3. LB Malcolm Rodriguez
Rodriguez, or “Rodrigo” as we learned his nickname is during this week’s episode of “Hard Knocks”, is making a legit push for a starting job (as was easy for some people to foresee as early as rookie minicamp and the first run of OTAs). Also via the latest “Hard Knocks” episode, we saw Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard laud the sixth-round rookie’s work while pushing those around him to be better. To paraphrase Sheppard, poorly, he wanted the other Lions’ linebackers to “give me a reason not to put a rookie out there first.”
Rodriguez started the preseason opener with a special teams tackle, and he was on the field for the first defensive snap against the Falcons. He then got first-team reps on Day 1 of joint practices with the Colts, with more run like that sure to come on Day 2, which was about to start as I write this.
Some may say it says a lot about those around him in the Lions’ linebacking corps that Rodriguez has earned first-team practice reps so easily. But to say that is to discount the work he has done, how good a player he is and that he fell as far as he did in the draft due to concerns over a lack of size.
As Kyle Meinke of MLive noted, no Lions rookie drafted as late as Rodriguez has earned a starting job right out of training camp since linebacker Dennis Gibson, who was an eighth-round pick in 1987.
But this coaching staff has made it clear the best players will play, and Rodriguez is well on his way to earning a starting job. With a good showing in the game against the Colts, he may lock it up.