Kyle Van Noy has been traded, and with it comes another second-round failure for now-former Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew.
One of Mayhew’s biggest issues as Detroit’s GM was navigating the second round, and with Van Noy shipped off to the New England Patriots, he joins Titus Young, Mikel Leshoure and Ryan Broyles as second-round picks who didn’t reach the end of their rookie contracts with the club. Of Mayhew's second-round picks, only Darius Slay and Louis Delmas reached second contracts with the team and only Slay and Ameer Abdullah are still with the club.
And if you’re looking for a reason why Detroit has been stuck in mediocrity for a while, unable to build quality depth on the roster, that’s a big reason why. Meanwhile, new general manager Bob Quinn has been big on the depth-building, part of the reason Detroit has been able to stay afloat in the 2016 season despite a bunch of injuries.
Coincidentally, though, the one spot where depth has been a big concern -- at least for now -- is the position Van Noy plays: Linebacker. The Lions lost DeAndre Levy, Jon Bostic and Josh Bynes to injury, leaving them with middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead, Van Noy and players who were either considered depth or not on the roster Quinn had planned on constructing.
Sure, that happens with every team in the NFL, but the Lions had remained competitive with smoke, mirrors and duct tape in the middle of their defense. Van Noy had ample opportunity to make himself a valuable player for the Lions over the first seven weeks of the season due to the injuries and it just never materialized, even when he was one of the Lions’ few healthy players at the position. He struggled in coverage and was seventh on the Lions in tackles -- behind five defensive backs. He just wasn’t working out for Detroit and this gives him a chance for a fresh start.
While the trade of Van Noy signals another poor draft choice by Mayhew, and that the team was done trying to find ways to use him successfully, it could also mean something else: Detroit might finally be getting healthier at linebacker.
Levy has been working out, trying to make a return after sitting out since Week 1 with an injury and he told me last week he’s hoping to return this season. That could end up being sooner than later now. The Lions released Bynes with an injury settlement, but the thought has always been he could end up returning -- and that's now happening, as Bynes is re-signing with the club.
Also, Detroit has not used its injured reserve-designated-to-return slot yet, a spot that always seemed pegged for the player involved with the Lions’ last trade with the Patriots, Bostic. The Lions, though, have not indicated that move yet but it would strengthen the team's linebackers if they did. Plus, rookie Antwione Williams has started to pick up more reps.
If Detroit ends up getting those three players back, though, it completely revamps a linebacker group that has been a weak point in Detroit’s defense. The Lions would keep Whitehead in the middle, start Levy on the weak side and either use Bostic or Bynes as the SAM linebacker. It would also once again give Detroit depth at the position, with Williams and either Bostic or Bynes.
That’s a much better linebacker group than what Detroit has been working with so far this year and more in line with what Quinn and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had in mind when they were in training camp -- if it materializes.