Lions’ Barnes still pushing, through LB competition, position changes

Detroit News

Allen Park — It took some time.

But, as Derrick Barnes goes through OTAs for a third time, he’s exactly where he feels he should be.

Barnes, drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 draft, said after Thursday’s OTAs in Allen Park that he’s gotten “to the stage where I can just constantly get into what the coach wants us to do.”

At Purdue, Barnes bounced from middle linebacker to edge rusher and back. He had a team-high 54 tackles in his COVID-shortened senior season and was named second-team All-Big Ten. Still, what he learned as a middle linebacker with the Boilermakers didn’t necessarily translate into the NFL right away.

“I came from college and I wasn’t at the mental aspect I wanted to be at. That’s just where I come from, no excuses or anything. I studied my behind off. I knew it would take me time to get where I wanted to be. I just told myself to keep progressing,” said Barnes, who has 114 tackles over his first two seasons.

“So, mainly for me, it’s just been, ‘Don’t let the mental aspect hold you back from where you want to be.’ So that’s what I’ve been doing: studying even more than I ever have, asking questions. All the things I’ve done in previous years, but taken to the next level. Just coming out here and showing what I can do and what I’m able to do and what I’m about as a player.”

Barnes added: “Head down, keep working, no matter what.”

The “no matter what” part includes a scenario where the spot he was vying for develops a logjam because of a first-round draft pick. The addition of Butkus Award-winning linebacker Jack Campbell, selected 18th-overall out of Iowa, has certainly steepened Barnes’ climb — but it hasn’t changed his mentality.

“It’s always urgency,” Barnes said. “I would never let anything like that knock me off my game. I know what I’m about. I believe in the plan that they have. … Jack is an amazing player and I understand why they brought him here, but it’s not going to ever bring me down. I’m going to stay focused, do what I know I can do, and just keep progressing and keep getting better for myself … and for my teammates.”

The leader of Detroit’s linebacker room has taken notice of Barnes’ evolution.

“(He’s) really grown a ton,” captain Alex Anzalone said. “I feel like mentally, I’ve never seen — I’m going into my seventh year — that big of a mental transition from a college to a pro level. He’s put in the work to really study the game and grow from an on-the-ball defender to a middle linebacker in the NFL. It’s way different. It’s honestly remarkable how far he’s come.”

Though changing positions seems to have slowed his early development in the pros, the intriguing part about Barnes is indeed his versatility, and what can become of it once he’s able to start mentally putting the pieces together. He had 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss for Purdue in 2019, his only full season as a pass rusher.

“They all correlate together. As a linebacker, you have to be able to rush, you’ve got to have that ability,” Barnes said. “And from bringing that from college to here, that’s helped me, because I know how to take on a lineman, I know how to pick onside, I know how to rush. So, that’s been good for me, and to be able to do both — and like I said, as an inside linebacker, you have the opportunity to do both.

“So, college actually helped me a lot when it comes to pass rushing, because I know what to do, how I’m setting up the linemen, things like that. So, it all correlates together.”

The hard part is waiting. It will be months (just under 100 days) until Barnes will be able to see how it translates in a live-game situation. In the meantime, there’s only one thing to do: Keep moving forward.

“Not taking any steps back,” Barnes said of his goals between now and training camp. “Progressing, learning more. The playbook — I wouldn’t say it’s easy for me now — but I’ve got to the stage where I can just constantly get into what the coach wants us to do, as far as the playbook. And now, I can focus on games, like pass concepts, where I need to be in the run game.

“So now, I can focus more on the game itself, instead of the playbook.”

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

Articles You May Like

Brian Branch responds to penalized hit on Bijan Robinson: ‘F- it… I’ll take the flag’
Lions Promoting RB Zonovan Knight To Active Roster
Lions vs. Falcons: How to watch, listen, stream the Week 3 matchup
Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons first half open thread
Detroit Lions Sign Former New England Patriots Running Back To PS After David Montgomery Injury Update

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *