2021 didn’t look good on paper, but the culture change that Dan Campbell brought to Detroit was a huge positive for this team moving forward. We saw players buying in and games where the Detroit Lions could have given up early, but they stayed in it and kept it close while enduring some heartbreaking losses.
We saw a lot of great individual performances, too. Guys like Charles Harris and Dean Marlowe were brought in via free agency and played better than expected, while rookies Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown had stellar years and have blossomed into building blocks for this franchise.
There were also players who underperformed, but with a new year comes new opportunities.
Today’s Question of the Day is...
Who will be the Lions’ most improved player in 2022?
My answer: Derrick Barnes.
There are a lot of good options here... like Jared Goff, Ifeatu Melifonwu, De’Andre Swift, either of the two defensive tackles drafted last year, and others. But I’ve gotta go with Barnes here. Having a full year under your belt is huge for an inside linebacker that may be asked to lead a defense.
The hype surrounding Barnes really began to build during last year’s preseason. He showed flashes of his speed, tenacity and playmaking ability. The Lions haven’t had a linebacker like Barnes in a while. But as is expected from a rookie, Barnes had his struggles. Per Pro Football Focus, Barnes was the second-lowest graded Lion on defense, and lowest of anyone with more than 40 snaps. This is mostly due to his extremely low coverage grade, but it’s a lot to ask a rookie linebacker to perform well in those situations while they’re still adjusting to the speed of the NFL.
Barnes’ rookie year was a learning experience full of ups and downs. Heading into his second year, he’ll have every opportunity to lock down a starting role and see more action.