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O'HARA: Barnes competing for a role in linebacker rotation

Derrick Barnes is competing for a role in a crowded room of linebackers who could end up sharing playing time in the Detroit Lions' defense.

For a second-year player, that's not a bad position for Barnes to be in. Being part of a rotation that is based on varied skills and relative strengths, would provide valuable playing time.

"The way it's looking now, the competition we have and the guys we have in the room. That's what it's looking like," Barnes said of a possible rotation of linebackers. "Coach Shep (linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard) is very excited because he can rotate four or five guys.

"We're all good football players – good linebackers."

Barnes had a promising rookie season with the Lions after being drafted in the fourth round out of Purdue. He played all 17 games with six starts. Barnes played 449 snaps which represented 39 percent of the snaps. He also played 25 percent of the snaps (110) on special teams.

Linebacker and wide receiver were two positions that needed to be upgraded the most for the 2022 season. The Lions made obvious upgrades at wide receiver by signing free agent DJ Chark and drafting Alabama speedster Jameson Williams in the first round.

The Lions didn't do anything as dramatic at linebacker, but the unit should be better. Along with Barnes' year of development and Alex Anzalone's familiarity with the defense, free agent Chris Board could be a solid addition. Rookie Malcolm Rodriguez, a sixth-round pick from Oklahoma State, also has shown potential.

Anzalone said earlier this week that Barnes has progressed to the point where he knows all the aspects of the defense. He just has to make the plays.

View photos from Day 8 of Detroit Lions training camp on Thursday August 4, 2022.

"That's one of my goals this year, this camp," Barnes said. "To be able to recognize formations. To be able to recognize pass, run. Just learning by watching film, studying the playbook.

"Now that I've got this down, I'm working on my technique -- learning how to get downhill, take on blocks. Keep my feet square.

"Just come to work and continue to get better throughout this camp."

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