The Detroit Lions could be turning to a rookie to inject some new life into their 31st-ranked scoring defense.
Lions coach Dan Campbell indicated Tuesday that linebacker Derrick Barnes will see his most extensive action of the season in this week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
A fourth-round pick out of Purdue, Barnes has played five defensive snaps in the Lions’ first two games, with all of them coming as a temporary injury fill-in for Jamie Collins in a Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
BUY IN ON BARNES’ STOCK: Won’t be long until rookie Derrick Barnes plays more
Last week, Barnes played only on special teams against the Green Bay Packers.
Collins and fellow starting inside linebacker Alex Anzalone had rough showings against the Packers. Anzalone made a team-high 10 tackles, but also drew a defensive holding penalty on first-and-20 and missed two tackles.
Both he and Collins (five tackles, one for loss) allowed passing touchdowns.
“Alex wasn’t perfect but I thought he was all over the field and made a lot plays.” Campbell said. “I thought he played with a lot of energy, I think he was spot on with his calls, and look, he’s high effort. He’s smart, he’s kind if what we’re about here, and so I like him where he was at.
“Jamie, look, Jamie had some mistakes. It wasn’t certainly his best performance. And yeah, I think Barnes deserves a shot.”
Campbell said he and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn would meet Tuesday night to figure out how best to deploy Barnes.
Anzalone wears the green-dot helmet and relays play calls inside the huddle and seems likely to stay on the field for nearly every defensive snap. Collins could see his playing time reduced, or slide to defensive line in obvious passing situations.
Barnes is being groomed to be a starter, either later this season or in 2022, when Anzalone’s contract expires and Collins could be a cap casualty. He missed time this preseason with strained hamstring, but played well when he was on the field, including a six-tackle, one-sack performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Asked if criticisms about Collins’ hustle were warranted, Campbell said Collins does not play with the same effort as Anzalone.
“Jamie’s a big linebacker,” Collins said. “He’s a very athletic linebacker. And the way he moves is a little bit different. Now, does he move with the same effort and have the same effort as Alex? No, I don’t (think so). I think Alex just plays at a high level all the time. That’s him, that’s how he goes. But Jamie, there’s things that Jamie does well that we still have to continue to use. He’s still a mismatch on third down, particularly in the rush game. We’ll see where this goes.”
Campbell explained his clock management at the end of Monday’s first half, when he said he was conscious of not giving the ball back to Aaron Rodgers with time enough for the Packers to score.
The Lions started their final possession of the half at their own 41-yard line with 1:46 on the clock. D’Andre Swift had carries on the first two plays, and the Lions took their first timeout after a 20-yard pass from Jared Goff to T.J. Hockenson with 24 seconds on the clock.
After another short pass, the Lions used their second timeout then took two shots at the end zone before settling for a 43-yard Austin Seibert field goal.
“They had three timeouts left, so we knew, A, we didn’t want to give the ball back to him and B, we wanted to come away with points cause we had one more possession than they did,” Campbell said. “We were on our fourth possession, they were on their third, so to us, it was like, how do we use all of this clock and come away with points? Certainly a touchdown would have been great, but we felt like we handled it pretty well. We got down there in position, we took a shot. We didn’t get a touchdown out of it but we did get a field goal to go up three at halftime and not give the ball back to him.”