Loss of Steve Longa hurts Detroit Lions’ linebacker depth
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK — Detroit Lions linebacker Steve Longa’s season-ending knee injury represents a setback for a position group that already is a potential problem area.
Detroit used a first-round pick on Jarrad Davis last season and he appears to be a liability in pass coverage.
The Lions signed veteran free agents Christian Jones and Devon Kennard on the same day in March, hoping they can be 16-game starters for the first time in their careers.
Davis, though, is the key because general manager Bob Quinn took him 21st overall in 2017 to play middle linebacker.
The former Florida star is strong against the run. Davis had 96 tackles last season, the most by an NFL rookie or first-year player. But against the pass, he struggled last season and has seemed to again during training camp and in the preseason.
The latest example came Friday night when the New York Giants capped a 17-play, 79-yard, nine-minute drive with a touchdown pass that exposed Davis’ weakness.
Davis Webb threw an 8-yard pass to running back Wayne Gallman, who easily got separation from Davis on a simple pass route in which he ran to the left and cut back over the middle. By the time Gallman caught the ball, Davis was about 3 yards behind him.
“You’re just going to refer to one play in the game, but there’s definitely some things there that we can coach better,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “And, I can coach better to help him.”
The Lions added Jones and Kennard, banking on them being an upgrade from Tahir Whitehead and Paul Worrilow.
Oakland signed Whitehead a three-year, $18 million contract — much more than Detroit would’ve offered. Worrilow signed with Philadelphia and had a season-ending knee injury during offseason workouts.
The 6-foot-4, 256-pound Kennard was a starter 11 times last season for the New York Giants, who used him as a starting linebacker in 35 games over four seasons. He had four sacks last season and has had 9 1/2 sacks over his career.
The 6-3, 244-pound Jones started 11 games last season and 31 times over four years for the Chicago Bears.