Position Preview: Linebackers

Posted Jul 24, 2013

Tim Twentyman says the competition to make the 53-man roster will be one to watch throughout camp at linebacker

One of the best position competitions we'll see in camp starting Friday will take place at outside linebacker for the starting spot left vacant by Justin Durant. Will veteran Ashlee Palmer win the job or can one of the second-year players push him?

We continue our preview of Detroit Lions training camp with a look at the linebackers.


Alex Elkins 6-3 230 22 R Oklahoma State
Corey Greenwood 6-2 235 27 4 Concordia (Quebec)
Brandon Hepburn 6-4 235 23 R Florida A&M
DeAndre Levy 6-2 238 26 5 Wisconsin
Travis Lewis 6-2 222 25 2 Oklahoma
Carmen Messina 6-2 236 24 1 New Mexico
Jon Morgan 6-1 233 23 R Albany
Ashlee Palmer 6-1 236 27 5 Mississippi
Stephen Tulloch 5-11 240 28 8 North Carolina State
Tahir Whitehead 6-2 228 23 2 Temple


Alex Elkins (college) 75 2.0 1 0 0 0
Corey Greenwood (w/KC) 10 0.0 1 1 0 0
Brandon Hepburn (college) 86 5.5 1 1 0 1
DeAndre Levy 82 0.0 0 1 1 3
Travis Lewis 3 0.0 1 0 0 0
Carmen Messina – Did not play in game –
Jon Morgan (college) 72 0.0 0 0 3 7
Ashlee Palmer 24 0.0 1 0 0 0
Stephen Tulloch 112 0.5 1 2 0 6
Tahir Whitehead 11 0.0 1 0 0 0


78.9: Percent of the time opposing offenses gained a first down on plays of 3rd down or 4th down and 1, which ranked 30th in the NFL.
112: Consecutive games played by Stephen Tulloch over a seven-year career. It just so happens it’s also the total number of tackles for Tulloch in 2012.
1-4: The Lions’ record in 2012 when allowing a 100-yard rusher.


The good: The defense was one of the better in the NFL last year at generating negative plays. Opponents had 463 yards worth of negative plays vs. the Lions. The NFL average was 370 yards, which ranked the Lions No. 4 overall.
The bad: The Lions gave up 67 rushing plays of 10-plus yards last season, which was second most in the league and well above the NFL average of 49.
The fix: Staying healthy is really the biggest key for this unit. Middle linebacker Tulloch played with knee tendinitis the team had to manage last season. Outside linebacker DeAndre Levy missed two games and most of another with a hamstring injury.


"They’re battling, those three guys, Ashlee (Palmer), Tahir (Whitehead) and Travis (Lewis). They’re all making plays and, you know, I always tell Matt (Burke) it’s about the trust. Who is going to make the most plays without messing one up? They’re all really doing pretty well. I like what Matt’s doing with them and each one of them has shown up for big plays."

-- Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham on the competition between Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis and Tahir Whitehead for the open starting linebacker spot.


Two-thirds of the starting linebacking corps is set with Tulloch and Levy, and five players seem locks for the roster with Palmer, Lewis and Whitehead joining the two starters on that list.

Travis LewisLB Travis Lewis

The third starting spot seems like its Palmer’s to lose. He’s entering his fourth season in the Lions scheme and has seven starts under his belt. He’s the most experienced of the three players – Lewis and Whitehead being the others – vying for that starting spot.

The Lions kept seven linebackers on the Week 1 roster last year, but it seems more likely that number will be six this year. That makes more sense with a 4-3 scheme and some other tough decisions at other positions.

If that’s the case, the Lions will have a tough decision to make between players like Brandon Hepburn, Cory Greenwood, Carmen Messina and others for that sixth spot.

The Lions drafted Hepburn in the seventh round in April and like his physical tools. He's also smart.

Greenwood is a terrific special teams player, who would certainly bolster that unit. He can also contribute of defense, if needed.

We talk about the open starting linebacker spot a lot, but the competition to make the 53-man roster will be one to watch throughout camp at linebacker as well.