Nick Bellore and Steve Longa are in an interesting situation. They are both on the field at the same time, so their natural instinct as teammates is to hope the other does well. Much of their time on the field has been as a pair in nickle defense.
The Lions first nickel pair has been Jarrad Davis and Tahir Whitehead. The second grouping is Paul Worrilow and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Alongside, and mixed in with both pairs has been Antwione Williams, the Lions strong side linebacker. Those five players are going to make the Lions 53 man roster barring injury.
Last year, five linebackers is all the Lions kept. Bellore and Longa are going to have to convince Bob Quinn that the team needs to keep a sixth. They also need to convince the Detroit Lions general manager that they individually are that player, over the other.
The Battle Thus Far
Steve Longa has been getting more playing time on defense than Nick Bellore. He leads the Detroit Lions in preseason tackles with eight. He has been the primary back up for Antwione Williams. Longa is spelling the Lions 2016 fifth round pick when it is required.
That seems like a feather in Longa’s cap on the surface. However, but Paul Worrilow will likely be the primary backup at all three linebacker positions unless Reeves-Maybin can make the coaching staff comfortable with his weak side play. The strong side linebacker position is used by the Lions less than half the time, being the third option at the position will not get Longa a roster spot. In coverage he has struggled. He is likely a two down player at the NFL level.
Bellore has been the middle linebacker when on the field, but limited to third team duty. He has continued his stellar special teams play, there are no surprises in his game. He is always a single step late in coverage due to his limited athletic ability, but puts himself in the right position as quickly as he can get there.
The Detroit Lions third team have been more than equal to their opponents second team offenses, and Bellore’s play in the middle has been a large part of why. Both players clearly understand what they are supposed to be doing in Teryl Ausitn’s scheme, but are not athletically up to the task of starting.
Who Is Winning Between Nick Bellore And Steve Longa?
Both players have had their moments, and at the end of any kick return the numbers 43 (Bellore) and 54 (Longa) are going to be in the picture. Since it was announced I have believed that Nick Bellore’s roster number is used specifically to give him the option of playing on punts and field goals.
Linebackers typically use numbers in the 50s, and Bellore has done that in the NFL for his entire career. A number in the 40s allows him to play different special teams roles from Paul Worrilow without reporting eligible. Longa has been spending more time on defense, but Bellore has an established reputation that he has lived up to. He will be on an NFL roster in 2017. The Question is whether he or Longa will be on the Detroit Lions roster. The next two weeks are their opportunity to stake their claim.