Lions Defensive Coach Already Praising Team’s Young Linebackers

Malcolm Rodriguez

Getty Malcolm Rodriguez makes a play for Oklahoma State vs. Notre Dame.

The Detroit Lions haven’t been shy about their propensity to keep and play young players, and that might only be more of the case once things shift to the 2022 season for the team.

Detroit has a young roster and a young team, and could be setting themselves up to do some damage in the same way this season. A big reason why could be the approach the team has.

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Joining Twentyman in the Huddle on, linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard explained that it doesn’t matter to the team where a player comes from if he impresses on the field, and used cornerbacks Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker as an example.

“Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn, they don’t care who it is. If we hit play and you’re the guy, you’re the guy,” Sheppard said. Ask Jerry Jacobs, ask AJ Parker. I can’t even tell you what college Jerry went to. He went to like five of them,” Sheppard joked. “But if we hit play and you’re the guy, you’re the guy. And that’s what the NFL should be like.”

Jacobs, of course, came into the NFL last year out of Arkansas State. He had played previously at Arkansas, so Sheppard’s point is well taken. The main takeaway is the Lions don’t care where players were drafted, where they went to school or anything else as long as they are able to make a quick impact on the field when they are called upon. Lots of youngsters did that last year, and the team could once again be set up to see that play out in 2022.

It could happen at the spot of linebacker for the team this season if Sheppard’s words are to be believed.

Sheppard Praises Pair of Lions’ Rookie Linebackers

A good example of Shepard’s approach as well as Detroit’s could be found within the team’s linebacker room in 2022. Both young players the Lions drafted in Malcolm Rodriguez and James Houston have already caught the team’s eye as well as the eye of Sheppard. Specifically, the coach likes the smarts and instincts of both players.

Twentyman in the Huddle Episode 3: Kelvin Sheppard breaks down Lions linebacker roomOn this week’s episode of Twentyman in the Huddle, Kelvin Sheppard joins Tim Twentyman for an inside look at Detroit’s linebacker room. The two recap Sheppard’s NFL career and stops that led to him joining the Lions coaching staff in 2021 before discussing Detroit’s busy offseason at the linebacker position, as well as some returning…2022-05-25T23:00:11Z

“Malcolm Rodriguez is one of the smarter young players I’ve ever been around really, that I’ll give to him and I’ll say that openly. It’s because he’s a naturally smart player but on top of that, it’s the work he puts in. This kid came in here in two days and he knew both spots. Wow, that to me stands out. I looked (at) him right now (and) I said ‘you’re gonna get opportunity dude.’ I said ‘when you come in and show me things like that, you’re going to get every opportunity imaginable to you to come make a push to play.'”

When the discussion turned to Houston, Sheppard seemed just as impressed by the player’s ability to go on the field and show he understands what to do.

“A guy like James Houston, James is what I call a football player,” he said. “James is gonna let you know ‘coach, I ain’t gonna sit in this room. I might not be able to draw it and say it’ but you get out there and you put the pads on and you get them out there on that field you’re like ‘holy.’ I’m talking technique execution, not if he finds the football but being in the right spots, understanding route progression.”

As Sheppard explained, the Lions young players impressed enough where they got on the radar of the coach and made the film veteran players watch, which is quite significant.

“Those rookies went out and put on tape for my vets because up until yesterday we had not practiced with vets, so all I had was rookie tape and the fact I was able to use these two guys as examples, not only was it good for the room but it was good as far as building their confidence coming into the NFL,” he said. “To be able to walk in and do what they did, I wanted to give them their respect for that and pat them on the back and let them know ‘guys, y’all belong now. Go compete.’ There’s a little bit of motivation there too and it counts.”

That motivation may just pay off in a job or two for both of these players if the team’s track record of giving its young players a chance holds firm.

Kelvin Sheppard Impressing Himself as Lions Coach

If the Lions wanted a guy to help motivate their young roster in the right ways, Sheppard is it. During Senior Bowl practices this year, he made quite the mark on the field with his instruction as well. Sheppard caught the eye of writers Lance Zierlein and Chase Goodbread, who singled him out in a takeaways piece about the first days of practice at the event.

As was written, standout Florida State defensive end and eventual New York Jets’ pick Jermaine Johnson was working on the field when the Lions asked him to do some extra reps. At first, Johnson didn’t take to the coaching in an early rep, but he changed up his approach and stuck with what the coaches were trying to communicate to his benefit.

In the piece, it was mentioned that Sheppard was catching attention for how he was leading the players on the field, giving them tips in between reps and coaching enthusiastically during drills. Johnson himself even admitted at the time he had taken to Sheppard given he played in the league.

With the players in the mix, Sheppard already likes what he sees. That bodes well for the team in a big way.

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