For linebacker Alex Anzalone, it’s a fresh start with familiar faces. After four seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Anzalone is joining the Detroit Lions.
He’s following Dan Campbell and Aaron Glenn, who both held roles on the Saints staff before taking new roles with the Lions.
“For me, I think it’s a fresh start with some familiarity,” Anzalone said. “I think that was what I was kind of leaning toward in free agency.”
Campbell was the tight ends coach and Glenn served as the secondary coach for the duration of Anzalone’s career in New Orleans. Now, Campbell is the head coach and Glenn the defensive coordinator.
“In my experience with (Campbell) it’s been all positive,” Anzalone said.
In addition to being familiar with the Lions new head coach and defensive coordinator, Anzalone was also college teammates with former Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis. The duo played together at Florida and were both selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Upon signing with the Lions, Anzalone reached out to Davis.
“Probably within a week of me signing I hit him up,” Anzalone said. “We talked on the phone and caught up for a bit. I asked if he had a real estate agent and where to live and all those things.”
Fit in Lions' defense
Though Glenn worked with the secondary and Anzalone was a linebacker, the new Lions linebacker had some thoughts on what the defense may look like and where he might fit in the unit.
“I think, number one, he’s a great leader,” Anzalone said of Glenn. “I’ve been with him the past four years, too. Just his leadership style is very contagious.”
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Anzalone projects as someone who could play a lot of snaps among a linebacking corps that has struggled. Jahlani Tavai struggled with a large workload and other options are largely inexperienced.
“Obviously as a competitor, you want to be on the field and playing a bunch,” Anzalone said. “I think (Glenn) is gonna do a good job of getting everyone in the best position to produce.”
Offseason workouts a “tricky situation”
On April 14, the NFLPA released a statement on behalf of the Lions that said they would be the latest team to opt-out of voluntary team workouts.
When asked about his offseason plans, Anzalone sounded like there were still issues that needed to be ironed out.
“Obviously, it’s definitely a tricky situation,” Anzalone said. “It’s not the normal offseason. I think that we’re going through the first several weeks virtual. There’s a ton to sort out that’s above my pay grade that I’m just along for the ride.”
NFL teams were allowed to begin four weeks of virtual meetings beginning April 19. On-field drills are scheduled to begin the week of May 17. Despite this, the NFLPA is strongly urging against participation in in-person workouts.
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