O'HARA: Van Noy's stock rising in third year with Lions

Posted Aug 26, 2016

A solid performance by Kyle Van Noy this year would be a major benefit to a linebacker corps that could have new starters at all three positions.

Kyle Van Noy answered a question with a question – and liked the answer to his question.

Van Noy was in the locker room after Game 2 of the Lions’ preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals when a television reporter asked how he thought it went for him.

“How do you think it went?” Van Noy responded good-naturedly.

Pretty good, was the response – adding that former Lions’ All-Pro linebacker Chris Spielman had been complimentary of Van Noy’s performance in his role as analyst on Lions preseason telecasts.

“Nice,” Van Noy said. “I think it’s pretty good then.”

For Van Noy, plaudits are nice, no matter where they come from. But what’s more important is how his stock has risen in his third season with the Lions.

There hasn’t been much to talk about in his first two seasons, except for the potential the Lions saw that caused them to draft him in the second round in 2014 out of Brigham Young.

Van Noy has been elevated to a starting role at outside linebacker this year after two frustrating seasons, caused in part by an injury that sidelined him for the first half of his rookie season. He played eight games in 2014 and 15 last year, but without a start either year – and with minimal production.

Head coach Jim Caldwell said at the end of the offseason workout program that Van Noy was in the best shape of his career. That put him on solid footing for the start of training camp and the preseason, and he has built on that in the first two preseason games in his work with the starting unit.

A solid performance by Van Noy this year would be a major benefit to a linebacker corps that could have new starters at all three positions in the base 4-3 alignment in the regular-season opener compared to last season.

In the opener at San Diego last year, Travis Lewis and Josh Bynes started on the outside with Stephen Tulloch in the middle. Of the three, only Bynes remains with the Lions.

Based on current form, and DeAndre Levy’s projected availability after missing most of last season, the starting trio for the opener at Indianapolis is Van Noy and Levy on the outside with Tahir Whitehead in the middle.

Whitehead started the last 13 games in the middle in 2014 after Tulloch went out for the season with a knee injury sustained in Game 3.

Levy, regarded by many as the best outside linebacker in a 4-3 base defense for his performance in 2014, played only 17 snaps of one game last year after playing every defensive snap in 2014.

Van Noy’s athletic versatility could add something to the overall defensive scheme. He has lined up outside at his standard position in the base defense, but also inside in one of the gaps to give a pass-rush look.

“As far as where he stands now compared to two years ago, I think a lot of it can be attributed to the fact that he’s healthy,” said defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. “He’s been able to go through a full offseason. He’s been in the best shape of his career.

“So I think a lot of times when you have a talented guy -- and he does have talent -- that you start to see the results of that. I think he’s improved dramatically as a football player.”

The real test comes in the regular season, Austin said.

“But I’m pleased with his progress and what he’s doing, and he’s been competing well,” Austin said. “I like where he is right now.”