Allen Park – Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell has no intention of removing linebacker Tahir Whitehead from the lineup, despite the defense delivering its best performance of the season with the starting middle linebacker sidelined by a knee injury.
Whitehead is Detroit’s leading tackler this season, including seven double-digit performances, but just one of his 101 tackles has been for a loss. He’s also had struggles in coverage, giving up 52 receptions on the 66 pass plays he has been the targeted defender, yielding 544 yards and five touchdowns.
Last week, prior to Whitehead’s injury, Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin both praised the linebacker’s improvement this season, particularly his leadership role, relaying in the play call and getting the defense in position.
“I think as the year’s gone on, he’s gotten better,” Austin said. “You see he’s more active. He’s triggering better. In terms of the pass coverage each week, when you have a guy that’s moved around different positions, but now as he’s settled in each week he gets a little bit more comfortable in the pass.
“But he’s really good in terms of running our defense, making checks, calling out, getting us lined up,” Austin said. “And I think one of the things, if you watch us earlier in the year, we might have been a little bit haphazard at times, a little late getting lined up. But you don’t see that very much anymore and I think that’s because he’s taken charge in there and done a really good job.”
The Lions’ defense had given up an average of 17 points in the past five games Whitehead started.
Forsett, Banks claimed
Running back Justin Forsett and cornerback Johnthan Banks, waived by the Lions last weekend, were both claimed off waivers. Forsett is heading to the Broncos while Banks will join the Bears.
This marks the third time Forsett will play for Denver coach Gary Kubiak. The two spent the 2012 season together in Houston, where Kubiak coached from 2006-13. They reconnected in Baltimore in 2014, where Kubiak worked one season as offensive coordinator.