Detroit Lions enjoying a near-embarrassment of riches at linebacker

The Detroit Lions have quickly turned a weakness into a strength, with depth at linebacker they've not had in recent memory.
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

As recently as two years ago, and for much of recent memory, the Detroit Lions have not been good defensively and the linebackers have been easy to put a target on for being particularly dismal. This year, after an intense competition and investments made, things are far different.

Alex Anzalone, for better or worse, is locked into a starting job--now the WILL linebacker spot. But Derrick Barnes and rookie Jack Campbell have been competing for the other starting gig, and both have looked very good. Second-year man Malcolm Rodriguez also cannot be forgotten.

Per Pride of Detroit, seemingly including Jalen Reeves-Maybin, general manager Brad Holmes pointed to the Lions having five starter-caliber linebackers for two spots in their base nickel defense.

"If you look at linebackers, I mean yeah, that’s heavy to have six linebackers, but you have five guys that are starter-level players that either have the ability to start, or have started in this league,”"

Brad Holmes

Over the weekend, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn talked about Anzalone, Barnes, Campbell and Rodriguez individually, while outlining room for all of them to play.

"So, I would say this, all those guys deserve to play, all those guys will play. The thing is they have a role on special teams also, so that’s a good thing because you have your best players out on the field. So, man, I’m looking forward to those guys playing throughout the season. I can’t tell you exactly how much they’re going to play, but they’re going to play.”"

Aaron Glenn outlines the Lions' virtual embarrassment of riches at linebacker

Here's what Glenn had to say about Anzalone, Barnes, Campbell and Rodriguez.

On Anzalone:

"Man, obviously Alex (Anzalone), he’s the field general. I mean he knows this defense like the back of his hand. He’s been with me for a long time. I would say that’s his strong point. Also, I would say in coverage is his strong point.”"

On Barnes:

"Derrick Barnes: explosive, fast, violent, get downhill, knock someone out type of mentality. That’s his strong point,"

On Campbell:

"Jack (Campbell): big, strong, physical, blue-collar, hard worker, easily can pick a defense up, which he’s already done and he fits who we are to a T,”"

On Rodriguez:

"Malcolm (is) just a bulldog."

Based on practice reps during camp and the "unofficial" Week 1 depth chart, Barnes is lined up to start the season opener against the Chiefs. But Campbell will surely play plenty, as will Rodriguez when situations warrant.

If nothing else, the Lions have nice depth to protect against injuries at a position that's consistently subject to hard collisions and random occurrences in the middle of the field. And it's one of the signs of how improved the defense should be this season.


3 Lions on the initial 53-man roster who won't last the season in Detroit. dark. Next. 3 Lions on the initial 53-man roster who won't last the season in Detroit