Free agent signings add depth and experience to the linebacker corps

Posted Aug 6, 2011

Detroit's approach to free agency has been different the past three years.

Prior to the 2009 season, the objective was filling significant holes - many of which were within the starting lineup. In 2010, the focus shifted to specific, key players who could make a significant impact; namely Nate Burleson and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

This year, the Lions weren't the first team out there signing players and didn't garner a lot of attention from the media the way they did last year with the signings of Burleson and Vanden Bosch.

The reason for that lies in the talent level of the team. Free agency is no longer needed to fill the bulk of the starting lineup. Instead, the Lions were able to be specific toward what they were looking for in available free agents.

The players who ultimately fit the bill at the linebacker position - a position Detroit has needed to revamp - were Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch.

"The two new guys that we brought in are both really quick athletes; they’re really quick-footed," said linebackers coach Matt Burke. "They both have good size and they’re both about 235 to 240 pounds.

"But you see that speed out there and the quickness and that close to the ball and to me that’s noticeable compared with what we’ve had in the past."

Players new to Detroit have had to learn fast. In a typical offseason, players have four months to work with position coaches and new teammates. This year, free agency started in tandem with training camps around the league.

"Coach has been in the league a long time and he knows what he has to do to get us prepared for the season," said Durant. "He’s making sure that we’re getting everything down to the finest detail; getting everything right, so we’re doing it just as if we started OTAs."

Durant has had more of a learning curve than Tulloch, who played in the same system in Tennessee.

Tulloch is still dealing with changes, though, considering he played exclusively in the middle with the Titans. Now he is adjusting to the new perspective and alignments of playing outside.

The pair has stuck together throughout the learning process, putting in extra time and calling upon Burke and DeAndre Levy when they have questions.

"We all know the scheme so we're able to help Justin and Stephen catch-up," said Palmer. "Once we all get it together as a group, I think we'll be a dominating force.”

Palmer, a third-year pro who Detroit re-signed as an exclusive rights player, sees the value in bringing in Durant and Tulloch as well as re-signing Bobby Carpenter.

"There have been a lot of young guys in our group," said Palmer. "We were really mixing and matching as to who we were going to fit where."

These veteran plays add a constant element to the lineup with others who have been here creating a much-needed depth.

"I’ll just say I’ve been friends with Durant for a few years now (and I've) watched Levy on tape," said Tulloch. "The pieces are here. It’s a matter of putting it all together and getting going.”