Lions Linebackers Looking Good

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ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- The leaders of the Lions' linebacking corps feel a lot better this season. All it took was a new face.
Ernie Sims and Boss Bailey both said the addition of defensive coordinator Joe Barry has made it a lot easier to pick up the finer points of the Tampa two defensive scheme that Lions coach Rod Marinelli brought when he came to Detroit before last season.
Barry, Marinelli's son-in-law, came to the team during the offseason after five years coaching linebackers at Tampa Bay. Detroit fired former defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson at the end of last season.
"It makes a huge difference," Bailey said Monday after the team ended a training camp practice. "He was a linebacker coach for a long time. It makes our job a whole lot easier."
Marinelli cited a difference of opinion when Henderson was fired. Bailey's praise of Barry reflected a similar difference of opinion that many players also had with Henderson.
"He's been in that Tampa two system so long. It's his baby," Bailey said of Barry. "He doesn't go back on his word when he talks about it. It's direct teaching."
It's not hard to hear Barry during practice sessions, a change from the often low-key Henderson.
Bailey finished the season with 85 tackles, second only to Sims, who was taken by the Lions with the ninth overall pick out of Florida State.
Sims had 144 tackles, the most since Chris Spielman had 153 in 1988, and a fumble recovery. Even more, he was a quick, disruptive collision hunter. With Barry and Phil Snow, who returned as linebackers coach, he said he feels 2007 could be even better.
"A lot more of the details are there this year," Sims said. "Last year I was just kind of getting to learn as much as I could, but now I'm so much more comfortable with it.
"Joe really believes in the system and you can see that everyone's on the same page."
Adding the linebackers -- Paris Lennon and Alex Lewis have alternated with the starting unit -- to a defensive line featuring tackles Shaun Rogers and Cory Redding has Bailey hoping he and his unit's job will be much easier.
"We've got a great defensive line in front of us that's going to clean up a lot of the mess so we can just run and hit," he said. "If that's all we have to worry about, we'll be fine."
Like Sims last season, Teddy Lehman showed plenty of promise as a rookie in 2004, when he started all 16 games in the middle and finished with 120 tackles. The last game of that season was his last start, however, as ankle and foot injuries have dogged him since.
Lehman played just five games in 2005 before an ankle injury sidelined him and played in only four last season before a bad foot landed him on injured reserve. Lehman has been out since last week after a hard hit to his right shoulder from fullback Alan Ricard. It's not expected to keep him out for an extended period.
The Lions begin the regular season Sept. 9 at Oakland.

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