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Anzalone, Lions looking to build off 2023 season

Since joining the Lions in 2021, Alex Anzalone is one of six NFL linebackers to total at least 325 tackles, 15 passes defended, 15 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks and two interceptions.

A couple of the linebackers on that list, Baltimore's Roquan Smith and San Francisco's Fred Warner, are considered the best in the NFL at the position.

Coming off arguably his best season as a professional in 2023, Anzalone said this week there's a lot to be proud of from a team standpoint winning the NFC North title and advancing to the NFC Championship. But he also said no one in the locker room is content after falling one game short of the Super Bowl, and they plan to build off 2023's success, add more talent and be even better next season.

Personally, Anzalone said his goal next year is to be considered among the best linebackers in the game.

"Just continue to build off this year. I think for me personally I know where I can take my game and I think that I have personal goals I want to achieve that I wasn't able to get done this year. But I think I can build off of what I did this year," he said.

"I feel like I have high standards for myself, obviously I want to make Pro Bowl and play at an All-Pro level. I think that's in me."

Anzalone was a fifth alternate to the Pro Bowl this season after recording a career-high 129 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss and six passes defended.

Anzalone has become one of the better cover linebackers in the NFL. Over the last three seasons he has 19 passes defended, tied for the fourth most among all NFL linebackers. He was top 10 in the NFL among linebackers with five forced incompletions this season and allowed just one touchdown in his coverage area, per Pro Football Focus statistics.

Anzalone has become the unquestioned leader on Detroit's defense. Teammates and coaches rave about his understanding of the scheme and his ability to recognize everyone's role and responsibility and how it's supposed to fit together.

"His leadership is outstanding, as far as getting the guys to understand exactly how I'm trying to call the game and the direction I'm trying to go when it comes to the game," Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said of Anzalone. "And he does a good job of explaining that to them.

"He says, 'Listen, I know AG's going to make this call this situation.' So he does a good job of actually educating the other guys exactly how I'm going to call how I see it because he's been with me for so long."

Glenn and Anzalone were also together in New Orleans when Glenn was the defensive backs coach there. Glenn said the one area where he's seen Anzalone grow his game the most over the last two years is the violence he plays with.

"Here, man you have to be a really good tackler, violent, physical. And he's done a really good job with that," Glenn said. "There's a number of ways that he's grown. I love that player. He's helped us on defense. I just love everything about Alex."

The Lions are likely to make some upgrades on defense and having a player in the middle like Anzalone to help fit all the pieces together on the field is invaluable.

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