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Campbell focusing on the details heading into second NFL season

The Detroit Lions' defense is expected to be a much better unit in 2023 after revamping the secondary and adding some important pieces upfront along the defensive line.

Part of that equation is the expected jump in production from some of Detroit's young players on that side of the ball that had big roles as rookies, like linebacker Jack Campbell and defensive back Brian Branch. Both players head into Year 2 with experience, an offseason to focus on their craft, and a desire to push this defense into a more dangerous unit.

Campbell, a first-round draft pick by the Lions in 2023, started the season as mostly a rotational player but by the end of the year started 11 of the last 12 games, including two of three playoff contests.

He finished the regular season with 95 tackles (52 solo), five tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and a pass defended. His 95 tackles were second most on the team to Alex Anzalone's 129. Campbell ended the year playing 59 percent of the snaps on defense, third most behind Anzalone (98 percent) and Derrick Barnes (68).

View photos from Day 3 of Detroit Lions OTA practice on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Allen Park, Mich.

Heading into his second season, that number is expected to rise for Campbell as he becomes more and more integral in what's become a very competitive linebacker room.

"Let me tell you first off he's a man," Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said of Campbell Thursday. "He's a grown man. He's really taken control of this offseason the way he should take control of it.

"He's a true MIKE backer. He's a guy that lives, breathes green dot mentality as a MIKE linebacker. He's done a really good job – all our guys have – of transforming their body because they've had a true offseason in the NFL."

Campbell has put on more upper-body muscle this offseason. Watching him run the huddle and operate in the middle of the defense at Thursday's open OTA practice, he looks comfortable with a year under his belt.

"Just watching him on the field his zone drops and his mentality as far as going after the football has been outstanding," Glenn said. "We've only had two days of practice, but he's been doing a heck of a job the way he's leading the men as far as defense is impressive to see."

Campbell spent the offseason back in Iowa and said his focus was on getting stronger. He also said as a taller linebacker (6-5, 243) he really focused on improving his pad level in the box to make it harder for offensive linemen to get a hold and keep hold of him. His first real offseason was also about finding the balance between rest & recuperation and training.

Campbell referenced a book 'The Slight Edge' by Jeff Olson that he read as a student athlete at Iowa that taught him how doing little things over time consistently adds up to big things. It's something Campbell said he tries to live by and was part of his approach for improving his game heading into a critical second season.

"When I look back on the self-scout stuff more football-wise just taking leaps where I know to take and just step up to the plate and do that stuff just to make the defense better," Campbell said. "If the defense does better the team does better, and I can focus on that."

The experience he gained playing over 600 reps as a rookie has allowed him to be more detail-oriented heading into his second season, and he's set a high bar for himself and this defense heading into 2024.

"The defensive staff does an amazing job and now coming into this next year the bar is just getting higher," he said. "It'll be exciting to play in the defense and I hope it'll be exciting to watch."

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