Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has complete faith in rookie linebacker Jack Campbell being able to step up and help his defense stem the loss of captain and leading tackler Alex Anzalone (hand injury) Sunday in New Orleans.
"Well, that's the reason we got Jack," Glenn said. "He's a true MIKE backer. And he has to be the one that makes all those checks and he's capable of doing that.
"Smart, heady guy that's tough. He's built for these moments. I'm looking forward for him to be the actual mouthpiece of the defense going into this game."
Campbell is now 11 games into his rookie season with seven starts after the Lions made him the No. 18 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. He has 51 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a pass defended, though that area in particular needs to continue to develop.
It's certainly a great opportunity for the rookie to step up and call the defense and help fill the void left by Anzalone's likely absence.
Campbell said he's excited for the opportunity but has tried to treat this week as normal as possible.
"Just having the same approach I've had every single week," Campbell said. "But also, just knowing that (Derrick) Barnes is out there with me and he'll be helping as well. I mean, it's going to be a great opportunity for us, but at the same time there's no reason to freak out.
"Just be who you are and prepare like you have every single week and that's kind of how I'm approaching it. Just don't change who you are, and everything will be fine."
Head coach Dan Campbell said he's seen Jack Campbell relish the opportunity of taking on a bigger role this week.
"It's right up his alley," Dan Campbell said. "Listen, he embraces that. He's a guy who wants it all. He doesn't want anybody to think, 'Man, I can't take this job description on.' He wants every bit of it and he hasn't missed a beat out there. He's been great."
When Dan Campbell was in New Orleans working under Sean Payton, they were preparing for the 2017 NFL Draft and Payton really liked a running back out of Tennessee named Alvin Kamara.
"AK was a guy we had high hopes on. We liked him. Sean identified him early," Campbell said Friday. "And knew he would just be a perfect fit for our offense and everything that Sean thought was dead on."
Kamara rushed for 728 yards with a 6.1-yard average per carry with eight rushing touchdowns as a rookie for the Saints in 2017. He also caught 81 passes for another 826 yards and five more scores in 16 games. He's since gone on to have nearly 10,000 scrimmage yards in seven seasons and has been to five Pro Bowls.
Jahmyr Gibbs has been similarly productive and versatile in Detroit's offense in his first season. He's rushed for 566 yards and five touchdowns in nine games with a 5.2-yard average. He has 41 receptions.
"There's a lot of similarities and it was one of the things that I was intrigued with when we were watching Gibbs," Campbell said. "Certainly, the ability to run the ball not just perimeter… but inside as well. Inside zone runner, outside perimeter runner but then the things out of the backfield (in the passing game) there were similarities."
THREE ROSTER SPOTS
Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard made a great point Friday when asked about the job second-year player Malcolm Rodriguez is doing at linebacker, fullback and being a core member of special teams for the Lions. Sheppard said Rodriquez is so valuable, he's three roster spots in one player. It's a good way to look at Rodriguez's contribution right now.
"I stopped the room to let him know what he's doing and the value he's bringing," Sheppard said. "He's occupying three roster spots right now – a fullback, linebacker and four core special teams. Around the league I know only one other guy that's doing that and that's Nick Bellore out in Seattle.
"When you're able to do that, now (GM) Brad (Holmes) is able to sit back and play around with these spots. 'What if we need to be heavy here? What if we need to be light here?' Because of what Malcolm is bringing he's a three-roster spot guy and I mean the value of that speaks for itself."
ST. BROWN'S FINE
Amon-Ra St. Brown is one of the most physical blocking wide receivers in the game, but the NFL has deemed one block in particular too physical.
St. Brown took a big hit to the pocketbook when he was fined $43,709 for making forcible contact with his helmet on a block on safety Jaquan Brisker in the first quarter of the Lions' Week 11 win over the Chicago Bears.
St. Brown is appealing the fine but also said this week he might need to change his blocking style.
"Maybe just not lowering your head, I guess," he said. "Using your shoulder. Just not making it forcible contact with your head to his head or to the other player's head. But like I said, I kind of tend to block that way, so I got to figure some things out."
St. Brown has been praised by teammates and coaches for his unselfishness as a blocker. It's an area of his game he'll always value, he'll just have to change his technique a little bit.
"Our little people, you see St. Brown going in to hit safeties with no brakes. Zero brakes," running backs coach Scottie Montgomery said this week. "He doesn't care, and he's still getting those types of targets. And look at the little people if you want to find out if a team is tough or not. We've got some tough little guys."