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Lions Already Talking About Moving Malcolm Rodriguez Up Depth Chart

Dan Campbell discussed the early progress linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez has made at training camp.

The Detroit Lions are in the midst of training camp, and the battle for the starting linebacker positions is in full swing.

Though Alex Anzalone returns as an incumbent starter, Lions head coach Dan Campbell has said that the position is an open competition for who will take the first-team reps when the season begins. This means that 2022 sixth-rounder Malcolm Rodriguez has a chance to crack the starting lineup.

Rodriguez faces steep odds, as players like Anzalone and Derrick Barnes enter with more experience than him. However, the rookie played a snap with the first-team Monday, and was solid with the backups.

“I would say this, he showed up (Monday),” Campbell said. “We’ve been pretty pleased with him, and all of a sudden, we go first day of pads and guess who shows up? Which, he’s one of those guys, which is inevitable.”

The big knock on the Oklahoma State product was his size, as he’s listed at 5-foot-11. However, he was a physical, tackling machine for the Cowboys, during his time in college, and also showcased a nice skill set on special teams.

Over five seasons, Rodriguez made a total of 408 tackles.

“Rodriguez, I tell you what, his key and diagnose, for a young guy, is pretty good,” Campbell added. “As you see the competition in that room, and you just watch, ‘Okay, here he is, let’s just give him a rep.’ And (linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard) has done a good job with that. There’s already conversation, let’s push him up to the next group, and give him some more reps and see where that goes.

“We’re gonna give those guys in that room a fair chance to compete, and let the best two or three come out of there defensively.”

Impression of top picks

Another position battle catching eyes throughout training camp has been that of the cornerbacks. While Amani Oruwariye has locked down one starting position with a breakout season in 2021, there are questions about who will patrol the sideline opposite him.

The two leading competitors at this point are former top pick Jeff Okudah and converted safety Will Harris. The former missed all but the season opener last season with a torn Achilles, while Harris was forced to switch positions and play cornerback late in the year due to the pileup of injuries.

Okudah has been up and down in camp to this point, showing some skill but getting beaten at times over the top. Despite that, he’s appeared fully healthy from the injury, and ready to contribute.

“Okudah, certainly, he’s got a ton of stuff in his body coming back from injury,” Campbell remarked. “I think as he just continues to work through it. Look, here’s the other thing — Yes, Jeff’s going into year three, but he’s kinda year two, because he really didn’t get to play last year. So, he’s still growing. He’s coming back from the injury. He’s moving well, he’s still in a growing process.”

Meanwhile, 2022 top pick Aidan Hutchinson participated in the first padded practice of his career Monday. The defensive end, out of Michigan, had an interesting day, as Penei Sewell walled him up in one-on-one reps and T.J. Hockenson delivered a big block on him.

“The first reaction is, it’s ‘Welcome to the NFL,’” Campbell said. “Something he hasn’t seen, or he’s not even thinking about that. He’s thinking, his rear’s up in the air, and he’s gonna get his best rush against Sewell. Then, it’s like, ‘Woah.’ He’s not the first one that’s happened to, that’s a young guy coming in. He’ll memory bank that, and I’m telling you, it may happen one more time and that’s about it, because he picks up things pretty quick.”

‘Hard Knocks’ Update

The Detroit Lions will be the center of the NFL universe during training camp, as the hit HBO show "Hard Knocks" will chronicle nearly every move made.

The show is known for capturing behind-the-scenes moves made by the team it covers, as well as documenting the stories of players battling to make the roster.

Hard Knocks director and NFL Films senior producer Shannon Furman appeared on the “Stoney and Jansen with Heather Show” on 97.1 The Ticket Tuesday to discuss the show and what it might feature when it premieres Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Furman said she made three separate trips to the city of Detroit before training camp, in order to get acquainted with all things Lions.

The producer said she witnessed a moment during Monday’s practice that made her emotional. She didn’t reveal it to protect it for the viewers, but said it was a moment that will certainly be featured on the show.

“There was one yesterday. I don’t want to give away everything, but post-practice (Monday), at the end, in the huddle, I got emotional in a way I’ve never gotten,” Furman said. “Like, this is my eighth year on location doing this, and you just hear things and you just know that’s gonna be in the show. You just know, you get a feeling, you know what they’re expecting at this point. Just the energy in the meeting room, some of the coaches' speeches to the team. It’s been awesome.”

Additionally, Furman revealed some candidates for breakout characters, naming linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown as potential fan favorites.

“You know Duce (Staley) is gonna be great, Aaron (Glenn) is gonna be great, Kelvin Sheppard has impressed me this week,” Furman said. “I was able to do an interview with him and hear his story and where he’s come from. Even listening to his wires on the field, that’s just someone who’s stood out to me so far.

“Amon-Ra’s been great. We’re excited to tell his story. Whether that will happen in show one or not, I don’t know, because we have a lot of coaches to go through. But, he’s been really good to us so far, and he’s a firey player who we’re excited to tell his story.”