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With padded practices beginning, this will be the first look we get of full-speed contact from the new-look Detroit Lions. It will give us a sense of where some of these players are since the likes of two-hand touch football aren’t hindering them. There are quite a few areas people usually gravitate towards, either be the running game or the first taste of football for the rookies.
Unfortunately, we will have to wait and see how one of the rookies is progressing. Derrick Barnes has been dealing with a lingering hamstring issue that has caused him to be out from training camp so far. However, Coach Dan Campbell has assured everyone it’s not a major issue and precautious with the young rookie.
When the Lions traded up to draft Barnes in the fourth round in this year’s draft, they obviously saw something from the linebacker who could be a key defender for the defense. He is a versatile defender that could fit nicely as an off-ball linebacker and also offers an edge-rushing prowess.
With Barnes losing out on meaningful reps during practice, it may slow down his progress in getting used to the NFL speed. In turn, that may cause him to drop down the totem pole and lose on some meaningful playing time, especially if others step up during Barnes’ absence.
With Barnes out and Jalen Reeves-Maybin on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Anthony Pittman and Tavante Beckett have been taking advantage of those extra practice reps. They might not have seen those reps if it weren’t for some injuries above them.
Hamilton was claimed off of waivers earlier in the year and has made noise in training camp so far with his play speed and coverage ability. If Hamilton continues on the trend he is currently on and shows off his strong coverage skills, he could find a way on the roster.
Pittman is walking into his third season with the team but has seen action in just one game. From the reports, he looks much quicker and plays in his more natural position at inside linebacker versus outside linebacker last year. In addition, he has shown improvement in his coverage abilities and looks to be playing much quicker. Tavante Beckett may be a long shot as an undrafted free agent this year, but he is getting a much more extended look that surely most people would’ve thought and could earn a practice squad spot because of it.
The Lions are top-heavy, with the linebacker depth chart with Jamie Collins and Alex Anzalone working the inside and Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers manning the outside. Barnes may have ended up competing with Alex Anzalone for the inside spot if he had a strong camp, but now that might be looking like a pipe dream with how many valuable reps he has missed to get acclimated to the NFL and the defensive play-calling.
With Barnes viewed as one of the future building blocks for the defense, it would be unreasonable to rush him back on the field when he is not 100 percent. It will hinder him from coming into the season, losing out on those much-needed reps, and may see less playing time because of it heading into the season, but the Lions have a strong core on top to let Barnes heal up and adjust.
With the extended look from Hamilton, Pittman, and Beckett, they are taking advantage and showing the Lions what they have where they might not have been able to if not for Barnes being out. It is something to keep your eye on throughout training camp and see if they can find a role, especially if Barnes’ injury lingers.