Dan Campbell called practice with no pads a "pajama party." But with full pads on, he's getting a solid chance to see a real version of the guys he'd like to have start to begin the 2022-23 season.
One thing he is pleased with thus far is the linebackers room. This is something he has raved about since OTAs, but with preseason approaching he said competition among the guys will create some solid options to start.
"I think there’s enough talent that’s in that room and in those players, that the competition is going to pull out the most of that group and whoever comes out of it, the two or three – hell, it could be these two or the starters in base, and these two are the starters in sub-defense or nickel-defense, I mean that could happen," said Campbell. "I think these guys are good enough to play in this League, and so when you have all those guys in a room and you’re asking them to compete, I think what comes out of the ashes here is going to be pretty good, I just do.”
One of the guys in that group that Campbell feels strongly about is LB Alex Anzalone. He had a career-best season last year and Campbell said he is a guy who calms the defense down and really likes where he is at this year. A big spot of improvement for him will be improving on missed tackles from last season, but that's something Campbell says Anzalone is well aware of.
Dan Campbell said Alex Anzalone calms the defense down. He also raves about the linebacker room, saying the competition between them is constantly pushing them to be better.— Jeanna Trotman (@JeannaTrotmanTV) August 3, 2022
Anzalone said every year in the NFL is about competing for a job, but the room took a step toward. pic.twitter.com/Xvh3IUSUxI
"If there’s an area for him to improve in a little bit, that’s where he’s got to improve because once that happens, he can be one of these – I think he can be one of these better linebackers that are in this League," said Campbell. "He’s too good of an athlete and I know this, he calms our defense down because they all know he’s going to know exactly what’s up, he communicates well, all of those things."
Progress from last season continues to be a consistent theme of Dan Campbell's morning press conferences so far in training camp. One name brought up was Lions safety Tracy Walker III. He was re-signed in the offseason, as documented in a cool moment during the Lions internet series called Inside The Den. Campbell embraced Walker at the facility and told Walker that he is one of the core players they'll be leaning on to turn the Lions franchise around.
“He’s been a man on a mission," said Campbell. "I love where he’s at, I love where he’s taken his leadership to. You can tell he’s taken it serious, and it’s not just lip service. He puts the work in. He does take it serious.”
In that offseason meeting, Campbell told Walker that this defense is yours and questioned "what are you going to do with it?" That was an allocation of responsibility that Walker III took seriously and one he took to heart.
"Now that Dan has given me that opportunity, I have taken on that role and still role with it. I've always been a leader since I've been here from my rookie year," said Walker III. "With that being said, that (stuff) comes easy. Excuse, my language, but it comes easy."
After practice, Walker III stayed on the field and played with his son, Tracy Walker IV. He said that the work isn't done after practice and although it may be exhausting, he loves and embraces the role of fatherhood.