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2018 training camp preview: Linebacker

On the roster: Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard, Christian Jones, Jonathan Freeny, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Steve Longa, Chad Meredith, Trevor Bates, Al-Rasheed Benton

Key losses: Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow

Making the cut: Davis, Kennard, Jones, Freeny, Reeves-Maybin

On the bubble: Longa, Meredith, Bates, Benton

Table inside Article
Player Games Tackles INT PD Sacks FF FR
Jarrad Davis 14 96 1 3 1.0 1 1
Devon Kennard# 15 41 0 2 4.0 0 1
Christian Jones^ 16 84 0 2 2.0 1 1
Jonathan Freeny+ 6 8 0 0 0.0 0 0
Jalen Reeves-Maybin 14 30 0 2 0.5 1 0
Steve Longa 15 13 0 0 0.0 0 0
Trevor Bates 0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0
Al-Rasheed Benton* 13 110 2 3 3.0 1 0
Chad Meredith* 8 44 0 2 1.0 0 0
#with NYG ^with CHI +with 3 teams *college stats

Best competition: Who are the third and fourth linebackers?

Davis stepped right into the MIKE linebacker role as a rookie and played well. He's smart, physical and fast, which fits perfectly right in the middle of Detroit's new defense.

Kennard was a priority free agent for the Lions, and he'll play on the strong side both on and off the line of scrimmage. During the open OTA and minicamp practices, he often lined up on the ball as a pass rusher.

Who emerges as the third linebacker alongside those two will be one of the important competitions to watch during camp. We could also see some 3-4 elements at times with this multiple-front scheme, so linebacker depth is important.

View photos of the linebackers competing for roster spots entering training camp.

Twentyman's take: The linebacker position in Detroit has gone through a philosophical change this offseason. It's an important position in the new multiple-front scheme the Lions want to deploy. The team wanted to get bigger and more physical at the position this offseason to better fit that kind of scheme.

The ability to play multiple roles both on and off the ball is coveted. It's the reason why a player like Kennard was so valued in free agency. Matt Patricia's Patriots' defense last year had seven linebackers record at least one sack.

This is a linebacker-friendly system. They'll rush from all over, and it's designed to allow linebackers to flow free and make plays vs. the run.

A player like Davis, who now has a year of NFL experience under his belt, should excel in a scheme like this.

By the numbers:

96: Tackles for Davis in 2017, which led all rookie and first-year players.

53: Number of opponent 10-plus-yard runs last year, which ranked 25th in the NFL.

32: Takeaways for the Lions' defense in 2017. That number was the fourth highest for a season in franchise history.

Quotable: "The biggest thing is, I'm mentally relaxed," Davis said this offseason. "It was hard to be relaxed last year. I was thrown into the fire. I had to learn everything right now. Right now, you've got to get it you've got to have it down.

"This year, I feel more mentally prepared. Everything you go through in life, you go through for a reason. I appreciate every moment and everything I had last year making me a stronger person. I feel a lot more comfortable."

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