Hunt Report: Solid Derrick Barnes Earning Bigger Role With Lions

Derrick Barnes

Getty Derrick Barnes sacks the Illinois quarterback.

The Detroit Lions sat multiple starters against the Pittsburgh Steelers, so getting a grasp of what was real and what was fake amid a tough 26-20 loss could be seen as a difficult task.

While the Lions struggled most of the night until the second half, one thing that looks to be real for the team is rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes. While Barnes didn’t see the field early during camp, the team has worked him into the fold in the preseason, and he was all over the place on Saturday night.

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Barnes got on the field and impressed constantly. He nearly made an interception in the red zone, flew around the field with confidence, broke up passes and even collected a quarterback sack. On the night, he would finish with 4 total tackles, 1 sack and 2 passes defended. While doing that, he made a case to Lions coaches why he should start and get much more time for the final week of the preseason.

Detroit hasn’t had a young linebacker they can rely on in some time, but in Barnes, that finally looks to be changing. Thus far, he hasn’t looked out of place at all on the field, but it’s time for the Lions to take the training wheels off further in the final preseason game to see where Barnes is really at.

With his play early on, Barnes has earned an extended look, and could figure as one of the best young players the defense has moving forward.

What else could be taken away from this game from the Detroit perspective? Here’s a look at some lessons.

A.J. Parker Could Make Lions Roster Easily

The undrafred free agent may have locked up a roster spot of his own with a great night of play. Parker was everywhere on the night, with 8 tackles, 2 tackles for-loss and 1 pass defended. The young defensive back has shown some major signs of being in the mix, and has earned a job with consistent play on the field. Dan Campbell has talked about wanting to see players earn roles, and with how consistent Parker has been throughout the offseason and now during the games, it’s more than possible that he has earned a job in the backfield.

David Blough Should Be Detroit’s Backup Quarterback

For the second straight week, Blough outplayed Boyle, who didn’t look like was in-synch with his wideouts most of the night and struggled to the tune of 7-15 passing for only 44 yards. Blough, on the other hand, looked in control and managed to do things both with his arm and his legs. He would finish 12-17 for 143 yards and a touchdown, while also running for a solid 26 yards on the ground to extent many plays. The Lions won’t be likely to call this competition early, but perhaps they should. Blough seems to be the better option for the team in terms of a backup quarterback at this point, and looks more consistent.

Discipline Showed up as Major Problem Again

Under Matt Patricia, the Lions were often one of the most undisciplined teams in the NFL, routinely racking up bad penalties throughout the game. This game was no different, with the team being hit for 9 penalties for 76 yards. Worse yet, several veterans were to blame for the mental mistakes like tight end Darren Fells and defensive lineman Austin Bryant. It’s tough to build chemistry with so many new players in and out of the preseason, so the panic button probably doesn’t need to be pushed down hard, but the Lions have a serious need to clean things up after flags littered the field again.

Jahlani Tavai’s Days With Lions Might Be Numbered

It wasn’t a great night for Tavai, who was given a long look early and didn’t manage to play well. Like he has in the past, Tavai struggled with tackling, game speed and placement on the field and was lost early to the tune of some big plays. Fans hammered him on the internet as the game was playing out, and it wasn’t a good look for Tavai on the field. He could be on the roster bubble at this point in time in a big way, and this performance didn’t help matters at all. It’s becoming clear that Tavai might need a fresh start somewhere else.

Lions Stat to Note: 323

That was the number of receiving yards the Steelers had on the night, which was far too much for the Detroit secondary to cough up. The Lions were beaten with short passes and a few deep balls, and will need to find a way to tighten the screws and fix their coverages. Detroit can’t let the other team pass the ball at will, so this is going to have to be a major focus watching the tape to see where the busts occurred and why.

Lions Quote to Note:

“David played incredible today. He put us in a position to win the game today, and in the quarterback room, we’re proud of him and I’m proud of him.” -Tim Boyle. A classy commentary from Boyle after the game as it relates to the play of David Blough, who seemed to take a step forward in the battle to see who will be Jared Goff’s backup for the 2021 season.

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