It was not a shock to hear Lions head coach Dan Campbell say starters wouldn't play in Saturday's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But he added that "select rookies" would sit too. So Jahmyr Gibbs, Brian Branch, Sam LaPorta and Jack Campbell? would sit?
Gibbs, Branch and LaPorta indeed did not play on Saturday. Campbell, on the other hand, played the most snaps of any Lions' off-ball linebacker (32) and played into the third quarter. He led the team in tackles, with seven.
So inquiring minds surely wanted to know afterward, why did Campbell play so much and so deep into the game? Talking sheer injury risk for an apparent key player, isn't that a little risky? The Lions head coach explained it after the game.
As Dan Campbell explained, Jack Campbell worked with the second team during the week's joint practices against the Jaguars while the other aforementioned highly-drafted rookies worked with the starters and got significant reps. So the rookie linebacker simply needed to get more action, or more directly was deemed to need more action than he got during the week. (Yes, I hear you saying, "then why not just give him some run with the starters during the joint practices?" Which is fair.)
Dan Campbell offers perfect explanation for why Jack Campbell played so much vs. Jaguars
The Lions' head coach went further with his explanation for why Jack Campbell played so much against Jacksonville.
"Let’s let him go a little bit. Let’s let him play,” “He is—man, speed of the game, picking it up, playing faster and we feel like the more he plays, the more we’re going to see out of it.”"- Dan Campbell
Campbell is making a legit push for the starting job alongside Alex Anzalone, and even if he isn't the nominal starter right away he's expected to have a significant role from the start. There's no way to replicate raw reps, be it in ramped up joint practices or games, and the learning curve to play linebacker in the NFL is a big, demanding one.
So it made sense for Campbell to play a lot against the Jaguars, since it will be his last game action before the season opening test against the Kansas City Chiefs.