Sims to Move Inside? It's A Possibility

If they can't reel in Larry Foote, could Ernie Sims be up for Detroit's vacant middle linebacker (MIKE) position? Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham thinks so. Analysis and more inside, including comments from Cunningham on Sims, Julian Peterson, DeAndre Levy and Jordon Dizon.

If they can't reel in Larry Foote, could Ernie Sims be up for Detroit's vacant middle linebacker (MIKE) position?

Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham thinks so.

An in interview with the media following Tuesday's off-season training activity, Cunningham was very matter-of-fact about the team's situation at linebacker. His assessment?

The sky isn't falling.

"I think we got the right idea of where we're going," said Cunningham, who mentioned the progress of rookie DeAndre Levy. At one point, he compared Levy to veteran outside linebacker Julian Peterson, saying "my eyes have been there for 28 years, I ought to be able to look at him by now and figure out what's going on. The thing that shocked me is that he looked more like Julian Peterson on tape playing for Wisconsin."

Added Cunningham, "He was able to read through the bodies in front of him and show up right at the ball. It really surprised me that he acted like a middle linebacker."

Levy has been assumed as Detroit's middle-man ever since he was drafted. Because they will employ a 4-3 defense, Detroit needs a player that can step in between Peterson and Sims and produce.

With the signing of Larry Foote still pending, Cunningham's next suggestion for the MIKE position seemed a bit unorthodox.

"We have the ability, if (Levy) couldn't go inside, I think Ernie Sims can go inside," he said.

Sims struggled on the outside last year, but many believe it was due to a lack of help defensively around him.

Ernie Sims struggled to 113 tackles in 2008, but didn't have much help. 2009 should be a different story altogether.
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"I think we have the ability to play those guys in any position," confirmed Cunningham. "That's the way this scheme works. Fortunately I've coached linebackers for 100 years; (linebacker coach Matt Burk) been around, Jim (Schwartz) and I have a program with all kinds of drawings that relate to Jim's and my past – where we've worked together.

"So our players are interchangeable. If push came to shove, we could do that."

More Notes:

Something Detroit didn't do last year was utilize Sims' speed. Expect that to change in 2009, starting with blitzing. With Peterson rushing the quarterback, Cunningham sees Sims "blitzing."

"If we're going to use a rusher, it's the guy that goes to the Pro Bowl: Julian. We happen to let him do that, that's the staff's decision along with, obviously, direction from Jim. Julian Peterson will be rushing the passer and he probably will do it as a down lineman.

"I have a scheme where there's only three linemen and three linebackers, five DBs – we call it quarter and a lot of coaches don't let you get it on the field. They'll go hurry-up because you can blitz and do so many things out of that scheme and Ernie and Julian are a really big part of that and we'll see where Levy is and some of the other linebackers."

Jordon who?

A forgotten name has been linebacker Jordon Dizon, who was drafted in the second-round last year. According to sources, Dizon was understandably down when Detroit drafted Levy. But that pick didn't reflect the feelings of Cunningham, who called Dizon "a good student of the game." He used a similar analogy when referencing Dizon, too.

"You may think I'm crazy for saying this, but there are a lot of people that think I'm crazy, so I really don't care," joked Cunninghma. "I look at the tape at times and I'll confuse Julian Peterson and Dizon. Now, one's 6-4 and the other guy's 5-11 probably.

"The way they bend and the way they run, they're very much alike and when you sit in the back of the room watching a tape, if you confuse that, well that kind of shows you what kind of athlete Jordon is. Now will he be able to play like that? Time will tell. But, athletically, he can really move."

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