Lions rookie linebacker Jack Campbell, unsurprisingly, will have to earn starting job


It's no surprise, but Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard has put words to the idea rookie Jack Campbell will have to earn a starting job.

The draft capital investment (No. 18 overall) suggests it, along with what he showed in college at Iowa. So it's assumed rookie linebackerJack Campbell will start right away alongside Alex Anzalone, who was brought back on a three-year deal this offseason.

But we certainly know how the Lions operate under Dan Campbell and this coaching staff, as it should be. The best players will play, regardless of experience, contract status, draft status etc. The competition at linebacker is sure to be intense when training camp starts next month, with Derrick Barnes taking first-team reps at OTAs when Malcolm Rodriguez dealt with a leg injury.

So while it's easy to say Campbell will start, he will have to earn it. Campbell himself knows it too, and last week Dan Campbell mentioned how hard the rookie was on himself when he made a mistake during OTAs


"He's good, he's what you'd expect. He's gonna grind through it, he's gonna work at it. He's pretty hard on himself. That's something he's gonna need to work on. It's a blessing and a curse when you're hard on yourself. He's doing a good job, and (Kelvin Sheppard) is letting him have it. He's not gonna let him off the hook. But, he's doing good, and look, we throw a lot at those guys. Our inside linebackers are asked to do a lot mentally and physically in this defense, playing with vision a lot of the times now. ... He's got a lot on his plate, but he's growing." "

Dan Campbell

Jack Campbell, not surprisingly, will have to earn his merit for a starting job

On Monday, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard put words to the notion Jack Campbell will not be handed a starting gig.

"It’s proven here,” Sheppard said Monday before the Lions’ seventh organized team activity practice of the spring. “I know it’s like the right thing to say, but it is proven. We are going to play the best players. We do not care what that looks like, and when that starts top down, it’s easy for me to walk into my linebacker room after we take a guy Pick 18, because in probably 20 other rooms, that player’s starting and there’s nothing you can do about it as a position coach."

"Well, that’s not the case here. If Jack isn’t the top two or three, Jack will continue to go through the process of rookie development until he’s hit that mark.”"

Rodriguez and Barnes obviously aren't going to just lay down and let a rookie overtake them. Some would say Anzalone should be vulnerable to being replaced, but that feels unlikely before the season starts. Three guys battling for one starting spot at linebacker promises to be the best position battle in Lions' training camp.

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