understandable.

Levy was an average player for his first four years in the league before emerging in 2013. It’s common for a player to have to wait an extra year or so before getting the proper recognition.

What’s more, the Lions were a mediocre team and defense in 2013.

It didn’t seem like such an unforgiveable snub under the circumstances.

This past season was different. The Lions won 11 games, made the playoffs and had one of the league’s top-ranked defenses, in large part because Levy is so solid in complementing the team’s standout front four.

Part of Levy’s problem, at least with the fan voting, is that he doesn’t seek out attention. He’s a weight-room/film-room junkie and does his best to avoid the media.

Still, it seemed his peers had recognized just how good he is when they voted him the 59th-best player overall in the league last summer.

Somehow that didn’t translate to the Pro Bowl once again.

Teryl Austin, the Lions’ defensive coordinator, has said that Levy possesses "off-the-charts instincts."

"You see him key in and diagnose a play, and that’s why he gets there so fast," Austin said. "That’s why he makes a lot of tackles.  It’s not just because of his speed. It’s because he is able to key and diagnose really fast and he can get there."

None of these other outside linebackers has anywhere near Levy’s versatility at the position.

Who did the Lions use to match up against Green Bay receiver Jordy Nelson on a key fourth-down play back in September? It was none other than Levy, not a defensive back.

That’s almost unheard of in the NFL, although Levy did get some help over the top on the play.

As Lions safety Glover Quin has pointed out, Levy is as good in coverage as many safeties in the league.

In reality, the only thing Levy seemingly doesn’t do for the Lions’ defense is rush the quarterback much, and that’s because it’s not his job.

When it comes to the Pro Bowl, however, that’s all that seems to matter.

EXTRA POINT

— Matthew Stafford will be Team (Michael) Irvin’s No. 2 quarterback in Sunday night’s game. One of his receivers is Lions teammate Golden Tate.

Both Stafford and Tate, making their Pro Bowl debuts, were late injury replacements to the roster.

They could go head-to-head against another Lion, Quin, who is one of the safeties for Team (Cris) Carter.

— In a draft to determine the two sides, Stafford was picked by Irvin ahead of two other quarterbacks in the game, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton.