Lions head coach Dan Campbell gives frank assessment of two defensive rookies
No one on the Detroit Lions defense looked good on Sunday, but head coach Dan Campbell cited disappointment in two rookies on Tuesday.
In allowing 51 points and 265 rushing yards to the Seattle Seahawks, no one on the Detroit Lions defense looked good in Week 17. Dan Campbell didn’t hide from that during his weekly appearance on 97.1 The Ticket on Tuesday while citing disappointment in two defensive rookies, starting with linebacker Derrick Barnes.
"He’s (Barnes) got to play better. He’s got to play better, and I thought he took a step back,” he said. “We need more from our stack-backers. You asked me and I would say, yeah, he’s improving. He’s learning, he’s growing, and not that he’s not (growing), but after last week, he took a step back.”I think with Derrick, there’s things that he learns from that he doesn’t have to make a mistake to learn from. But then there’s enough of these where, honestly, he’s got to stick his hand in the fire before he realizes that it is hot,” Campbell said. “You can’t just tell him. He’s got to figure it out himself.”"
Dan Campbell cites disappointment in two Lions defensive rookies
And on defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike:
"Levi is kinda what he’s been. He’s been up and down. He flashed. Man, he shows out, and the next play, it’s a learning experience. Next play, he shows out. Next play, it’s a learning experience,” Campbell explained “So there’s just some inexperience there that he’s still having to get over bumps in the road — which he will.”"
Onwuzurike was the first of two defensive tackles the Lions took in the 2021 draft, in the second round with Alim McNeill coming in the third round. He has been playing more lately, but he isn’t generating pass rush pressure and his run defense has been bad.
Barnes suffers from any comparison to the player the Lions took one pick before him in the fourth round last April–wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown has been one of the most prolific wide receivers in the NFL over the last five weeks, setting league and franchise rookie records along the way.
Campbell did not vehemently call out Barnes or Onwuzurike, though he did single them out for disappointment in their showings against Seattle. That’s a tough line to toe, especially in light of how bad Detroit’s defense was last Sunday. But Campbell is setting expectations for young players to get better, and that’s a good thing in the big picture.