Competition not a secret in Lions linebacker room

Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions can confidently list linebacker Alex Anzalone at the top of the depth chart.

After that, it’s kind of a crapshoot.

The Lions have an open competition behind Anzalone for spot Nos. 2-4 on the depth chart, and it might be the most interesting competition going in Allen Park right now, because for the first time in a long time, there appears to be a significant amount of depth.

“I feel like there’s no secret, there’s competition in our room, and it’s out in the open. The best man wins and that’s the way it’s going to be,” Anzalone said.

Anzalone said this year’s linebacker group is the deepest he’s seen in Detroit and that there’s “five or six guys who can legitimately start in the NFL and have started in the NFL.”

The Lions re-signed Anzalone this past offseason to the tune of a three-year deal worth $18.3 million with $9 million guaranteed, then went out and drafted the top middle linebacker this year’s draft had to offer in Iowa product Jack Campbell. Last season, sixth-round rookie Malcolm Rodriguez shocked everyone by emerging as a starter out of camp.

And don’t forget about Derrick Barnes, who’s heading into Year 3 and has been receiving higher praise from coaches and teammates than at any previous point in his young career.

“It’s been competition, for sure,” Barnes said. “Everyone’s getting better. We all have our ups and downs, but as long as we pick each other up, it’s all positive. Like me and Jack, he’s supporting me, I’m supporting him. He’s amazing, also Alex and Malcolm.

“So when Anzalone says (it’s the deepest the room has been), it’s because we have a lot of LBs who can play at a high level in this league, and that’s what you want. You want guys coming to compete and pushing each other and not tear each other down. We know we’re all in this together. It’s good vibes.”

Barnes said he’s trying to block out the noise regarding who the starter alongside Anzalone will be but that it can be difficult.

“A couple days ago, I had to sit back and think to myself, ‘That’s not the worry right now.’ The worry is not if I’m going to start, if I’m going to play,” Barnes said. “The worry is getting better and continuing to help myself grow and find happiness and comfort in myself. Competing, doing the best I can to let everything come by itself.

‘I try so hard not to focus on (starting or not starting) because when I do, I can tell the difference in my game. It takes away a little bit of my happiness when I do that because I’m focusing on the wrong thing.”

Hutch gets shine

With only a rookie season under his belt, Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson already had earned a significant honor from his peers. Hutchinson on Tuesday was named the No. 88 player in the NFL’s Top 100 players list, as voted on by players around the league.

Hutchinson, the former No. 2 overall pick out of Michigan, totaled 9.5 sacks, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, 52 tackles and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2022.

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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