Lions general manager Bob Quinn is looking to get faster in this month's NFL Draft.
"It's the top thing we look at, especially at certain positions," Quinn said when he was asked at last week's Members Summit about adding speed to the roster.
"I think the National Football League, the last 10 years, has turned into a passing league, and we talk about it, I think, daily over the last month. We're in our sub, or nickel or dime defense 70-plus percent of the time, so the days of us having three linebackers on the field are very, very few. So speed and athleticism to play against three wide receiver sets and athletic tight ends, it's paramount in our league. It's paramount in our division. So it's one of the first things we look at."
View photos of the Detroit Loins defense conditioning at the start of the offseason workout program.
Quinn declined to comment if linebacker was a specific need for this team entering the draft, but it's safe to say the Lions could use more speed and playmaking ability at the position.
Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow and Antwione Williams are the top three linebackers on the roster as the team kicks off its offseason training program this week. Of that group, Worrilow had the fastest 40-yard dash (4.59 at his pro day) coming into the league four years ago. Whitehead and Williams play a bigger, more powerful game. They both ran 4.7 seconds or above entering the league.
There are a number of athletic options at linebacker in this year's draft, with Temple's Haason Reddick and Florida's Jarrad Davis potential fits for the Lions with their 21st overall selection.
As the need to play three linebackers in base defense becomes less significant, Quinn said the importance of having depth and diverse skill sets at the position is still vital. Don't be surprised if Quinn and the Lions are on the lookout to upgrade their speed and athleticism at the position later this month.
"There's other very important parts of the game, like goal-line or short-yardage where we're going to have four linebackers on the field," he said. "So there are certain times, certain situations that you need that kind of depth.
"So the number of linebackers that we keep will probably be the same as what we've always had, because the linebackers, if they're not playing on defense, they're usually a core member of our kicking game, and they're playing 20 to 25 snaps on special teams."