Alan Park — Alex Anzarone’s scar on his right shoulder is the story of the adversity he faced to play the game he loves, and his contribution to the turnaround of the Detroit Lions is the story of his ability to rise above it.
From the end of his college career in Florida to his first few seasons as a professional, Anzarone struggled to get breaks. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury three times in five years. The third one almost broke his spirit.
“I was distraught,” Anzalone said. “It’s been two games into my third season[with the Saints]and I expected him to play a big role in defense against DD (DeMario Davis).”
Anzalone lamented another lost season and took sage advice from Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. He reminded us that young linebacker NFL players often struggle with endurance issues, but at some point the problem goes away for many. Proven and paints a potentially bright future. Anzalone had no idea it would come to fruition in Detroit.
Since joining the Lions in 2021, not everything has been as bright as sunshine and rainbows for the veteran linebacker. He came on board to lead the transition culturally and graphically as a defensive quarterback. And he’s been irreplaceable in that regard, with an influx of younger teammates helping him understand his role within the system. Despite recording, he also struggled with style adjustments.
That overcompensation, combined with a more read-and-react style of play compared to the offensive approach he was accustomed to in Florida and New Orleans, led to a surge in missed tackles. This is admittedly a subjective statistic, but whoever was doing the counting, Anzalone was one of his leaders in the league.
Detroit’s return to attacking-style defense, along with efforts to fix this issue, have helped ease his predicament. After failing at his 16.1% of his attempts last year, he has slumped to a career-low 6.3% this year, according to the Pro Football Reference.
Positions coach Kelvin Shepherd said, “He’s been going all the way back to training camp, playing inside and out.” I know a lot of people knocked him out because he missed a tackle. Alex knew that very well.
There are many ways to improve your tackle, such as film studies and drills. According to Sheppard, Anzalone’s favorite is working with his giant 200-pound hanging pad that the Lions use in practice, which allows players to focus on hitting. Anzalone likes to call the Kissing Big Bertha routine.
Whatever he’s been doing, it’s working. Not only is he missing fewer tackles, he’s also making more stops. He has already surpassed the career-high he set last year, with 14 games he has recorded 105 his tackles, including five of his personal bests behind his line of scrimmage. included.
Additionally, Anzalone is a coverage asset with six pass breakups, one interception and a 77.4 passer rating when targeted, and as a blitzer, including a season-high five last week, He set a new best with 20 quarterback pressures. Beat the New York Jets.
“Last year was the best I’ve seen him play in New Orleans,” Lions manager Dan Campbell said. And he’s a defensive quarterback.He’s versatile, he’s a really good athlete, he’s smart, he knows exactly what defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn) is looking for.He can happen. I know the situation.
Heading into the season, the spotlight was on Detroit’s linebacker group. After 2021, the position was seen as a weakness, but the front office invested little resources in improving the corps, making it into the sixth round after signing lower-tier free agents Chris Board and Jarad Davis. Added a rookie to the nomination Malcolm Rodriguez.
Yet somehow, the linebacker has quietly become one of the strengths of the roster as the team enters the stretch run with six wins from their last seven games. Matching Anzarone’s improved performance, Rodriguez made an immediate contribution and second-year Derrick Burns made impressive progress.
Anzalone has been involved in all of that.
“After maybe the third game, everyone was praising Malcolm, but Alex commented that it had a lot to do with how fast Malcolm was playing,” Shepard said. Because it’s the guy who starts the car, he does his best to get everyone in line, make sure they’re in the right position, do checks and make sure his teammates are safe. I was in the right position on certain plays and checks that I had. I went to another level with him this year.”
Now the Lions must decide whether to proceed with the setup. In a league that is an annual thing for most players, that was really the case with Anzalone, who signed a deal that proved to be his 21st month when he first joined Detroit, and this past offseason. won his second one-year contract.
The team made it clear to him that they hope to return after last season, a matter of working out the details before free agency. A similar conversation has yet to take place this year, although the end of the season and Detroit’s playoff berth are the current focus.
But Anzalone’s preferences are clear. He is very persistent and wants to see through this.
“Of course I want to be here long-term,” he said. “You try to take care of your family and things like that, but I love playing for Dan. I love playing for AG and Shep. Leveraging.This is a unique place where you can really leave your legacy as a player.Since 1991, we haven’t had much success, we haven’t had a playoff win.Obviously, we are much more We got to this point sooner than many people thought, especially after the first half of the season, so I feel like this is where I want to go in the long term and hopefully it swings like that. I hope that