One of the concerns facing the Lions against Chicago will be the potential absence of middle linebacker DeAndre Levy.
The second-year player and first-year starter is officially listed as Doubtful on the depth chart, thinning out an already sparse and lackluster linebacking core. In his sted will likely be veteran Landon Johnson, who has played multiple positions at linebacker -- including middle -- in his career. His versatility is giving defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham some level of comfort.
"He's started a lot of games in this league," said Cunningham. "This guy's not a raw rookie or second-year guy. He's played a lot and he gives me great comfort. I do a lot of talking with him through the headset; he's calling all the plays, and he's a consummate pro. He's been pushed into the middle spot and he's done well in practice.
"I don't look at Landon as a fourth linebacker. I look at him as a starting linebacker."
Johnson played sparingly at middle during training camp. Most of those reps were given to back-up Jordon Dizon, who was lost to a knee injury during the preseason.
MORE NEWS AND NOTES:
- Will Jay Cutler take the Mike Martz-required five- to seven step drops on Sunday? Ndamukong Suh isn't exactly worried. Regardless of what Detroit's former offensive coordinator has in store, the rookie pass-rusher plans on directing his attention to Cutler, regardless of the gameplan.
"That definitely gives you more of an opportunity to get to the quarterback when you see him dropping back five or seven steps and throwing bombs," said Suh. "I don't know if they are going to play us that way, but if they do, so be it. Even if they don't play that way, our plan is still the same -- to get after the quarterback."
- RB Jahvid Best is going to be the primary back and the Lions feel comfortable using him in every situation. The initial plan was for him to split the position with veteran Kevin Smith, but Smith's recovery from major knee surgery isn't complete. Smith could be inactive Sunday.
- RB Maurice Morris, who finished last season as the No. 1 tailback, will most likely back up Best.
- LT Jeff Backus will be matched up against Bears DE Julius Peppers. It will be the second time the 10-year vet has butted heads with Peppers. And he doesn't have many fond memories of the first encounter. "You know, he's 300 pounds with super long arms and he has the athletic ability of a basketball player," said Backus, commencing his 10th season with the Lions. "I've got my work cut out for me."
- DT Ndamukong Suh will be matched up, at least to start, against Bears' second-year guard Lance Louis. Suh was the second overall pick in the last draft; Louis the 246th in 2009. It will be Louis' first NFL start.
- CB Aaron Berry will be handling the nickel back duties on Sunday. Dre' Bly and Eric King, who had been playing the role most of camp, were both cut. "I played it quite a bit in college (Pitt) so I am familiar with it," Berry said. "Being in that box, you just have to be fast. If you're late you are going to be in trouble with those backs coming downhill at you."
- S C.C. Brown is trying out different casts and sleeves to protect the hairline fracture on his right forearm. "Whichever one I feel best in is the one I will wear in the game," he said. "The only thing that's going to keep me off the field Sunday is God or a stroke." It's the second time Brown fractured his forearm, the first being in 2008 with Houston.
- S Louis Delmas (groin) was at practice Thursday and is on track to play Sunday.
- Dominic Raiola is beginning his 10th season as the Lions' center. But as far as he's concerned, he was born yesterday.
"I don't think it's fair to talk about what's happened here in the past because, look around this room -- this roster isn't even close to being the same," he said. "You are talking about an entirely different team. I don't want any of these guys in here to associate themselves with the Lions teams of the past. If you are talking about the 2008 Lions, I don't associate Jahvid Best or Matthew Stafford with that team. It's totally different now."
Like it or not, the 2010 Lions will carry some of the baggage from the past, like the 20-game road losing streak it will take into Soldier Field Sunday.
"There are some guys that have had a long drought and there are some guys in here that are used to winning on the road that are walking into this situation for the first time," coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's like last year after we lost the first two games and I was asked how it felt to lose 19 in a row. I was like, 'Jeez, can't you let us be 0-2?' We didn't lose 19 in a row. You can't hold these guys accountable for what's happened in the past."
Clearly, the offense is different than most of the teams that contributed to the 20 straight road losses. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and his system, and his position coaches, and his quarterback, and his offensive line, are starting their second year in Detroit. It's the first time in Raiola's tenure all those things have been in place for two years in a row.
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