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O'HARA: Lions linebackers a fan of updated defensive scheme

The Detroit Lions' defensive linemen aren't the only ones who like the switch to the 4-3 base defense from the 3-4 they used last season.

So do the linebackers.

Like the defensive linemen, who played a read-and-react style in the first season under head coach Dan Campbell and his staff, the linebackers are looking forward to playing an attack game.

"We love it," linebacker Alex Anzalone said with genuine enthusiasm. "Last year we were more in the kind of 'wait and pad our cleats' type of linebacker play.

"This year it's a lot more aggressive – a lot more downhill. It makes it easy for us to make tackles, make TFLs (tackles for loss) -- things of that nature."

At the age of 27 with five NFL seasons behind him, Anzalone is a leader on a young defense that has been in a reconstruction process since Dan Campbell took over as head coach last season.

Anzalone played his first four seasons in New Orleans – where Campbell was assistant head coach – before signing with the Lions last year as a free agent on a one-year contract.

Anzalone started 14 games before missing the last two with an injury. Anzalone played well enough and demonstrated enough leadership to be a team captain for the Lions to re-sign him before he hit free agency this year.

Anzalone can tell a difference in the defense as the Lions near the end of the official offseason workouts.

The defense is further along than a year ago at this time.

"One hundred percent," Anzalone said. "Just as far as rules – defensive rules, defensive mechanics. Everything is a lot cleaner. It's set in stone instead of trying to figure it out on the run."

In that regard, Anzalone is playing a mentor role with Derrick Barnes in his second season.

Barnes showed promise as a fourth-round draft pick from Purdue. He played all 17 games with six starts.

"For me, I feel like I'm at the point in my career where I can pass some stuff down to the younger guys," Anzalone said. "Last year was probably the first year for me doing that. I have all this knowledge in my head. For me, it has to go somewhere."

He has seen Barnes progress.

"He knows exactly what to do now," Anzalone said. "At this point, he's getting the intricate details down and the scheme. That takes time to develop as a guy in the NFL."

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