Head coach Dan Campbell was asked Monday if there are any players who have elevated their game from last year who have really stood out to him so far in 2021.
The first name he mentioned was veteran linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, and it's hard to argue with that.
Reeves-Maybin has been one of the best special teams players in the league over his career, but after the Lions decided to move on from Jamie Collins Sr. a few weeks back, Reeves-Maybin has been given an opportunity to play more on defense, and he's ran with the opportunity.
"He makes plays," Campbell said of Reeves-Maybin Monday. "He's productive for us. He'd be one of the first ones that stands out."
Reeves-Maybin made arguably the biggest play for the Lions' defense Sunday in Minnesota, stripping the ball from Vikings running back Alexander Mattison in the final minutes and recovering the ball to set up the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of an eventual 19-17 loss. He also notched five tackles in the contest playing 41 defensive snaps, the most he's played this season.
Over the last three weeks since seeing increased playing time, Reeves-Maybin has recorded 11 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a defended pass that was intercepted by cornerback Amani Oruwariye.
Reeves-Maybin is proving his increased role on defense was warranted, but he doesn't look at it that way.
"I just try to focus on where I'm at at that time no matter what I'm doing," he said. "If it's my situation for now, I'm going to attack it and I'm just trying to make the best of it. I don't really focus too much on playing time or playing here or playing there. I'm just kinda like, 'This is where I'm at, I'm just trying to help the team win.'"
The tipped ball last week and the forced fumble and recovery this week show an uncanny ability to be around the football with the intention of getting it back for his offense. Reeves-Maybin said it's as simple as him just wanting the football.
"Really it just comes from watching other guys around the league who really get after the ball and kind of always seem to come up with it and make big plays," Reeves-Maybin said Monday. "I try to be a turning point and try to make a big play for the team when we need it."
Reeves-Maybin has been doing his part for Detroit's defense the last few weeks and making the most of his opportunities. He says it will really start to be fun when that leads to more wins.