Tuesday’s trade news shook up the Detroit Lions in more ways than one. Kyle Van Noy is now a New England Patriot, thus ending his incredibly disappointing Detroit tenure.
Van Noy was a second-round pick in 2014, and a popular one with Lions fans. Public sentiment overwhelmingly supported the pick. I too trumpeted it; Van Noy was a top-25 player on my draft board that year, so for then-GM Martin Mayhew to land the rangy BYU linebacker in the second round was a move I definitely supported.
A sports hernia early in his initial training camp stunted Van Noy’s progress. He fell from projected starter to unreliable reserve in his first two seasons. In 2016, he won the starting SAM backer gig, but only because the competition either got hurt (Jon Bostic) or wasn’t ready (rookie Antwione Williams).
[graphiq id=”50bfATaLqNn” title=”Kyle Van Noy Career Defensive Stats” width=”600″ height=”459″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/50bfATaLqNn” link=”http://football-players.pointafter.com/l/23605/Kyle-Van-Noy” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]
Van Noy struggled in every conceivable way. He could not cover, though every Detroit linebacker is guilty of that in 2016. He could not diagnose quickly. He reacted even slower, not trusting what he saw in time to make an impact on the play. It led me to this exasperated observation from Sunday’s win over Washington when he was out of position and late to the party on the third play in a row…
It really is stunning how poor Kyle Van Noy continues to play. Big draft miss by so many, myself included. He can not play, period.
— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) October 23, 2016
The Lions finally saw enough to give up on the No. 40 pick just three short years ago. In addition to a seventh-round pick, Detroit sent Van Noy to New England for a sixth-round pick. Ironically, the Lions already have the Patriots seventh-round pick, acquired in the Michael Williams trade.
It’s more in return than a bag of deflated footballs, but not much.
Van Noy could very well resurrect his fledgling career in New England. The change of scenery can’t hurt. But it was clear the linebacker was never going to be anything close to the player the Lions expected him — and needed him — to be.
His trade is a direct message from new GM Bob Quinn to both the coaching staff and the locker room:
No jobs are guaranteed based on contract or draft status. If you’re not helping the Lions win, you’re not going to stick around and drag them down.
Van Noy’s departure reinforces this mantra, which kicked into effect with bitterly disappointing 2015 first-round guard Laken Tomlinson’s merciful benching. If Quinn or the coaching staff think someone can do the job better, they’re not going to hesitate.
The immediate impact seems dicey. Detroit brought back Josh Bynes, who started over Van Noy in 2015 and had some positive games but was still a street free agent for valid reason. Williams had his best game against Washington and is at least effective in the run defense, though his coverage aptitude often harkens of parallel parking a limousine.
This new combination might not be much better than Van Noy, especially in the short term, but they’re not going to be any worse — with Williams there is far more upside. With Jon Bostic able to return off injured reserve and DeAndre Levy inching closer to a return, the time was right to end the failed Van Noy experiment.
More importantly, it reinforces the message that on-field performance matters a lot more than off-field status. For underperforming draft picks and free agent signings like Tomlinson, Stefan Charles or Corey Fuller (still lingering on PUP), it’s a stark message but one the Lions desperately needed to send. If the Lions want to remain in the NFC playoff picture, it’s a message that must be received right away.