The way this season has gone should not have been a surprise to Lions fans. The team was not really all that different from last year’s squad. The team was relying on a lot of free agents and rookies to step in and produce immediately in prominent roles. And the team still had a few round pegs being stuffed in to square holes, like Kyle Van Noy. The 2015 team started 1-7, so a 1-3 start to 2016 should not have been surprising. The national media were adamant that the Lions were terrible, not having watched a game since the massacre in London that inspired a certain song that airs occasionally on the podcast. Most of them predicted that the Lions were a four-win team, and after week four it looked like they were right.
One defense I have been reminded of an early John Madden Football game; the one where an ambulance would drive on to the field when a player was injured. It was pretty funny the first few times it happened; it would plow through the players on its way to the injured man. It was pretty funny right until a second injury dialogue hit the screen telling you that one of the guys it hit was also down. When it rained, it poured.
The Lions’ injury woes at the linebacker position have been the ultimate limiting factor for this defense. The team did not even have enough healthy players to run a nickel defense at one point in the Titans game. That is just two linebackers for those who might be wondering. Every linebacker on the team but Tahir Whitehead has missed significant time this season. DeAndre Levy’s injury issues are only the tip of the Lions’ injury woes. Levy’s backup Josh Bynes, the player who would likely have been third in line Jon Bostic, and the fourth option Antwione Williams have all ended up on IR or missed multiple games with injury. That left Kyle Van Noy, the last player you would ever want in a coverage linebacker role, on the field in nickel situations.
Why Kyle Van Noy was Traded
The Lions traded Kyle Van Noy today, giving up a seventh round pick as well, to gain a sixth round pick in return. Van Noy had never really settled in to a role with the team, and Bob Quinn draft pick Antwione Williams has looked better in coverage this season. Van Noy was gone at the end of the year regardless. The signing of Josh Bynes made him expendable. The Lions will likely know within a week or two whether Jon Bostic is coming back this season, and if the preseason speculation is correct he will be ready to do so.
There are two factors that will likely determine whether Bostic returns other than his own health, as the Lions definitely do need him. The first is the performance of Justin Forsett and Dwayne Washington, and the second is the timetable for Ameer Abdullah‘s return. The Lions can only bring one player back from IR, and Bostic would become eligible to return after this weeks game. If Forsett and Washington can revitalize the waning Lions’ rushing attack, the team may decide to use that ability to bolster their linebacker corps with Bostic. If Abdullah is not going to be back this season because of his foot injury, then that likelihood becomes even more pronounced. Whitehead and Williams have already been playing fairly well with a few hiccups to begin the year. The return of Bynes added to the possible return of Levy and Bostic, could be a great boon to the team. The Lions’ linebacker corp could go from being one of the worst in the NFL to a strength of the team after the bye in week ten, even with the loss of Kyle Van Noy.
Before the season I picked the Lions to be 10-6 and a win in week eight puts them directly on that pace. With injured players at the weakest position on the roster potentially returning to action I think that goal is still attainable. The journey to 10-6 is much easier from 5-3 than 4-4 for the Lions. It requires only one additional win, but the Lions face six teams in their final games that have winning records as of this writing. Wins are about to become difficult to come by.