This offseason, one of the areas of concern for the Detroit Lions was undoubtedly their linebacker corps. But a shift in philosophy and defensive scheme seems to have made that positional group one of the team’s strongest.
Shifting to a 3-4 base defense, the Lions took two of the team’s top defenders and moved them from defensive end to outside linebacker. Those two players being Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara. Combined with last year’s big free-agent signing, Jamie Collins Sr., this trio takes the linebacker corps from questionable to stellar.
Still, the depth chart beyond these three is still uncertain. Although all signs point to former New Orleans Saints linebacker Alex Anzalone being a favorite to start. After all, both new Lions head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn are former Saints themselves having spent the previous five seasons as members of the coaching staff in New Orleans.
But the Lions entered training camp with a plethora of linebackers to sort through. And early on, there appear to be two relative unknowns starting to separate themselves from the pack. Glenn recently told the team’s official website that he’s been impressed by both Anthony Pittman and Shaun Dion Hamilton.
"“They might not be household names. But we’ll give them a shot and a lot of times you find players that way, especially at that spot. Let them compete and see what shakes out in the end.”"
Pittman is entering his third season in the NFL. The 2019 undrafted linebacker out of Wayne State has spent the past two seasons on the Lions’ practice squad. He’s played in just one NFL game, recording one tackle and one QB hit in a total of 35 snaps.
Hamilton was a sixth-round selection out of Alabama in the 2018 NFL Draft chosen by the Washington Football Team. Over the past three seasons, he played all but two regular-season games for Washington with a total of seven NFL starts over that span. Last year, Hamilton recorded 21 combined tackles and two tackles for loss in 14 games.
The new-look Detroit Lions are the perfect team for unproven and unheralded players like Anthony Pittman and Shaun Dion Hamilton to earn a roster spot and potentially make an impact in helping to turn this defense around. It’s really up to them to make the most of this opportunity. And so far, they appear to be doing just that.