DeAndre Levy had a productive college career as the strong-side OLB at Wisconsin. He was drafted by the Lions in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft.
Levy started all 16 games in his rookie year. He was an OLB for most of the season (567 snaps), but was moved to MLB where he played 188 snaps.
In 2010, head coach Jim Schwartz insisted that Levy would remain at MLB while Jordan Dizon and Zack Follett would patrol the outside. The Lions weren’t going to sign MLB Larry Foote to a long-term contract.
The Lions had a plan.
The plan started unraveling in training camp, where Levy suffered a groin injury that severely limited his practice time. Then, during a preseason game, Dizon suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Follett was largely ineffective, and saw action in only six games. He suffered a concussion in the loss to Philadelphia, and was later put on the IR after sustaining a neck injury in the loss to the Giants.
Levy’s groin injury kept him out of five games in 2010. Nevertheless, Levy played over 60 percent of the Lions' defensive snaps for the season.
There can be no doubt that Levy is one tough cookie.
We’ll take a look at Levy, courtesy of the folks at Pro Football Focus, and see what areas of his game can use some work and where that groin injury had the most impact.
There were 32 ILBs who played at least 60 percent of their team’s defensive snaps. Levy’s overall grade placed him in 24th place.
Not so hot.
QB Sacks, Hits and Pressures
Here is a category where Levy should score low. The Lions seldom blitz an MLB, whose primary responsibilities are supporting run defense, or in pass coverage’s that will either match him against a TE or RB, or he will play a short-to-intermediate zone in the center of the field.
Levy had zero QB sacks, two QB hits and three QB pressures. Ironically, Levy’s PFF grade put him in 14th place among the 32 players in this group.
In this category, PFF looks at tackles, assists, missed tackles and stops. Stops? PFF explains that this is the total number of plays that were considered to be offensive failures (including QB sacks).
Levy made 61 solo tackles and had seven assists. In 749 defensive snaps, I’d expect to see a non-blitzing MLB more active than that in a 4-3 defense.
Here’s where that groin injury has its most serious impact. A player’s lateral movement is most affected when one of those three abductor muscles is damaged.
An MLB needs to slide towards a ball carrier while slipping blockers. One slide step, followed by a crossover step is the proper technique. This is all but impossible when you have an injured groin muscle.
Back to the stats!
Levy graded out in 22nd place in run support. His grade would have been higher, but Levy missed 14 tackles. Those 14 whiffs put Levy in last place.
Levy simply couldn’t get into position to make a tackle.
Levy’s stops were an issue. He finished in 29th place with only 34 stops.
Levy’s pass defense dropped him to 24th place. Levy was targeted 41 times and gave up 31 receptions. Not good.
Levy’s completion percentage was a whopping 73.2 percent. This put him in 22nd place, predictably.
Here’s the "good news, bad news" stat. The good news is that Levy gave up only 267 yards (good enough for seventh place). The bad news is that of those 267 yards allowed, 194 yards were YAC. It was still the ninth-least YAC of this group.
That set of stats were rather surprising.
This begs the question of how much that groin injury affected his YAC, and how many of those costly 14 missed tackles were actually recorded on pass defense.
Unless we review Levy’s 11 game films, we may never know.
Levy allowed two TDs, but made two INTs and had one pass defended. Levy’s QB rating was 86.1, where he finished a very respectable ninth place.
Clearly, Levy has some serious pass coverage skills.
Obviously, the jury is still out on Levy. His groin injury was, in my opinion, a key factor in his poor showing in run defense and was probably a contributing factor in his YAC statistic.
In spite of the injury, Levy graded out rather well in pass coverage. This is indicative of the role that the coaching staff has designed for him.
There were no coaching points on Levy. It’s too early to know what to look for when he’s healthy. One thing seems apparent: Levy could be very good for a long time.
Next up: DE Cliff Avril.
Mike Sudds is a Syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.