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Jones: There's a role in Detroit's multiple defense for whoever proves themselves

Competition breeds success. It's a popular phrase among players and coaches.

When it comes to the Detroit Lions and their rather crowded linebacker room, they certainly hope that phrase rings true.

Starting linebackers Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones, along with key rookie contributor, Jahlani Tavai, are all back, and it's certainly fair to expect Tavai's role to increase heading into his second season.

The Lions signed veteran linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. in free agency. While Collins is expected to play a role similar to that of Devon Kennard, who was released ahead of the beginning of free agency, he's athletic and versatile enough to play a number of different roles.

The team also signed veterans Reggie Ragland and Elijah Lee in free agency, both of whom will be looking for roles in head coach Matt Patricia and defensive coordinator Cory Undlin's defense.

"As everyone knows we run a multiple defense, so there can be a role for whoever proves themselves," Jones said in a Zoom call Thursday from his home in Royal Oak.

"We have a lot of good players and competition is always good. I know each and every one of those guys in there is going to push each other and try to be the best players we can be for the team. I'm excited about it."

Statistically, Detroit was one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. They have gone through a significant retooling this offseason, both via free agency, the draft and trades. The Lions could have six new starters on defense, and maybe more if there are changes at a couple of the linebacker spots.

Detroit signed Jones to a two-year extension last November. They like his size and versatility in their defense.

"Really good scheme fit for what we do, very versatile," Lions GM Bob Quinn said after the season of Jones' extension. "As you guys know, when we're trying to build the front seven, it's really hard to find linebackers that can play on the line of scrimmage and off. I think Christian has obviously shown he can do that at a good level."

The Lions declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Davis' rookie contract earlier this month, but Patricia insisted in a Zoom call with reporters after that decision that Davis is still a big part of what they're building on defense.

"I think JD is a cornerstone of what we're trying to do," Patricia said. "He's in those big-picture plans in where we're trying to go. He's a solid-rock leader, everything you want in a program type of guy."

But if Tavai's role increases in year two, what will that mean for someone else's playing time? How active will the Lions be in moving Collins around to different linebacker roles? Ragland seems to be a good scheme fit. Can he carve out a role, and how big might that look?

There's a lot of interesting decisions on the horizon when it comes to the linebacker position in Detroit.

"I think everybody is ready to get to work," Jones said. "It should be fun."

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