Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone just had the best season of his career, and the improvement in his Pro Football Focus grade backs it up further.
With Alex Anzalone and Jalen Reeves-Maybin both hitting free agency last offseason, if they were going to bring one of the linebackers back, the Detroit Lions made the fairly easy choice of Anzalone on a second straight cheap one-year deal.
Anzalone delivered a good season in 2022, with a career-high and team-leading 125 total tackles. He delivered solid all-around production, with 1.5 sacks, six pass breakups, seven tackles for loss, seven quarterback hits and 10 pressures.
As the “green-dot” guy for the Lions’ defense, his role in the unit’s turnaround over the last 10 games of the season shouldn’t be discounted.
Off his career-best season Anzalone has hinted he’s eyeing a multi-year deal to stay with the Lions, and presumably elsewhere as he explores the open market for his services. Lions coaches have talked up his intangible value, and he delivered some tangible impact this past season.
Alex Anzalone’s best season backed up by spike in PFF grade
Based on their year-over-year grades, Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus named the most improved player on each NFL team for the 2022 season.
DETROIT LIONS: LB ALEX ANZALONE
2021 PFF Grade: 35.4
2022 PFF Grade: 59.2
A third-round draft pick in 2017, Anzalone played his most snaps in a single season and delivered a solid performance overall. There were some rough moments throughout the year, but he also had four games with a PFF grade higher than 80.0.
Frankly, Anzalone’s PFF grade couldn’t have been a whole lot worse in 2021. According to Pro Football Reference, he cut his missed tackle rate by over half in 2022 (7.4 percent; 16.1 percent in 2021). His improvement in PFF grade went from pretty awful in 2021 to passably average in 2022.
From a pure talent point of view, the Lions should be looking to upgrade on Anzalone this offseason as the starter next to Malcolm Rodriguez. That doesn’t mean he won’t be re-signed, necessarily, but another team could be willing to give him a deal more befitting a locked-in starter.