Back in January, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this about the importance of defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs to the team.
“He’s extremely important, and I kind of feel like every week, you talk about the run game, it always starts inside,” Campbell said. “Everything for us starts inside and works its way out because if those guys don’t do their job, then all the strain starts to go out on the guys who that’s not necessarily what they’re able to do a full game of. Whereas, man, Buggs and (Alim McNeill) Mac, I feel like those two guys are linked. They’re always going to be linked, and it all starts with them. They’ve got bang to win there, they’ve got to hold the point, they’ve got to be violent.”
Two months later, the Lions re-signed Buggs to a two-year deal to avoid losing him in free agency.
Fast forward another six months, and the Lions are suddenly benching Buggs for the season opener, the defensive tackle revealed on Monday.
Campbell was asked about the situation during his Tuesday morning presser, and he didn’t give a ton of explanation about what has changed.
“We base everything off the tape. Period,” Campbell said. “So, I’ve spoken to Buggs and that stays between us. But, yeah, we feel like we’re (using) the guys that are best prepared to go this week for this game. Those are the guys that’ll be up.”
Buggs served as the team’s starting nose tackle for 13 games last season and played in all 17. Likely taking his spot in the lineup against the Kansas City Chiefs is Benito Jones, who played in all 17 games last season, but logged just 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 311 defensive snaps.
Jones is just 25 years old and entering his third NFL season, and Campbell says he’s seen a level of growth and consistency in his game this offseason.
“From the spring until now, just his fundamentals, his technique (have improved),” Campbell said. “He’s been able to anchor in the run. He can push the pocket in the pass. I just think fundamentally he’s been better than he was last year. So there’s a level of consistency that he’s had that I think everybody in this building has seen.”
As for Buggs, Campbell said he’s in the same bucket as everyone else on the roster—and the practice squad—every day is an opportunity to work your way back into the lineup.
“Absolutely, and he’s been told that. But it’s no different than, honestly, any of these players, and that includes practice squad players,” Campbell said. “We tell them, ‘You have an opportunity. Make the most of it. You’ve got to show us in practice.’”