The Detroit Lions are only five days from rookies reporting to camp and eight days away from the full team arriving before they start practices on July 29th. The last few days, we've been breaking down the defense options, going through the Defensive Tackles and the Edge Rushers, and today we will take a look at the linebackers that the Lions have on the roster heading into camp.
Detroit Lions Training Camp Roster Preview: Linebackers
Anzalone has been the backbone of this Detroit Lions defense since being signed. He is entering his seventh season in the league and his third with Detroit. Last season he played in all 17 games for the Lions. He recorded an interception, 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, 125 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss, and seven hits on the quarterback.
The Lions drafted Campbell with the 18th overall pick in April's Draft out of the University of Iowa. Last season for the Hawkeyes, Campbell led the team in total tackles with 125; he had one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Campbell will add to the grit the linebacking unit currently possesses.
Rodriguez became a fan favorite last year in his rookie season, right after the Lions selected him with the 188th draft pick out of Oklahoma State University. Rodriguez played in 16 games for the Lions last year; he forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, had a sack, 87 total tackles, eight tackles for a loss, and three hits on the quarterback.
Barnes is entering his third season in the league, having played his first two seasons with the Lions after Detroit drafted him 113th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Last season he played in 15 games, recording a pass deflection, one sack, 47 total tackles, three for a loss, and one hit on the quarterback.
Reeves-Maybin returns to the Lions, where he spent the first five seasons of his career before signing with the Houston Texans for one season. Last season with Houston Reeves-Maybin played in all 17 games but didn't start in any of them; most of his time came on special teams, where he played in 84% of the snaps.
Pittman is entering his fourth season in the league, having spent all his time with the Lions. Last season he played in 17 games, with most of that coming on special teams, where he played on 79% of the snaps; he will be fighting it out with Reeves-Maybin for a spot on the team.
Nowaske was signed as an Undrafted Free Agent by the Lions out of Saginaw Valley State, where he finished with three First All-Team Conference honors. Last year he played in 11 games and led the defense in total tackles with 98; he had one sack and four interceptions. Nowaske may make a case to make the practice squad out of camp.
Bottom Line: Lions need linebackers to prevent the run
The Detroit Lions will most likely have their starting linebackers Alex Anzalone, Jack Campbell, and Malcolm Rodriguez when Training Camp ends, and they head to Kansas City to start the 2023 season on September 7th. For the rest of the names, it will be a toss-up on who makes the team, but they will also have the option of moving James Houston from the Edge spot and putting him at linebacker as well as Julian Okwara if he makes the team.
The other day I talked about the Interior Lineman being key to stopping the run; that also applies to the linebackers; they will need to be huge for the front seven to succeed. The Detroit Lions secondary looks better on paper than it has the past few seasons, which should translate to the linebackers having a better season and really elevating the Lions to be a better team and reaching the expectations that have been applied to them for this coming season.