Derrick Barnes and Jalen Reeves-Maybin are looking forward to expanded roles on defense Sunday against Baltimore.
The Lions moved on from Jamie Collins Sr. this week, and are looking to trade the veteran inside linebacker. That means Reeves-Maybin and Barnes are going to get more opportunity to play alongside fellow stacked linebacker Alex Anzalone.
So far this year, both Reeves-Maybin and Barnes have played just five snaps each on defense.
"Both of those guys deserve a chance to play and for us to be able to move in that direction, these are tough decisions that you have to make," defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week of the move. "You don't like them all, but they're necessary for you to grow as a team."
A five-year veteran who has become one of the best special teams players in the league, Reeves-Maybin has played 689 snaps on defense over his career, so there's some experience there with him. His most time on defense was in 2019 when he played 26 percent of the defensive snaps (297). He had 37 tackles that year.
"It'll definitely be a great opportunity for me," Reeves-Maybin said Thursday. "Trying to go out there and do my job and help the team get a win. Just trying to do my part."
Barnes, a fourth-round draft pick out of Purdue this offseason, is a sideline-to-sideline player with speed and explosiveness. He showed some of that in the preseason when he recorded six tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit and two defended passes in just 25 reps in Pittsburgh.
"When they came to me and said it was my time to step up, just had to prepare mentally better," Barnes said Friday. "It's just a different mindset you bring to the table at that point. Throughout the week it's just been getting in the film room a lot, asking questions, stuff I was doing before this time came, but it's just a different approach to the game. A big role, especially being a rookie, but I'm ready for the task."
Glenn is hoping the pair bring some juice to the middle of his defense Sunday and help better counter the explosiveness of the Ravens' offense, especially their rushing attack.
"Barnes is a guy that brings an element of speed, explosiveness, just who he is and I think I told you guys this before, as a coach, you want to put as many good players on the field as you can," Glenn said. "So, I think it's just a good idea for us to start using these guys and start allowing them to play."
BEFORE HIS TIME
Lions wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El was talking with some players at lunch recently about his playing career, and it made him wonder if he came out of college today, would he have been moved from quarterback to wide receiver?
"You got Kyler Murray and all those guys, I was just too early, man," Randle El said Friday. "I was too early. I might still be playing now."
Randle El was the 2001 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and left college as the FBS' all-time leading rusher for a quarterback. He became the first FBS quarterback to account for 7,000 passing yards and 3,500 rushing yards, and was the first FBS player with 40 career passing touchdowns and 40 career rushing touchdowns.
A second-round pick by Pittsburgh in 2002, he was converted to receiver. In nine years with Pittsburgh and Washington, he logged 370 receptions for 4,467 yards (12.1 avg.) and 15 touchdowns along with 438 rushing yards, 323 passing yards and six passing touchdowns.
Randle El said he still thinks about what kind of career he could have had if versatile quarterbacks like him were as widely accepted back when he played as they are now.
The Lions have a negative-one turnover ratio through two games, and quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell would like to see that improve.
"For us it's taking care of the football," Brunell said. "We've got to take care of the football better and that starts with Jared (Goff) and he knows that. If we do that, when we do that, hopefully starting this Sunday, we'll be a better offense. You put yourself in situations where you don't take care of the football. It's tough to win games like that."
Detroit enters Sunday ranked 12th in total offense (387.0), 14th in rushing (113.5) and 12th in passing (275.0). The turnovers have been the only real issue on that side of the ball early on.