(Steve Longa and Garret Dooley did not record any statistics in 2018)
Best competition: Who fills out the depth at the position?
Davis, Kennard, Jones and Tavai are the top four at the position, and their skillsets and versatility will be key weapons for Matt Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni on defense in 2019.
The Lions kept six linebackers on the initial 53-man roster a season ago. If that stays the same in 2019, who fills the last two spots?
Reeves-Maybin and Longa both have experience in this defense and offer something on special teams, which will be a key role for those reserve linebackers.
However, some of the young linebackers on the roster, like Lamar and Carney, were very productive college players. Could one of them potentially stand out and earn a roster spot?
View photos of the linebackers competing for roster spots heading into training camp.
Twentyman’s take: Tavai was an impressive athlete in the spring with his size and movement. I can’t wait to see him in pads taking on linemen in 1-on-1 rushing drills and playing in space in 7-on-7’s. We could see him line up both inside and outside. It will be interesting to see how many different roles he plays and how much he does with the first-team defense early in camp. He was already rotating in heavily with the first team in the spring.
Davis showed an ability to get to the quarterback last season. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a little more of that this season, especially with Tavai’s ability to slip inside and play the MIKE.
When Patricia took the head coaching job here in Detroit, one of his first tasks was to revamp the linebacker room. He was a linebackers coach in New England before taking over as defensive coordinator. His scheme calls for bigger, stronger and more versatile players that can do a lot of different things -- players who can take on blocks – and get off them – and be strong in the run game. In Davis, Kennard, Jones and Tavai, we’re finally starting to see Patricia’s vision for the position.
By the numbers:
6.0: Davis and Kennard became the first set of Lions linebackers to each produce 6.0-or-more sacks in a single season.
17.0: Lions linebackers combined to produce 17.0 sacks last season, the most by Lions linebackers since they combined for 21.0 sacks in the 1993 season.
4.6: Opponents averaged 4.6 yards per rush on first down against the Lions' defense last season, which ranked 19th in the league. Houston, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Baltimore held opponents to under 4.0 yards per rush on first down.
1,522: Detroit was one of the best tackling defenses last season as opponents amassed just 1,522 yards after the catch all season, the lowest total in the league.
Quotable: “I think we’re getting there. I think we did a good job last offseason with free agency with guys like (Devon) Kennard and Christian (Jones),” Lions GM Bob Quinn said this offseason about the linebacker position.
“It’s really unique that, fortunate I’d say, that we were able to get Jarrad Davis a couple drafts ago. He can really play in any defense, which is great. We drafted him for the previous defense but he’s a really good fit in what we do now. We’re there. I think we’re pretty much to the point where we have good players.”