Rookie LB Malcolm Rodriguez set to play ‘pretty big role’ on Detroit Lions defense

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn declined to name his starting linebackers for Sunday’s season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, but Glenn said Thursday rookie sixth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez will play “a pretty big role” on defense.

One of the surprise standouts of training camp, Rodriguez started two of the Lions’ three preseason games and came off the bench in their exhibition finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when most Lions starters played a half.

He is competing for the second inside linebacker job with Derrick Barnes, to play alongside Alex Anzalone.

Asked Thursday if Rodriguez has done enough to earn a starting job, Glenn said, “Has he? He’s going to play, I can tell you that.”

Asked what role Rodriguez will play, Glenn said, “He’s going to play a pretty big role.”

Rodriguez was credited with one defensive tackle and three special teams stops while playing 51 defensive snaps in the preseason. He earned high marks from coaches and front office executives for his instincts and run-stopping ability.

“Being a quarterback in high school, he’s just got a level of key and diagnose that’s translated,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said last week. “You just don’t know quickly it’s going to come, but it’s come, come quick, and — but I can’t say enough that he is a rookie. He hadn’t played an NFL game yet, so let’s just see where it goes.”

More:Detroit Lions season preview: Hutchinson, Rodriguez ready to make rookie impact

Anzalone is the Lions’ lone returning starter at linebacker, though Barnes played a rotational role last year for a group that delivered few impact plays. The Lions also return special teams ace Josh Woods at linebacker, and signed Chris Board in free agency.

Glenn indicated the Lions will rotate personnel at linebacker Sunday.

“I’m not trying to be a butt hole about it, but Malcolm’s a good player, but the thing is we have other good players also,” Glenn said. “And all those guys deserve a chance to play. Barnes, Alex, Malcolm, Board. So I would tell you this, all those guys are going to be on the field at some point, some time. All those guys are going to have a role. To me you can say starter, you can say this. All those guys are going to play. It might be 20 plays a piece, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who’s out there first, just at the end of the game all those guys are going to get their share of plays they deserve.”

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