Barnes, a fourth-round draft pick of the Lions in 2021 (No. 113 overall), played in each game of his rookie season, starting in six contests. The Purdue product logged 67 total tackles, including four tackles for loss, two sacks and two passes defensed.
He's hoping to become a more productive member of Detroit's defensive unit in year No. 2, and key to that for Barnes will be making strides in a myriad of areas.
"Just technique and eyes and just knowing different coverages and route concepts, knowing where I need to have my eyes during each and every play," Barnes told reporters during OTAs, describing what he needs to improve upon heading into his sophomore campaign in the NFL. "Communication is key. You know, last year, I was a little quiet. But, the main focus is just being vocal, being a leader, kind of taking that next step into being a vocal leader. Kind of taking that next step into not being so quiet and having confidence. That's the main key for me this year, is just having confidence and calling the defense."
Barnes is expected to suit up as primarily an off-ball linebacker in Aaron Glenn's defense this upcoming season.
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Lions inside linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard, who previously served as the team's outside linebackers coach, will be tasked with getting Barnes to take the next step in his pro career, and is excited for the opportunity.
"He’s completely bought in -- a lot of people around the building say they see a new guy. You know, I see the guy that I always thought was there,” Sheppard said regarding Barnes last month. “And, it starts with the coach believing in a player to be able to pull out the most in a player, and if you go into that with high optimism and high thoughts and praise on the player, the player feels that, and in turn, without knowing it -- it’s kind of a mind game, at the same time, with the coach-player dynamic.
“And, that guy, man, the sky’s the limit for him. But, he knows as well, he hasn’t had a lot of off-ball experience. So, that’s just for me, getting a molded clay, and I could make it into whatever I wanted. But, at the same time, he has to go do it. I told him, I can’t talk to you through the headset all play to tell you what to do. But, when Derrick knows what to do, you’ll see it this fall. That player there, there’s not many in the league with that stature, with his power, with the way he can run and hit and can do what he can do, once he knows exactly what to do.”
As for what to expect from Barnes in 2022, I'm going to project that he records 71 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three passes defensed and two sacks.