LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Levy’s great play so far; stopping the big play; an odd exchange and more

Posted Oct 18, 2013

Linebacker DeAndre Levy is in his fifth year in the Lions' defensive scheme and is playing the best football of his career

One of the great storylines early on this season for the Detroit Lions has been the play of DeAndre Levy.

The fifth-year linebacker is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with four and is the team’s leading tackler with 49.

"When I first got here, Levy didn’t say anything," fellow linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. "I thought he was mute when I first got here. After a while he opened up a little bit. Now he’s talking a little bit more.

"But he’s all business. I guarantee right now he’s probably in the weight room rolling on the foam roller. He’s all business. He’s a smart guy. He’s a pro and I’m glad he’s on my team."

He was, in fact, in the weight room at the time and a group of media members waited another 45 minutes or so to talk to Levy after most of the players had left for the day.

Levy is one of those players who’d just assume let his play do the talking, and early on this season, it’s talking pretty loud.

He’s been terrific is just about every aspect of the defense for the Lions and has even garnered the nickname "The Screen Killer" for his ability to blow up opposing screen passes this season.

"He understands the game better, there is no question about that," defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said of Levy. "You could see it at OTA’s and other times throughout the year that he was on point and it’s paying off.

"The wheel route down the sideline, the last interception (in Cleveland last week), I almost jumped out of the press box. He had given up a couple of those in the last few years and he was ready for them. He made a nice play and the offense pounded it in and iced the game. I was really happy about that."

Levy, and a now healthy Tulloch, have formed a nice tandem at linebacker this year for Cunningham.

"I think he is getting enthusiasm from Levy," Cunningham said of Tulloch. "Levy is making plays and he doesn’t want to be outplayed by him. They are really close friends, they do everything together, they sit together, they study together, it’s a friendly competition. Tully is playing really well."

Levy's play has really hit another level, however.

His strong work ethic and experience in the Lions scheme are the two reasons why the Lions felt more than comfortable extending him to a three-year contract worth $9.75 million this offseason.

So far this season he's rewarded them for that faith.

"I don’t want to look back and think I cut myself short in any way," Levy said Friday, when asked about his work ethic.

It’s part of the makeup his parents Rodney and Paula instilled in him early on. Rodney Levy continues to work the line in a steel factory and Paula Levy works in a medical office.

It might be cliché, but when it comes to Levy, he truly is one of those players who’s first to work and last to leave.

It’s that kind of drive, along with the comfort that comes from being in the same scheme going on five years now, that has him playing Pro Bowl caliber football right now.

"You start to pick up on things teams are doing a little bit," Levy said of the experience factor. "You don’t have to think as much in the meeting room. You see sets and see what they’re doing on film  and you actually get a feel for things.

"I think that kind of helps you relax a little bit as opposed to focusing on the X’s and O’s of things in your play book."

Tulloch said he’s enjoyed watching Levy come out of his shell to become the player he is right now.

"I don’t know what game it was but he had a tackle-for-loss and he shot and beat me there and he tagged him and was like, 'I got it. I made it. I made it.' I was like, 'You got it, Levy, you got it.'

"But it’s all fun. Every day at practice we go out there and compete with each other.

"I think me and (DeAndre), through the offseason, and just in the film room and in the weight room, the chemistry is there. I trust him and he trusts me."

STOPPING THE BIG PLAY

The Lions are the only team in the NFL to have given up more than two runs of 40-plus yards this season. They’ve given up four.

The defense has also surrendered four plays of 40-plus yards in the passing game. Only six teams in the league have more.

"I think what we have been is resilient enough that if we have given them up that we have gotten it fixed," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "We’ve gone out and we have either gotten a red zone stop or have gotten a stop in the next series or something like that. Offense, defense and special teams there are a lot of things that we are still working and trying to improve on. A big play allowed is certainly one of them."

The Bengals have five plays of 40-plus yards in the passing game, which is the fourth-most in the league.

JOIQUE’S RIBS & AN ODD EXCHANGE

Running back Joique Bell wasn’t in a talking mood in the locker room Friday.

Who’s to blame him, he’s been dealing with a rib injury all week and is listed as questionable to play Sunday vs. Cincinnati.

Bell wasn’t talking mood, but that didn’t mean he wasn't interacting with the media.

We asked the questions, Bell wrote his responses on a piece of paper.

Media: "So how you feeling?"

Bell writes: "Good"

Media: "Have you ever played with any protection over the ribs?"

Bell writes: "Ask coach"

Media: "Is that something you might have to worry about if you do play?"

Bell writes: "Yes"

Media: "What did you wear (over the ribs) yesterday?"

Bell writes: "Nothing"

Media: "How much pain are you in?"

Bell writes: "A LOT"

The locker room can be a strange place sometimes.

But the point is, Bell's ribs are an issue heading into the weekend and need to be monitored right up to game time.

THIRD DOWN IMPORTANCE

The Lions will have to be on the game offensively on third down this week.

Against Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady this season, the Bengals' nickel package held that trio a combined 8-for-37 (22 percent), according to Bengals.com.

The Lions are converting on third down 38.2 percent of the time this year, which is tied for 13th in the league.

GREENWOOD BACK

Cornerback Chris Greenwood said Dallas made a strong pitch to keep him on their practice squad after releasing him this week. It was just three weeks after they claimed him off Detroit’s practice squad.

Greenwood said he also had offers to join Philadelphia's and Seattle’s practice squads, but chose to return to Detroit instead.

"This is where I’m comfortable," he said Friday. "This is my hometown and just as far as the system and knowing they want the best for me and are trying to develop me."

Greenwood said Lions coaches haven’t debriefed him yet for their matchup vs. Dallas at Ford Field Oct. 27.