The Detroit Lions surprised millions of fans when they selected Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell with their second pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Campbell is expected to become the day one starter in the middle of the linebacking corps, but Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard revealed recently that it’s not an outcome set in stone.
According to Sheppard, there is at least one holdover among the linebackers that the team is expecting better play from in 2023 based on his offseason improvements: Derrick Barnes.
“I’m telling you right now, he’s not going away quietly,” Sheppard said of Barnes in his quest to become a starter this season. “That is a player I’ve seen walk in this building, since we started up Phase II, and look like a completely different player.”
Barnes, a 6-foot, 240 pound linebacker from Purdue University, had 27 solo tackles and a sack for the Lions last season.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the former Boilermaker has the skills and talent to remain a contributor, even in a crowded linebacking corps that also features NFL statistical leader Malcolm Rodriguez, returning starter Alex Anzalone, and pass-rushing marvel James Houston.
Sheppard said Barnes and Anzalone both texted him after the selection of Campbell in attempt to get a “lay of the land” as to where they stand in terms of the Lions’ future plans at the linebacker position.
The former LSU and New York Giants linebacker turned coach Sheppard said that the Lions are making no promises.
Campbell, Anzalone, Barnes and others will have every opportunity to compete for starting jobs and playing time this upcoming season.
“The guys want to know the lay of the land, and they know they can reach out to me for that honest answer,” Sheppard said according to SI.com.
“I told them (the drafting of Jack Campbell) was an opportunity that we saw, and the front office saw, to get better on the roster.
“Now, what that means? You all will decide that, as far as the landscape of our room. But, these guys have taken Jack in like he’s been here since we all got here in ’21. They are competing, and it’s going to be an open competition coming up in training camp.”
The Lions open the preseason on August 11 at home against the New York Giants. On September 7, they’ll take on the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in what is expected to be the biggest test of Dan Campbell’s third season as Lions coach.