Lions on the lookout for versatile, edge-rushing LB

Posted Mar 29, 2014

The Lions will continue to run a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, but they say there's room for a versatile linebacker who can do many things

ORLANDO -- Players who can wear many different hats are valued in this league.

  • Receivers who can play inside and outside
  • Defensive backs who can cover and tackle
  • Linebackers who can play in space and also rush the quarterback

The latter isn’t something the Lions have featured in some time now. The team got good play from Deandre Levy, Stephen Tulloch and Ashlee Palmer last year, but all three are more the typical point-of-attack-type linebackers.

Khalil MackKhalil Mack (Photo: AP Images)

The Lions will continue to feature a 4-3 defense under Teryl Austin, but there seems to be room for a versatile linebacker who can do a lot of different things.

Head coach Jim Caldwell said Ziggy Ansah was athletic enough to do a lot of different things on the edge, but Ansah excelled as a traditional defensive end last year, leading all rookies – and the Lions – with 8.0 sacks.

“We’re trying to find maybe a little bit different flavor in that regard, trying to find maybe another guy that can do it,” Caldwell said of getting a an edge-rushing linebacker at the NFL Annual Meetings. “He may be in our program right now, in our organization. We have to see how he fits within our scheme, but obviously, anybody can use a flamethrower, and sometimes you find one here or there.”

The Lions signed Darryl Tapp last month and they envision that kind of role for him. He’ll play both linebacker and defensive end in different packages.

"We have a pretty good idea what he can do," Caldwell said of Tapp. "He's one of those guys who is pretty versatile. He does give you a little bit of everything. We'll have to see, but I know he can play. He can play the edges. He can play the run."

Khalil Mack, the talented linebacker from Buffalo, and UCLA’s Anthony Barr, could also be candidates to fill that role early in May’s draft.

“We had a couple guys in the past that went from one position to the other and (you) find out, ‘Hey, this guy can rush the passer,’” Caldwell said. “So maybe in certain key situations we slide him into that position.

“Those are all things we’re going to be looking for, working with, trying to develop, not only within the structure of our organization, the guys that we presently have, but any opportunities that we have outside, as well. Through the draft, free agency, things of that nature.”