It looked like the Detroit Lions got a steal in the sixth round of the 2022 draft, and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez proved it as a rookie last year. He had 87 total tackles (62 solo), with eight tackles for loss and a sack over 16 games (15 starts).
Through absolutely no fault of his own, Rodriguez has been pushed down the pecking order at linebacker for the Lions this year. Alex Anzalone is having the best year of his career, Derrick Barnes has played solidly and rookie Jack Campbell has taken a large role. So "Rodrigo" has only played 66 defensive snaps all season, and 50 of those came over the first three games.
In an effort to get him on the field, and fill a void without Jason Cabinda, Rodriguez has gotten some run at fullback lately. Starting in Week 7, he has seen 20 offensive snaps (17 over the last three games). On Thanksgiving against the Packers, he had a reception for six yards.
A former high school quarterback, offense is not totally foreign to Rodriguez. And he has not looked out of place playing fullback, with respectable Pro Football Focus grades as a run and pass blocker.
Malcolm Rodriguez lined up to play two ways in fuller fashion vs. Saints in Week 13
Anzalone suffered an arm injury against the Packers that is expected to sideline him for at least Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. So Campbell and Rodriguez are in line for bigger roles in the Lions' linebacking corps.
Head coach Dan Campbell got into some specifics about Rodriguez's role during his press conference on Wednesday (via SI.com).
"He's gonna have to take on a bigger load. He plays a little bit on defense and we're gonna need him more on offense, too," "So we're gonna stretch him out a little bit here but he can handle it. He's got hands, too, you saw that. Can flip his hips. He's tough, he's got leverage. He's smart so it's pretty impressive, it's pretty impressive."
Rodriguez is not going to play, say 50 defensive snaps and another 20 on offense on Sunday against the Saints. But he is in line to fill an important role down the stretch here for the Lions, playing both sides of the ball.