Lions' defensive leader named the most underappreciated player on the team

There are a few worthy candidates, but has named one of the leaders of the Lions' defense as the most underappreciated player on the team.

When Dan Campbell left the New Orleans Saints coaching staff to become the Detroit Lions' head coach in 2021, and took defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn with him as his defensive coordinator, it was fair to think they wanted to have some players they were familiar with. Also, someone willing to enter the ground floor of a rebuild with them would be helpful.

Over four years in New Orleans, linebacker Alex Anzalone alternated seasons where he missed a lot of time with seasons where he played every game and started at least seven. He signed a one-year to follow Campbell and Glenn to Detroit, with a starting job waiting for him.

If only by default, due to lack of better options, Anzalone started all 14 games he played for the Lions in 2021. His overall performance, encompassed in his overall Pro Football Focus grade (35.4, 78th among 86 qualifying linebackers), surely didn't scream starter on a team with the talent level to win a lot of games.

Anzalone improved a lot in 2022, with his PFF grade improving nearly 24 points (59.2) as he started all 17 games and played 1,080 snaps. His missed tackle rate, per Pro Football Reference, also dropped by more than half compared to 2021. He missed one game last year, but stilled played over 1,000 snaps and his overall PFF grade (69.8) was 33rd-best among linebackers (82 qualifiers).

Is Alex Anzalone the most overlooked/underappreciated Detroit Lion?

Even after their run to the NFC Championship Game last year, a lot of Lions' players aren't well-known nationally.'s Tom Blair recently narrowed to naming the most underappreciated player on each NFC team, and Anzalone was his choice for Detroit.

"I thought I would end up naming more linebackers to this list, given the stat-sheet-stuffing nature of the position, but I made it all the way to the Ds before selecting Anzalone, whom teammate Alim McNeill described as the "LeBron" of the Lions' defense while attempting to illustrate how much Anzalone does for Detroit....
"Then again, if Anzalone were truly fully appreciated, would McNeill feel the need to evangelize that hard? Anzalone paced Detroit in tackles (129) while chipping in three sacks and six passes defensed last season. He's also clearly morphed into a leader for a team cementing itself among the NFL's top contenders."

With better performance on the field while asserting himself as a leader over three years in Detroit, Anzalone has rewarded the faith shown in him.

The broader masses may overlook him or underappreciate him, but Anzalone's value to the Lions has been clear since the beginning.


dark. Next. 5 Detroit Lions cut candidates going into the summer. 5 Detroit Lions cut candidates going into the summer