To Teddy Lehman: Welcome veteran dollar ninja. Are your joints just a little loose or were you electrical taped? Considering when he suffered the lisfranc injury, he should be fully healthy again at this point. I noticed on Hondo's blog that their camp observer mentioned he looks more like his rookie self than his post-injury self. If the Lions have a rookie-form Lehman for vet minimum, then he is definitely an upgrade of Fincher, and more likely to make the squad.
As the camp cut merry-go-round among the bottom of the rosters has begun, the Detroit Lions.com piece on the state of the LB is a bit out of date -- particularly the bit about Fincher competing for a roster spot since he was just cut to make room for Lehman on the roster.
Current Depth Chart at LB:
99 Cannon, Anthony LB 6-0 228 23 3 Tulane
55 Davis, Buster LB 5-9 239 24 1 Florida State
57 Dizon, Jordon LB 6-0 229 22 R Colorado
54 Gardner, Gilbert LB 6-1 228 25 5 Purdue
41 Joe, Leon LB 6-1 235 26 5 Maryland
58 Lehman, Teddy LB 6-1 238 26 5 Oklahoma
53 Lenon, Paris LB 6-2 235 30 7 Richmond
59 Lewis, Alex LB 6-0 230 26 5 Wisconsin
46 Pruitt, Tyrone LB 5-11 220 22 R Boston College
50 Sims, Ernie LB 6-0 225 23 3 Florida State
Last season, on the final 2007 roster the Lions had 7 LB's. They kept 3 at the middle, and 2 on the SLB and WLB. As I look at the guys on the roster, I came up with a few hunches and thoughts:
1. Buster Davis could be in trouble of finding himself either on the practice squad, or cut after the Lehman signing. Lehman was able to beat him out last year, and if he is back at his rookie form, then he makes a solid backup to both the SLB and MLB positions.
2. If Dizon really steps up his game, this could also mean that the Lenon-getting-cut scenario plays out IF B. Davis has a HUGE camp. The Lions would have Dizon, backed-up by Lehman and Davis, both of whom would be strong ST contributors. They could then keep Lewis as the starting SLB, backed up by Lehman and Sims as WLB backed up by whoever wins between Gardner and Cannon. Both play ST so it could be a tight battle. Most likely, though, Lenon would start at SLB and Lewis could find himself the odd man out.
How will it play out?
This is a situation that I again don't have a really good feel for at this point. Really, the entire LB corps, and who plays where and even who makes the roster is dependent upon how/if Dizon takes the starting MLB job in camp.
Lets assume he looks like he'll be starting at MLB, and that Lehman is playing at his rookie level. If Lewis is still playing solid, they could keep Sims and Gardner/Cannon on the WLB, Lenon and Lewis at SLB, and Dizon backed up by Lehman/Lenon in the middle. They would have 3 LB that could, if need be, play the middle. Granted, if Lehman is in at MLB then the situation the team is in injury wise is not good, but considering the position group it could very well happen.
As of this moment, I would say that this is my earliest guess at the LB Depth to start the season opener:
WLB: Sims, Gardner
MLB: Lenon, Dizon, Davis
SLB: Lewis, Lehman
and by the middle of the season:
WLB: Sims, Gardner
MLB: Dizon, Lehman, Davis
SLB: Lenon, Lewis
HOWEVER: Depending on how bad Langston Moore's injury is, they may keep an extra Dlineman and one less LB. In that case, I don't think Buster makes the cut. If Moore's injury is moderate even, I expect they may put him on the pup to hide him til later in the season as a replacement for injury, or to push away playing time from Cody if he ends up being a "practice warrior" and once again gets lost in traffic when it matters -- game day. If he's on the pup, it frees up a roster spot and keeps him in reserve. After what he showed last year, Moore is not likely to clear waivers.
In addition, the Lions have a lot of talent at S. Depending on how many they keep there, that could also effect the number of LB they keep. A Spikes signing would also impact this. [in regards to Spikes, the fact that no other team has tendered him an offer is a little more than worrisome to me. I think fan expectations of him are way too high right now.]
I must admit, that while the signing of Spikes could be interesting, I voted for Mike Bell -- thought he would add more zone running experience to the camp field, and may be a good injury replacement, or a better roster value than say, an Aveion Cason if Ellis wins out as the 5th WR and return man.
I'm hoping Middleton makes it to the practice squad if he loses the 5th WR position battle so that he can be brought up to the 53 man roster to replace McDonald next ifseason, or if there is an injury in the WR corps.
At the end of the day, the LB position is the only position on the team that has the once perennial Lions problem: Good depth, but lack of starter quality players. Worst to 1st at all but WLB is much too interchangeable. While Dizon has plenty of the dreaded "p" word.