How Good Can this Lions Defense Be With a Healthy Levy?
Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker DeAndre Levy (54) tackles Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) during the game at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
After months of speculation, DeAndre Levy returned and played well for a large portion of last week’s 20-17 win over the Bears.
With the win, the Detroit Lions are in the driver’s seat at 9-4, and currently tied for the second best record in the NFC. All is not well, though, as I wrote Sunday, Matthew Stafford’s finger is a slight cause for concern. He may not look like himself until the Green Bay game.
The Lions could drop both of the next two games (Sunday against the 9-4 New York Giants and the following Monday against the 11-2 Dallas Cowboys) and still have a chance to win the division in that final Green Bay game. However, it would significantly benefit the team to win one or two of these upcoming games without a fully healthy Stafford, if possible.
So this is where Detroit’s defense becomes as important as ever. And they’ve been pretty important in all 8 comeback wins. They have racked up turnovers recently, with a +7 differential since week five. They haven’t allowed more than 20 points in seven games. They’ve won eight of nine games during that stretch.
Yet, these upcoming three games are possibly as big as any in Lions’ history. All three teams have highly-potent offenses with good to very-good defenses. This means Matthew Stafford might not be as effective as we’ve grown accustomed to this season. He was rocky in the Bears win. Somehow, he found a way to grit his way to another must-have touchdown drive.
Stafford isn’t going to be a shell of himself, but he cannot be depended on the same way. The games must be low-scoring, as they have been, for the Lions to have a chance at that 1st-round bye.
DeAndre Levy has the fanbase in an uproar. I don’t blame Levy for this.Being one of the premier defensive players in the league, he should probably be given the benefit of doubt. Especially being as tough as he’s been since coming out of Wisconsin in the third round in 2009. But, the Lions’ public relations haven’t done a great job in putting out the growing fire of wonder around Levy.
Levy hasn’t exactly helped make anything clear to a fanbase that’s been trying to figure out what’s going on for a season and half. But let’s move past all of that and assume Levy is back healthy for the rest of the way. That’s a big deal for this defense.
After Ndamukong Suh left in 2015, Levy became maybe the best player on this defense. In theory at least, since he hasn’t played. Before the season, I wrote a piece about how Levy could be they key to a Playoff run. That’s proven to be wrong, but it doesn’t mean he can’t make this group better.
Levy is outstanding in coverage, he’s versatile, and he is a leader on the field. Guys like Glover Quin have stepped up, but Levy makes everybody better including Quin. When Teryl Austin took over in 2014, he was able to do so many different things because of Levy. Was a lot of that because of Ndamukong Suh? Of course, but schematically having a guy that can blitz or drop into a zone effectively helps.
Not to mention, Levy is a tremendous run-stopper. He wasn’t overwhelming impactful in his return, but he was very effective. Two years is going to do that to you when you’re an elite player. I expect him to be better every week the rest of this season. The Lions defense has been a huge part of their nine wins. Can Levy make that defense even better? If he’s healthy, I believe he will.
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