Can Detroit Lions rookie shortstop Jack Campbell pitch out of the corner as LB1 in New Orleans?
As the season goes on, the Detroit Lions, like every team, have their fair share of successes. The latest casualty is Alex Anzalone, who is set to miss at least one game, and possibly more. This means it’s time for Jack Campbell to learn fast, whether he likes it or not.
Bold Prediction of the Week: Jack Campbell leads Lions in tackles against Saints
The absence of Alex Anzalone is not good news for the Lions’ defense. Not only is Anzalone playing the best football of his career, he is playing like one of the best midfielders in the league, both against the run and the pass.
Jack Campbell? Not much. That doesn’t matter against the Saints, though. It will be a trial by fire for the rookie who has had an up-and-down season. His percentage of snaps as a rusher has decreased, as Jeremy pointed out in his Week 12 snap count:
It’s worth noting that Campbell’s experience on the EDGE as a pass rusher appears to be mostly over. In the past four games combined, he has played just 10 snaps at the rim per PFF.
That should be over on Sunday, as the Lions will likely rely on him as a true LB1 against New Orleans.
Derek Barnes has been the clear LB2 for the Lions as of late, surpassing Campbell in snap numbers by a wide margin over the last three games. The Lions give Barnes as much as he can handle, but he has his limits. Part of the reason he excelled this season is because he was asked to do what he does best, which is defend the offensive line. He’s not a very agile linebacker in coverage, so the Lions may turn to the more athletic Campbell to take over that role.
Beyond that, Campbell has not been far from leading the team in tackles in several games this season. He often finds himself in a position to make plays in run defense, but suffers one-second delays or misses on containment assignments, and it costs him tackles.
If the Lions select him as LB1 to replace Anzalone, I’m confident they will strive to simplify responsibilities for him as he takes on a new role. He should have plenty of clear chances to keep everything in front of him, make direct plays and fill out his stat sheet well.
The Saints may have to keep things grounded as well. Quarterback Derek Carr has struggled mightily as of late, with two of his three worst QBR games coming in his last two games.
As we know, Campbell may be as lost on Sunday as he has been in recent weeks. Or playing as LB1 might be a revelation. Hopefully it’s the latter, and the Lions can see him flourish in the fullback position they’ve drafted him to be.
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