With plenty of competition around, Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes sounds like he’s ready to step up in his second season.
In talking about the competition the Detroit Lions will have a linebacker, head coach Dan Campbell referred to it as “bloodbath” during his press conference last Thursday. He also said he likes the mix of experience and youth and energy in the room.
Derrick Barnes has an up-and-down rookie season under his belt after being drafted in the fourth round (113th overall) by the Lions in 2021. So he’s a mix of the experience (17 games, six starts, 448 defensive snaps last year) and youth Campbell talked about. If the season started today, Barnes would be one of two starting inside linebackers for Detroit in a 4-2-5 defensive alignment (Alex Anzalone is the other).
But of course the season does not start until September, and starting jobs, roles or even roster spots are not totally guaranteed to anyone in the Lions’ linebacking corps right now. Rookie sixth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez in particular looks lined up to push for a starting job.
Derrick Barnes embracing Lions’ linebacker competition
Along with saying he wants to emerge as a vocal leader, Barnes pointed to a full embrace of the competition the Lions have with 14 linebackers currently on the 90-man roster.
"I can be out of here if I don’t put in the right work and don’t perform on the field,” “Last year, you’re drafted and they get you in and they know you’re getting better and you have to elevate your game a little bit throughout the whole season.Now, it’s just you have to come and perform or you won’t be here and that’s been my mindset, ‘What can I do to get better each and every day? What can I do to show that I’m a new person this year?'”"
Off a rookie season where he posted 67 total tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss while playing less than 40 percent of the defensive snaps, Barnes has been pointed to as the “best-kept secret” on the Lions’ roster.
All Barnes, or any other Lions’ linebacker, can ask for is an opportunity and the the best men will win. Now the second-year man has to turn his words into action and performance.