The Lions have played five different middle linebackers this season and have started three different players in the middle through six games.
With starting middle linebacker DeAndre Levy still nursing a sore ankle and starting outside linebacker Zack Follett out indefinitely with a neck injury, the signing of free agent linebacker Bobby Carpenter couldn't have come at a better time for the Lions.
Carpenter, 27, was signed as a free agent by the Lions on Wednesday after the Dolphins released him on Monday.
"We've had some issues at linebacker," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We've played five (middle) linebackers this year and our depth is down there a little bit where Zack (Follett) is and DeAndre Levy and things like that. It made sense to get him here and get him going.
"We've taken a long stance that anytime a player's available and we think we can improve out team, we are going to look very hard at it. He became available, and he's got the size and speed and the athletic ability we're looking for. He has experience. He's a multidimensional player. He's played inside. He's played outside. He's played in nickel."
Carpenter was a first-round draft pick of the Cowboys in 2006 out of Ohio State. In four seasons with Dallas, he failed to establish a starting role, though he did play a lot of nickel in 2009. Carpenter played in all 16 games for the Cowboys last season, finishing with 46 tackles and two sacks.
"I thought his best year in the NFL was last year in Dallas," Schwartz said.
Carpenter was traded to the Rams this offseason and spent training camp with them before being cut Sept. 4. He's been with the Dolphins the first six weeks of the season.
"I'm excited to be here now," he said. "I'm trying to move forward with everything. What happened (in Miami) is done and over with. I'm part of the Detroit Lions now, and I'm excited about that."
Schwartz said Carpenter will learn both middle and outside linebacker but will likely settle into the outside when Levy returns, which is expected to be the Lions' next game against the Redskins.
"It really depends on where DeAndre is and how he's doing because if DeAndre comes in, he's the guy we targeted as wanting to build around as our (middle) linebacker," Schwartz said. "I think we'll probably look at him outside. But right now with the injury situation that we have, like I said with five different (middle) linebackers, he's going to get going at both."
One of the biggest benefits for Carpenter is that he's joining the Lions on the bye week, so he'll have an extra week to get up to speed.
"It's a huge benefit, believe me," Carpenter said. "I can actually learn what I'm supposed to do.
"Game weeks are all preparation for what they are doing. Well, they take for granted the players know what they should do. I'm trying to learn what I need to do so next week I'll be able to focus on what the Washington Redskins are doing. Hopefully I'll be able to understand more of my role and what we need to do."
It's even more important because he's moving from the Dolphins' 3-4 to the Lions' 4-3 scheme.
"Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was in St. Louis for camp so I got a little experience playing in a 4-3," Carpenter said. "I know a little bit about this system. It's all football. It's all fits, gaps and alignments. The coaches here have been very helpful and very instructive, so I picked up on a lot of it (Thursday)."
Carpenter, 6-foot-2, 249 pounds, looks to be a good fit for Schwartz scheme that emphasizes big, physical linebackers.
The two have a bit of history, too. Carpenter worked out for Tennessee when Schwartz was the defensive coordinator there before the 2006 draft.
"I'd kind of seen what he did in Tennessee, and I talked to him when I was coming out (of Ohio State) a few years back," Carpenter said. "They've got quality coaches here and a good staff put together and really just a good group of young guys."
The Lions go to Miami on Dec. 26 to play the Dolphins.
"I did look at that schedule," he said. "I saw it from when I was in Miami. It's quite a ways down the road. We have a lot of things to do before then. But that's something I'll be looking forward to."
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