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NFL experts recognizing Alex Anzalone as a top linebacker in NFL

Detroit Lions’ Alex Anzalone is suddenly establishing himself as a top-five linebacker in the NFL.

Detroit Lions v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone is having one hell of a season, and it isn’t just the fans and local writers who have taken notice. In this week in particular, Anzalone has gotten some national attention with some analysts having extremely high praise for the veteran linebacker.

First up is Greg Cosell, one of the most respected football analysts in the game. On the Ross Tucker Podcast, Cosell called Anzalone a top-five linebacker in the league right now.

“I think he’s been a top-five linebacker in the league this year,” Cosell said. “That’s what the tape tells me. He’s played really well. He plays every down, he doesn’t come off the field. As you know, he’s big, he’s athletic, he’s physical, he’s fast. He can play sideline-to-sideline. I would bet they would tell you he’s the foundation of that defense, and I think he’s a really good player. You’re right, he’s having his best year, and he is, without question, a top-five linebacker in this league.”

By PFF’s overall grade, Anzalone ranks 20th among linebackers with a career-high 76.3 grade. Part of his value is in his versatility and capability in all facets of defense. As a run defender, Anzalone’s average depth of tackle of 3.1 is tied for 15th in the NFL, and his 75.0 PFF coverage grade is 10th, while also ranking t-second among linebackers with four pass breakups on the year. In fact, since 2021, only Pro Bowl linebackers Matt Milano (18) and Fred Warner (18) have more pass breakups than Anzalone (17).

But Cosell wasn’t the only one to praise Anzalone this week. Former Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky has also taken notice.

“Best inside linebacker in football this year is Fred Warner, then probably Roquan Smith. You know who’s probably third? Alex Anzalone,” Orlovsky said on ESPN’s “Get Up” this week.

Undeniably part of the reason Anzalone has thrived this year is his movement from the MIKE linebacker position to his more natural fit at WILL. And his play there this year has coach Dan Campbell saying the same things these analysts are saying.

“He just continues to play at a very high level,” Campbell said. “He is an extremely smart football player, and he is playing as physical as I’ve ever seen him and he’s playing at a very high level. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find the backers that are playing better than him right now in this league.”

While analysts are just now praising Anzalone’s play, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn—who overlapped with the Lions linebacker in New Orleans for years—says Anzalone has been a high-level player for years now.

“I mean we’ve been giving him his flowers for a long time,” Glenn said. “I mean, that’s you guys, that’s just now giving him his flowers. And I don’t think he cares. I think the only thing he cares about is his teammates, his coaches, his family, and how he’s going about doing things. I’ve always known what he’s going to bring to the table, that’s why he’s been here, that’s why we re-signed him.”

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