Jordan Dizon doesn’t get a lot of love from most casual Lions fans. He never lived up to his second round draft status to become the “next Spielman” fans were clamoring for in the middle. Hate Millen, don’t hate Jordan. Remember, Dizon was out fishing draft day when the call came in. He expected/was projected into the 4th or 5th round. Dizon was a solid player. Never spectacular, but he did his job.
What was his job you ask? It wasn’t as a starter – but read Schwartz’s comments again, break them down and you will begin to see what kind of loss we are talking about from a team perspective.
“He was really good on special teams, he was a four-phase guy there,” said Lions coach Jim Schwartz. “He played outside linebacker, inside linebacker and he played the nickel linebacker. He did a lot of those things. He’s a guy we’ll have to work hard to replace.”
Four phase special teamer — He played kick-off returns, kick-off coverage, punt returns, and punt coverage. He had the speed to cover, the ability to block, and solid tackling paired with good vision and instinct. These type of players are essential to have on the roster, and can have a huge impact on the game. Much of Detroit’s special teams woes have been the fact that guys who would be special teamers on other franchises in the league were starting with the Lions, leaving even less talented players for special teams.
Outside Linebacker, Inside Linebacker – while he may not be a full time starter, Dizon was good enough to rotate in to all 3 linebacker positions, as well as being the primary backup middle linebacker. It’s not exactly easy to find a single player to back up all 3 spots as solidly as Dizon did — especially MLB in the 4-3 alignment. The ability to cover better than average on RB’s and TE’s, combined with sure tackling is what Dizon brought to the middle – as well as a willingness to stick it in there on running plays despite being undersized. The Schwartz/Cunningham defensive scheme also plays a lot more to his instinctual style than did Marinelli’s rigid cover-2.
Nickle Linebacker – Dizon filled a special role as the nickle linebacker — giving Follett and JP, who aren’t as good in pass pro, a break in nickle situations without losing a lot of power to stop the run. He could also rotate in for Levy, with Peterson or Follett to provide more muscle while also giving Levy a breather. In other words, he was a specialized cog in the defense to come in situationally to keep the starters freash. Considering the lack of depth, this was/is imperative to keep them healthy.
He is a guy they will have to work hard to replace. Unfortunately, it may take more than one guy to replace him. Jordan is the kind of all around player that teams need to fill the backup positions. For every Dizon they can keep a developmental Caleb Campbell or Willie Young – becuase they have one guy that can suit up on Sunday and fill multiple roles well. Pure special teamers abound. Pure backups are harder to find, but there. Guys to start at just nickle-backer – no problem. All three?
As I said to begin with, Jordan is by no means a pro-bowl starting LB. Probably never will be. But he was a heck of a backup, and versatile asset to the team. If the Lions can’t shuffle other guys around, it could mean keeping an extra body they didn’t want to, while trying to sneak someone they wanted to keep onto the practice squad — or letting them go.
The Lions finally have some strength in the starting positions — enough to comepte at an NFL level for once. But depth is the key — injuries WILL happen (unless you are Dallas last year) and it’s a long season. The Lions have starters, now Mayhew is going to start filling in behind them with capable back-ups, and player who will develop into eventual starters.
His building project has a foundation of starters — now hes starting in on the rest of the building — despite losing an important block.