Boca Raton, Fla. — The Lions expect DeAndre Levy to be healthy for the 2016 season, and when he makes his return after missing nearly all of 2015, coach Jim Caldwell thinks Levy will be the same impact player he was before his hip injury.
“I’m fully expecting him to be able to do the things he’s always done for us,” Caldwell said Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL annual meetings. “Make plenty of tackles, be able to cover guys in terms of pass routes out of the backfield and certainly give us some help in terms of rushing capacity, blitzing once in a while. I expect him to be the same active guy he’s always been.”
General manager Bob Quinn said everything he’s heard makes him think Levy will be healthy for the start of the season, but he’s “not quite sure” if Levy will be ready for offseason workouts this spring.
The Lions haven’t made any significant upgrades to the defense this offseason, but Quinn said knowing Levy will be back impacted the team’s plans in free agency.
“DeAndre’s one of our better players,” Quinn said. “I have yet to meet him, but the stuff I’ve seen on film, he’s a difference-maker when he’s healthy. So, we’re really looking forward to getting him back in the building and getting him ready for the year.”
Losing Levy was a major blow to the Lions’ defense last year, especially coupled with the loss of All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Levy, 28, ranked second in the NFL in tackles in 2014 with 151 and was a key reason the defense ranked second in the league.
In 2013, Levy had 119 tackles and was tied for second in the league with six interceptions. Between the two stellar seasons and some solid play previously, the Lions signed Levy to a four-year extension worth $33.8 million last August.
But, shortly after signing the new deal in the preseason, Levy got hurt and didn’t play until Week 5. After just 17 defensive snaps, though, Levy aggravated the injury and didn’t play again in 2015.
Instead, Levy underwent hip surgery in October to repair a torn labrum and went on injured reserve in November, making 2015 the first of his seven seasons in which he played in fewer than 11 games.
“You just don’t find a lot of guys that make 100 tackles year in and year out … and he’s one of those guys,” Caldwell said. “And so there’s no question he’s going to help us tremendously.”