Detroit Lions vs. Buffalo Bills: Top 5 Players To Watch

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Aug 22, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis (89) is upended by Detroit Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) during the second quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

5. Tahir Whitehead, LB

Following last Friday nights game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, it appears as though Tahir Whitehead may have leapt over fellow linebacker, Ashlee Palmer on the Lions depth chart.

After two NFL seasons, Whitehead has become a special-teams stalwart but has never played a single defensive snap in the regular season. Coach Jim Caldwell said Whitehead earned the start and the long, hard look through his practice and play.

"“He worked at it, he’s been performing well,” Caldwell said. “I think I noted the last time I was in front of you all that he had practiced and played extremely well the last two games and we thought he was deserving of an opportunity because he played like he was one of our top three linebackers.” “And I think from that, he’s going to build upon it, and I think you’re going to continue to see him get better.”"

Palmer, who was the Lions starter last year, hasn’t had the best exhibition season and has looked especially vulnerable in pass protection.

Second-round draft pick Kyle Van Noy has had both good and bad moments, but he may also have a sports hernia that would require surgery and end his season.

And that pretty much leaves Whitehead, who lost the starting competition last year to Palmer, as the next best alternative.

It would be a good bet to keep a close eye on Whitehead Thursday night, as the Lions coaches will likely be making a decision on who will be starting at strong-side linebacker based off how Whitehead and Palmer play.