In order for head coach Rod Marinelli's "Tampa Two" defense to work, every position on the field is accountable to do its job with a promised result: the rest will fall into place.
And, while in theory, that would make most positions equal, that isn't necessarily the case. As evident in the Lions 2006 campaign, a season that witnessed breakdowns in everything from run coverage, to pass coverage to basic field assignments, the team's telling weakness was at middle linebacker.
And it also happens to be the most important position on the field within Detroit's defensive scheme.
As the free-agency period kicks off on Friday, the Lions will attempt to address its 'achilles heal' early. In fact, maybe within the first few days of market activity.
According to a soure close to the situation, the Lions will entertain Chiefs middle linebacker and unrestricted free-agent Kawika Mitchell this weekend. Mitchell is expected to arrive on Saturday, and stay through Sunday as Detroit attempts to coax the four-year player into joining the Lions.
Although not the most popular name at the position in the market (that honor belongs to Bills' UFA London Fletcher-Baker), Mitchell might fit a better fit to Detroit's scheme -- and, maybe most notably, Marinelli's personality.
He will also come cheaper.
"Mitchell is younger (27), faster, and more athletic," said Scout.com NFL analyst Adam Caplan. "Fletcher was part of a pourous Buffalo run defense last year and he's on the downside of his career."
Fletcher-Baker has also been said to prefer the Washington Redskins over any other suitors, and will likely ink a deal on Friday.
Mitchell's speed and high-energy play, meanwhile, is likely what has attracted Detroit. Although inconsistent at times in run support, Mitchell has the requisite quickness to play in the deep zone and cover tight ends. That capability is what the Lions lacked in 2006, but is essential to the success of the Tampa Two defense.
Last season, the Chiefs switched to the Cover Two (which is a pre-modified version of Marinelli's system) under Herm Edwards, and Mitchell struggled occasionally against the run. Still, his athleticism was apparent, and the Lions are convinced they can mold the youthful player into a formidable middle linebacker that can become a staple in Detroit's defense.
The only thing that could prevent him from signing with Detroit is the reciprocal interest between Mitchell and the Miami Dolphins. A Florida native, Mitchell recently built in a home in Miami, and the Dolphins might be in the market for an eventual replacement to aging linebacker Zach Thomas.