Ernie Sims (50) recorded more than 100 tackles in his first three seasons with the Lions, including 134 in 2007. (Robin Buckson/The Detroit News)
Has Ernie Sims become expendable?
It's hard to believe the Lions' ninth overall selection in the 2006 Draft, who also started every game in his first three seasons, could possibly be replaceable.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham claim the answer is no.
But the emergence of rookie linebacker DeAndre Levy might suggest yes.
"Competition never scared me away," Sims said. "I've been competing my whole life. When I see someone else doing well it doesn't scare me away. I'm a competitor and I'm going to keep playing and keep doing me."
Sims was expected to have a breakout fourth season with new veteran teammates (linebackers Larry Foote and Julian Peterson) and a new scheme
The results: Sims has just 15 tackles.
In his defense, Sims has battled through a painful shoulder injury suffered in the 27-13 loss to the Vikings in Week 2. The injury kept him out the following week, when the Lions recorded a 19-14 victory over the Redskins.
Levy has taken advantage of replacing Sims in the lineup, recording 29 tackles (fourth on the team, sixth among all NFL rookies), an interception and a forced fumble. Levy seems to have a better feel in pass coverage than Sims and has provided the big plays Sims hasn't.
It was Levy who stopped Redskins running back Clinton Portis on a fourth-and-goal from the Lions' 1 early in the game in which the Lions ended their 19-game losing streak.
"He's played very well at spots; he's also had the rookie inconsistencies," Schwartz said. "I think we'd be comfortable with him as a starter, particularly if he can keep moving forward."
Said Levy: "I came in with the mindset of preparing from day one to be the next guy in, regardless if I was a starter or not. If I wasn't a starter, prepare like a starter, so I can be the next guy in and contribute."
Out of position
Stephen Peterman was the best tight end in the state of Mississippi coming out of St. Stanislaus High in 2000.
When he got to LSU, coaches converted him to a defensive end, which is where he played his freshman year.
Entering his sophomore year he switched to offensive guard, where he's played since.
But there was Peterman in the first quarter of last weekend's game in Green Bay, lined up at defensive tackle for Detroit.
"(They) had some injuries and asked me if I would go do it, and I told (them) whatever they needed," Peterman said. "It was weird, man. You know the weirdest thing was just not hearing the snap count. The main thing I was telling myself was just don't jump offside."
He didn't. Instead, he eluded Packers center Scott Wells and got into the backfield.
"I was messing with Wells," he said. "I'm like, 'How are you going to let a guard beat you?' "
A lot to do about nothing
Schwartz said criticism his former boss, Titans coach Jeff Fisher , received for recently wearing a Colts jersey and joking about the Titans' 0-6 start at a charity function is much ado about nothing.
"He did it for charity," Schwartz said. "He was introducing Tony Dungy . All of it was done tongue and cheek, and I don't think anyone needs to question Jeff Fisher's loyalty.
"Maybe it's a masterful move. Maybe people are talking about that rather than being 0-6. They're talking about Jeff putting a jersey on."
“Shifting gears? We should pop the clutch. We need to squeal some wheels. We don’t need just to shift.” Schwartz, when asked if the team needs to shift into another gear in their final 10 games.
By the numbers
31.8 Average starting field position for Lions opponents following a kickoff, which ranks last in the league
134 Streak of consecutive starts for Lions left tackle Jeff Backus
58 Average rushing yards per game for Lions running back Kevin Smith. That would give him 928 yards through 16 games if he continues the pace.
Through Week 6, Lions rookie Brandon Pettigrew is proving to be the best of this year's rookie tight end class:
Lions safety Louis Delmas is among the league's rookie leaders in tackles: