Lions linebacker Jack Campbell is not a sneaky breakout candidate anymore

In pretty fast fashion, Lions linebacker Jack Campbell has gained traction as a breakout candidate for this year.

With the expected ups and downs, Lions linebacker Jack Campbell had a fairly good rookie season in 2023. He was second on the team in tackles (95), with five tackles for loss. At OTAs late last month, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn noted Campbell's progress moving toward his second season.

"Let me tell you, first off he’s a man. He’s a grown man. He’s really taken control of this offseason the way that he should take control of it," Glenn said. "He’s a true MIKE backer. He’s a guy that lives, breathes green-dot mentality as a MIKE backer..... Just the way he’s leading the men, as far as defense, is impressive to see.” 

That led to a declaration from us that Campbell was being overlooked as a breakout candidate this year for the Lions. A lot of focus has been on Jameson Williams, and to some degree how Jahmyr Gibbs might reach another level.

Things can change with the passage of time, and Campbell is quickly gaining broader buzz as a breakout candidate for 2024.

Jack Campbell is no longer being overlooked as a breakout candidate for this year

Campbell is on not one but two recent lists of players deemed set for a breakout this season. Eric Edholm of did not narrow to just second-year players. Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports did narrow to second-year players.

Edholm noted some of Campbell's struggles last year, before getting toward the positives in his corner now.

"After a promising opener against the Chiefs, Campbell had trouble in coverage. The Lions tried to moonlight him as a blitzer as a way to kick-start the pass rush, but Campbell struggled to generate much pressure. He also had games where missed tackles were an issue, something he almost never struggled with in college."

"I expect less of the panicky, jittery Campbell we saw at times in his rookie season and more of the fire-branded field general he was at Iowa...The Lions have showered Campbell with praise this offseason, and I think he’s on tap for a breakout Year 2."

Campbell's struggles in coverage were confirmed by his Pro Football Focus grade (35.3, 76th out of 77 qualifying linebackers). But he posted good coverage marks in college at Iowa, so simply having experience should lead to a lot of improvement there.

Trapasso hit a similar note about Campbell, while noting that coverage demerits for a linebacker can be a little bit random.

"In coverage, an area in which he thrived at Iowa, Campbell showed plenty of room for serious improvement. While linebackers can be "charged" for receptions in their coverage area on something as simple as a harmless checkdown, Campbell did "allow" a passer rating of 124.2 with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and two pass breakups."

"This year with the Lions, he'll make the leap in coverage. The size and athleticism are there for him to do it -- Campbell's nearly 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds with above-average speed, burst, and elite-level agility for the linebacker spot. Plus, counting the postseason, Campbell got nearly 350 snaps of experience sinking in coverage on pass plays."

Campbell is in line for a more prominent role in the Lions' defense this year. Now, he's garnering more hype as a breakout candidate-with his high-level work in OTAs and a year of experience to let his talent shine as the tentpoles for the conversation.


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