DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead return to lead potentially strong Lions linebacker group

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions open training camp July 28 in Allen Park, Michigan. Like every team in the NFL, there are questions.

While we won’t know whether the Lions will be contenders until the end of September, at the earliest, the roster as it is constructed now could give some clues. And that’s how we’ll view the Lions as we preview them by position for training camp, continuing today with linebackers.

What the Lions have: DeAndre Levy (WILL), Tahir Whitehead (MIKE), Kyle Van Noy (SAM), Josh Bynes, Jon Bostic, Jerry Franklin, Zaviar Gooden, Khaseem Greene, Antwione Williams.

What they might still need: Not much right now, although the talent level drops off heavily after Levy and Whitehead so a veteran addition who can play special teams could be a move Detroit could make. But this group seems pretty set.

Likely roster spots: 5-7.

What to expect in camp: A lot of rotation. Levy’s and Whitehead’s spots are pretty solidified so the competition there will be for who is backing them up. Special teams usage should play a pretty big role there. Van Noy will be one of the top players to watch in camp because this is an important season for him and his future in Detroit. He needs to show he can win the starting SAM job and win it convincingly. He’ll get pushed there, too, by a bunch of guys. Pay attention to Williams’ progress as well. The Lions like his size and athleticism. He’s a bit raw but if he figures it out quickly, he could be a surprise.

Reason to believe: If Levy is back and completely healthy, the Lions get arguably their best defensive player back after missing him all of last season. That makes a tremendous difference in coverage and against the run. If Whitehead continues to progress in the middle, the Lions have two formidable linebackers that should keep Detroit from having to rotate its linebackers in packages like it did the last two seasons. The depth should be strong, as well. If Van Noy shows progress, the Lions might have a sneaky good linebacker group.

Be concerned because: Until you see Levy hit someone in a game, you won’t know where he’s at, progression-wise. Whitehead is taking on an even bigger role than he has in the past. There’s no guarantee Van Noy makes any sort of progression. If Levy gets hurt, the Lions will have to resort to a package-based defense for linebackers again and that can only work for so long despite defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s prowess.