Jalen Reeves-Maybin didn't wait to show the Detroit Lions' coaching staff that his reputation for being an elite special teams player is well earned.
In the Lions' opening preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, Reeves-Maybin got downfield to make the tackle on Jack Fox’s first two punts. They were the type of plays Reeves-Maybin has made often in his four years with the Lions.
That includes getting downfield on a 66-yard punt to tackle the Bills' return man for a three-yard gain.
Reeves-Maybin is getting a chance to expand his role this year. He is getting more time at linebacker after being used primarily on special teams his first four seasons.
Linebacker is a position that head coach Dan Campbell said before the start of training camp was in need of an upgrade.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021.
"It's mostly giving me an opportunity," Reeves-Maybin said earlier in training camp. "Everybody out here's working. We've got a great room. Everybody is fighting for playing time right now.
"I'm just working through that."
Reeves-Maybin contracted COVID-19 and was delayed reporting to training camp. It was a mild case, with no lingering effects, he said.
"Just a little bit of fatigue," he said. "Normal stuff. It wasn't that bad."
Reeves-Maybin made the best he could of his situation through Zoom calls with coaches and teammates. It was not the ideal way to learn a new defense, although he had an opportunity to do that during the offseason.
"It definitely wasn't the best," he said. "I tried to stay as up to date as possible through Zooms, watching the film, talking to guys.
"It's different -- a little bit more lonely. I tried to stay in it. I had a job to do."
Campbell and his defensive staff knew by reputation and studying video what Reeves-Maybin brought to the table on special teams. That encouraged them to give him a long look at linebacker.
Reeves-Maybin played only eight snaps at linebacker and had one tackle in the opening preseason game against the Bills. He had 39 snaps in Game 2 vs. the Steelers and had seven tackles.
"He's a steady player is what he is," Campbell said. "He's going to set the table for us. He's smart. He had the green dot while he was in there (against the Steelers)."
The player who has the green dot on his helmet gets the defensive signals from the sideline and relays them to the rest of the defense.
"There were a couple things that popped up with him, but it did with all those guys as well," Campbell said. "He's another guy that you know exactly what he is. He's going to give you a good day's work.
"He's a workhorse, and he's a damn good special teams player."
The Lions have been consistently good on special teams in recent years. It's something Reeves-Maybin takes pride in, as do his teammates – past and present -- on the units.
"I guess every year since my rookie year, guys have been motivated to play special teams," Reeves-Maybin said. "We've had good coaches. We had a couple, but they've all been good.
"They've been able to put guys in positions to make plays. We've had great specialists, too."