With starting middle linebacker DeAndre Levy still nursing a sore ankle and starting outside linebacker Zack Follett out indefinitely with a neck injury, the signing of free agent linebacker Bobby Carpenter couldn't have come at a better time for the Lions.
Carpenter, 27, was signed as a free agent by the Lions on Wednesday after the Dolphins released him on Monday.
"We've had some issues at linebacker," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We've played five (middle) linebackers this year and our depth is down there a little bit where Zack (Follett) is and DeAndre Levy and things like that. It made sense to get him here and get him going.
"We've taken a long stance that anytime a player's available and we think we can improve out team, we are going to look very hard at it. He became available, and he's got the size and speed and the athletic ability we're looking for. He has experience. He's a multidimensional player. He's played inside. He's played outside. He's played in nickel."
Carpenter was a first-round draft pick of the Cowboys in 2006 out of Ohio State. In four seasons with Dallas, he failed to establish a starting role, though he did play a lot of nickel in 2009. Carpenter played in all 16 games for the Cowboys last season, finishing with 46 tackles and two sacks.
"I thought his best year in the NFL was last year in Dallas," Schwartz said.
Carpenter was traded to the Rams this offseason and spent training camp with them before being cut Sept. 4. He's been with the Dolphins the first six weeks of the season.
"I'm excited to be here now," he said. "I'm trying to move forward with everything. What happened (in Miami) is done and over with. I'm part of the Detroit Lions now, and I'm excited about that."
Schwartz said Carpenter will learn both middle and outside linebacker but will likely settle into the outside when Levy returns, which is expected to be the Lions' next game against the Redskins.
"It really depends on where DeAndre is and how he's doing because if DeAndre comes in, he's the guy we targeted as wanting to build around as our (middle) linebacker," Schwartz said. "I think we'll probably look at him outside. But right now with the injury situation that we have, like I said with five different (middle) linebackers, he's going to get going at both."
One of the biggest benefits for Carpenter is that he's joining the Lions on the bye week, so he'll have an extra week to get up to speed.
"It's a huge benefit, believe me," Carpenter said. "I can actually learn what I'm supposed to do.
"Game weeks are all preparation for what they are doing. Well, they take for granted the players know what they should do. I'm trying to learn what I need to do so next week I'll be able to focus on what the Washington Redskins are doing. Hopefully I'll be able to understand more of my role and what we need to do."
It's even more important because he's moving from the Dolphins' 3-4 to the Lions' 4-3 scheme.
"Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was in St. Louis for camp so I got a little experience playing in a 4-3," Carpenter said. "I know a little bit about this system. It's all football. It's all fits, gaps and alignments. The coaches here have been very helpful and very instructive, so I picked up on a lot of it (Thursday)."
Carpenter, 6-foot-2, 249 pounds, looks to be a good fit for Schwartz scheme that emphasizes big, physical linebackers.
The two have a bit of history, too. Carpenter worked out for Tennessee when Schwartz was the defensive coordinator there before the 2006 draft.
"I'd kind of seen what he did in Tennessee, and I talked to him when I was coming out (of Ohio State) a few years back," Carpenter said. "They've got quality coaches here and a good staff put together and really just a good group of young guys."
The Lions go to Miami on Dec. 26 to play the Dolphins.
"I did look at that schedule," he said. "I saw it from when I was in Miami. It's quite a ways down the road. We have a lot of things to do before then. But that's something I'll be looking forward to."
- LB DeAndre Levy (ankle) had his helmet and practiced off to the side Thursday for the first time since Week 3. Levy is hopeful for a return in Week 8.
- DE Turk McBride (ankle) was working out off to the side of practice for the first time in two weeks. McBride has missed the Lions' last two games with a high ankle sprain.
- C Cody Wallace, signed off the Jets' practice squad Monday, could be very useful to the Lions in term of audible and line calls when Detroit plays the Jets in Week 9.
- QB Shaun Hill said he didn't know exactly how much time he'd miss with a broken left forearm. He's hoping it'll just be a few weeks.
- RB Jahvid Best's case of turf toe is feeling "considerably" better after just a couple days of rest. He expects to be 100 percent healthy for the game against the Redskins on Oct. 31.
INJURY IMPACT: RB Jahvid Best (toe) said that two weeks of rest are going to do him a world of good. "Rest is the biggest thing that I need to get back to myself," Best said. "Two weeks is going to help me out a lot. Getting back 100 percent healthy after the bye, that's definitely what I'm planning for."
Best has been suffering from a turf toe injury the entire season and has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this season, even though he's played in all six games for the Lions this season.
"It's just something that's nagging me the whole game," he said.
Asked if it's affected the way he cuts, Best said, "a little bit."
The Lions rank 31st in the NFL on the ground averaging just 79 yards per game.
"We're just not executing," Best said. "A couple plays where we have good looks and we're not executing well." Best is hoping that will turn itself around, in part, when he's 100 percent healthy. He hopes that will be after the bye.