Detroit Lions rookie LB Derrick Barnes set for bigger role: 'Ready for the task'

·4 min read

Derrick Barnes had an up-close view of some of Lamar Jackson’s greatest exploits four years ago.

As a freshman at Purdue, Barnes made the traveling roster for the Boilermakers’ 2017 season opener against Jackson’s Louisville team at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Barnes did not play a snap that day, but watching from the sideline he saw just how dangerous Jackson could be as Jackson rang up 485 yards of total offense, including 107 rushing, in a 35-28 Louisville win.

“When I was young, I used to be a fan (of his),” Barnes said Friday. “But I can’t be a fan anymore. Enemies.”

That’s because Barnes will take on a more prominent role in trying to stop Jackson on Sunday, when the Detroit Lions host the Baltimore Ravens at Ford Field.

[ Why Lions' Dan Campbell is living up to his own words with Jamie Collins deal ]

Barnes will play as a tandem starter at the Lions’ “buck” inside linebacker position with Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Barnes and Reeves-Maybin are replacing Jamie Collins, who will not dress Sunday as the Lions continue to explore trade possibilities.

Barnes said he expects to play in most of the Lions’ base defensive packages, with Reeves-Maybin playing in nickel situations.

Alex Anzalone will start at the other inside linebacker spot and continue to wear the green-dot helmet and relay defensive play calls.

“Barnes is a guy that brings an element of speed, explosiveness,” Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “Just who he is. And I think I told you guys this before, as a coach, man, you want to put as many good players om the field as you can, and sometimes you have two good players at the same spot. So I think it’s just a good idea for us to start using these young guys and start allowing them to play.”

A fourth-round pick out of Purdue, Barnes has played sparingly so far this fall.

Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes (55) during organized team activity at Lions headquarters in Allen Park, Thursday, May 27, 2021.
Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes (55) during organized team activity at Lions headquarters in Allen Park, Thursday, May 27, 2021.

He played five snaps late in the Lions’ season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers, when Collins was being evaluated for an ankle injury and saw action only on special teams in Monday night’s loss to the Green Bay Packers.

But the rookie impressed in limited action this preseason, after missing time with a strained hamstring, and the Lions are hoping he will be a difference-maker in a unit that lacks game-changing talents.

“When they came to me and said it was my time to step up, just had to prepare mentally better,” Barnes said. “Not saying that I wasn’t when I wasn’t playing, but it’s just a different mindset that you bring to the table at that point. But throughout the week it’s just been getting in the film room a lot, asking questions, stuff I was doing even before this time has come. But it’s just a different approach to the game, I would say. A big role, especially being a rookie, but I’m ready for the task.”

Barnes said he felt he was ready for playing time at the start of the regular season, but looked at the team’s decision to bring him along more slowly as “God telling me it’s not my time yet.”

MORE FROM BIRKETT: Dan Campbell puts Lions' latest loss on his offense. Why that makes sense

MORE FROM BIRKETT: Why Lamar Jackson's missed practice (illness) isn't good news for Lions

“I’m a rookie, I have a lot to learn,” Barnes said. “I had great veterans in from of me. Alex, Jamie. Those guys who taught me a lot. I would go to the them for questions and answers. I can’t really say that it frustrated me that much cause I knew I was a rookie, I had more to learn, I need to develop.”

Now, Barnes’ development will happen on the field, for everyone to see, and he and his coaches say he’s ready for that challenge.

“I will tell you, there is going to be some mistakes made,” Glenn said. “But to me that, as a coach, you get a chance to coach and nurture and build confidence with players like that. Listen, we know where we’re at, and from the outside looking in, you’re going to get a lot of finger-pointing, but we know exactly where we’re at and the thing is, we’re going to continue to improve each week. You guys are going to continue to hear me say that. Every time I stand in front of you, I’m going to have something that we did in that game that’s going to be damn good and we’re going to continue to keep chipping and chipping and chipping, and at the end of the day you’ll see what you’re going to get.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions rookie LB Derrick Barnes set for bigger role

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting