Barnes has been a no-show because head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator are stubbornly sticking with veteran linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. and their hand-picked starter, Alex Anzalone, over the first two games.
The Purdue product Detroit drafted with the 113th pick in the fourth round has only seen the field for a total of five defensive snaps. All those snaps came in Week One against the San Francisco 49ers in relief of Jamie Collins Sr.
Anzalone and Collins Sr. were picked on by Aaron Rodgers on Monday night, both allowed a touchdown in coverage.
The Detroit Lions need to give Derrick Barnes a shot.
Here’s the thing.
It’s early, but it SEEMS as though Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn are most comfortable starting Anzalone over Barnes or even Reeves-Maybin because they’ve brought the veteran linebacker over to Detroit from New Orleans.
They appear most comfortable with him at this point.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Anzalone has the second-worst ranking across the league through the first two weeks. His atrocious 29.7 rating is 83rd of 85 possible inside linebackers. Needless to say, even though PFF seems to love Jamie Collins, his rating of 64.7 isn’t anything to hang your hat on either.
Collins looked helpless in the second half of Monday night’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, and his lack of effort as the game went on seemed like he was begging to be removed from the game. As previously mentioned, Barnes did not see a single defensive snap in Green Bay. Still, the coaching staff should have identified that Collins all but gave up and inserted the rookie linebacker so he could get his feet wet playing as a professional.
We all suspected that it would be a work in progress under this new regime, and that is what it’s been on the defensive side of things. Campbell and Glenn did inherit a dumpster fire of a roster, but Detroit’s defense has seemingly picked right up in 2021, where they left off last season.
Through the first two games of the season, Detroit ranks 31st (second-last) in scoring defense, 15th defending the run allowing 113.5 yards per game, and 21st defending the pass yielding 269 yards per game. So maybe they are performing a bit better than the Patricia-era, where they were regularly near last in all categories.
Anzalone relays the play for the Detroit Lions defense as he gets the call from defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. Anzalone also checks when needed, trying to get Detroit into the right play so perhaps it will be difficult to remove him at this point, so I expect the coaching staff will elect to keep Anzalone on the field for the time being.
Still, Barnes needs an opportunity to show he belongs after a stellar preseason, even at the expense of removing Collins Sr.
Detroit may choose to use Collins as a pass-rusher in third-down situations, but Barnes needs to be on the field during first and second down in Week Three’s matchup with the Baltimore Ravens.