Unveiling the Depth of the Detroit Lions' Linebackers
Over the past three years, the Detroit Lions have strategically invested in strengthening their linebacker unit, clearly indicating the value they see in having a deep and diverse linebacking group. Starting with Alex Anzalone, a player well-versed in the Lions' defense, GM Brad Holmes tapped into free agency to snag him back in 2021 and didn't hesitate to re-sign him this offseason. But the shopping spree in the linebacker aisle didn't stop there. Holmes went on to draft Derrick Barnes in the 2021 fourth round, followed by Malcolm Rodriguez in the 2022 sixth round, and, most recently, Jack Campbell as a first-round pick this year. Holmes and Co have laid a solid foundation for this core group.
Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn spoke out this past Saturday about the stars in their master plan for a linebacker-dominant defense.
The Field General: Alex Anzalone
Alex Anzalone has been with the Lions since 2021, and he's projected to start as the WILL linebacker this season. Glenn credits Anzalone's deep understanding of the defensive scheme as one of his strongest points.
“He’s the field general,” Glenn said. “I mean he knows this defense like the back of his hand. He’s been with me for a long time. I would say that’s his strong point. Also, I would say in coverage is his strong point.”
Derrick Barnes: The Fast and the Furious
Another linebacker earning high praise from the coaching staff is Derrick Barnes. Drafted in the fourth round in 2021, Barnes has displayed significant improvement going into his third year. Glenn described him as “Explosive, fast, violent, get downhill, knock someone out type of mentality. That’s his strong point.”
Barnes may very well start alongside Anzalone in the MIKE position.
Rookie Standout: Jack Campbell
If Barnes isn't in the starting lineup, it's likely to be rookie Jack Campbell who was picked in the first round this year. Already impressing coaches with how quickly he learns, Glenn appreciates Campbell's work ethic and physicality: “Jack: big, strong, physical, blue-collar, hard worker…he fits who we are to a T.”
The ‘Bulldog': Malcolm Rodriguez
Last but not least is Malcolm Rodriguez, who made a lasting impression in his rookie year by starting 15 games. Glenn succinctly described Rodriguez as a “Bulldog,” underlining the linebacker's tenacity and grit.
More Than Just Starters
Aaron Glenn acknowledges that there's too much talent here to keep players sidelined. While special teams will be a display for the talent of these linebackers, Glenn hinted at various sub-packages designed to leverage the breadth and depth of talent in the Lions' linebacker corps.
“We do have different packages to get different guys on the field and like I said with the linebackers, those guys are going to play,” Glenn promised. “I’m not going to tell you when, but they’re going to play because they’re good enough to play.”
TL;DR (too long didn't read)
- Defensive Coordinator Aaron Glenn is notably enthusiastic about the Lions' linebacker depth.
- The team has strategically invested in this position group over the past three years, both in free agency and the draft.
- With the likes of Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, Malcolm Rodriguez, and Jack Campbell, this linebacker corps offers promise and versatility for the Lions.
Bottom Line: Promising Times Ahead
As Detroit inches closer to the regular season, the depth and talent embedded in their linebacker core cannot be overlooked. With a balanced mix of seasoned veterans and young, energetic talents, the Detroit Lions seem poised to add a formidable dimension to their defensive strategy. And if Aaron Glenn's optimism serves as an indicator, we may just be at the forefront of witnessing one of the most dynamic linebacker units the franchise has ever had.
Trust in the process, Lions fans, because this lineup has the makings of something truly special.