Entering his third season, Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes is preparing himself to battle for a role and maybe even a roster spot.
Derrick Barnes played middle linebacker for three seasons and edge rusher for one (2019) during his college career at Purdue, then the Detroit Lions took him in the fourth round of the 2021 draft.
Through two NFL seasons Barnes has played 32 games (starting 10) and 797 defensive snaps as an off-the ball linebacker for the Lions, with 114 total tackles and three sacks. He's still a fairly raw player, theoretically with latent, unrealized potential as true off-ball linebacker.
Speaking to the media after this past Thursday's OTA practice, via SI.com, Barnes talked about his mental preparation entering his third season.
"So, the main thing for me is (to) just don’t let the mental aspect hold you back from where you want to be,” “And, that’s what I’ve been doing, studying even more than I ever have. You know, asking questions, and all the things I’ve done in previous years. But, just taking it to the next level, and just coming out here and showing everyone what I can do and what I’m able to do and what I’m about as a player.”"- Derrick Barnes
Derrick Barnes enters battle for role and perhaps a roster spot with the Lions
If you were to list the Lions linebacker depth chart right now, it'd be Alex Anzalone and likely Jack Campbell as the starters, followed by Malcolm Rodriguez and Barnes. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, back with the Lions after spending the 2022 season with the Houston Texans, is lined up for primarily a special teams role. Anthony Pittman has been a core special teamer over the last two seasons.
Where Barnes may have an advantage in a battle for roles and/or roster spots among Lions linebackers is extra utility as a pass rusher. During his one full season as an edge rusher in college, he had 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Last season, he posted a 60.2 pass rush grade from Pro Football Focus to go with his 76.8 run defense grade. He has also played 271 special teams snaps over the last two seasons, so he can contribute there.
Barnes is trending toward the roster bubble, but he's not necessarily all the way there yet. Mandatory minicamp next week, training camp starting in July and preseason games will be important for him. But it sounds like he's ready to stake his claim in a looming position battle.