Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz is well aware of the damage that Redskins' running back Clinton Portis can inflict in opponents.
But it might be up to rookie linebacker DeAndre Levy to prevent it from happening.
Levy will be filling in for the injured Ernie Sims against Washington on Sunday, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some inside the organization feel that Levy is a better fit than the ultra-aggressive Sims, whose devout intensity is appreciated, but sometimes affects his positioning. Still, Levy is a rookie.
The former Wisconsin standout and third-round pick has drawn praise from several members of the defense, especially defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who called him a "student of the game."
After a solid week of practice, it's up to Levy to translate his practice prowess into the game.
"His test isn't doing a good job on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, even though that's part of it," explained head coach Jim Schwartz. "But what I'm saying is that doesn't do a whole lot of good to say, ‘Well, he practiced well this week (but didn't) perform on Sunday.' So, it's still a work in progress there and I think from what he showed in preseason, from what he did in practices in the preseason, what he did in preseason games, I think we'll see good things from him."
While Levy looks to exchange the "practice player" tag for something more appealing, his status will be tested by a shifty Portis, who is as adept at running the football as he is catch out of the backfield.
Portis is averaging 4.0 yards per carry through the first two games. He only has three receptions on the year, but has to be accounted for on every play.
He had 47 catches in 2007, and 28 last year.
"Usually our linebackers are on our edges of our defense," said Schwartz. "That's more defense than anything corners and safeties. Portis is a little bit more, I mean he has open field ability, but he's a little bit more of a downhill one cut runner.
"He grew up in the Denver scheme and Washington runs a lot of that same scheme. It's stretch, stretch, stretch, and then go north-south."
Portis (ankle) is questionable, but likely to play Sunday against Detroit.
Best Foote Forward
Larry Foote has never shied away from hitting a quarterback. Last week against the Packers, he accrued one sack against Brett Favre, and was used to rush the veteran on other occasions. Considering his success, it's likely the Lions will use Foote in a similar manner against the 'Skins.
"I think he's a good blitzer. He just has a knack for it. Some guys have it. Some guys don't. Just like some guys rush the passer well, some guys can have a knack for interceptions. Larry (Foote) has a knack for being around the quarterback," said Schwartz. "He's a good blitzer. He knows how to make his body small when he needs to. He did it at Pittsburgh and that's paid off here."
Foote's versatility is key. Washington quarterback Jason Campbell is a nimble player, and is capable of making an aggressive defense pay with his ability to scramble. Foote's pass-rush skills might be the perfect equalizer.
"He's a little bit – maybe not quite as high speed as some of the other linebackers, very instinctive player," said Schwartz. "Like I said, he has a knack for being around the football; a knack for rushing the passer. That means a lot when you're a linebacker, those instincts."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's definitely such a thing. You see it all around the league; one guy who can make a play. It's not just an attitude. It's the ability to make a play to follow up that attitude. Attitude doesn't mean anything if the production doesn't back it up. When you can combine both of those, then you have a situation that people rally around and it'll be a good atmosphere for your team." - Lions coach Jim Schwartz, on whether or not an "infectious" player (such as Larry Foote) exists in a locker room.
INJURY REPORT: DE Cliff Avril (hamstring), CB Eric King (shoulder), and LB Ernie Sims (shoulder) are doubtful for Sunday. CB Phillip Buchanon (neck), DE Andre Fluellen (knee), and QB Drew Stanton (knee) are questionable. DT Grady Jackson (knee), FB Jerome Felton (ankle), DT Sammie Hill (neck), G Daniel Loper (knee) and S Marquand Manuel (knee) are all probable.