No one has declared a winner in the competition at left outside linebacker but no one really has to.

After splitting time with Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis early in camp Ashlee Palmer has worked exclusively with the first-team defense the past two weeks.

He has started each of the Detroit Lions’ first two exhibition games played pretty well in extended action and has seen his time on special teams scaled way back.

After contributing on nearly every special-teams unit the previous three seasons Palmer covers punts and nothing else now.

“I’m still trying to fight with (special-teams coordinator John Bonamego). I ask him every other day ‘Let me get a coverage let me run down on coverage’ ” Palmer said. “I’ll never stop loving that part of the game.”

He may love it but Palmer’s role on defense is bigger now necessitating fewer snaps on special teams.

Coach Jim Schwartz stopped short of naming Palmer his third starter alongside Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy on Tuesday but he also made it clear that’s the direction things are heading.

“I don’t know that race is over yet but he has certainly taken the lead” Schwartz said. “He’s been consistent through training camp he’s made plays in preseason games. He’s played physical but again we’re not at the finish line there yet.

“We’ve still got work to do and we’re only into our third preseason game but he’s put together a nice string and he’s been consistent. That’s been a thing that he was sort of working to become as a player and it’s been good to watch him be a lot more consistent.”

Rescued off the scrap heap after he was cut by the Buffalo Bills following his rookie season Palmer has since been a staple of Lions’ Sundays.

He watched players like Julian Peterson Bobby Carpenter and Justin Durant come and go and made a few spot starts himself — five in 2011 and two last year — while waiting for a bigger role.

“I’ve been waiting for a minute man” Palmer said. “I’ve been here for like the last four years now and I’ve been soaking everything in. You bring in Tully you bring in J.D. you brought a guy Bobby in and being pushed to the back of the bus isn’t a good thing. But I did well with it and just learned from the guys they brought in here took something from each of their games.”