Rodriguez probably won’t have much of a prayer starting on any other team in the league. However, when thinking back to my previous observations of Anzalone, this scenario is a very real possibility.
There is no question what Rodriguez showed on his college game film trumps what Anzalone has shown on the game film I’ve seen of him while in Detroit.
Rodriguez grew on me the more I watched him play at Oklahoma State. At first, I was not that impressed, but as time went on and the film played, what Lions general manager Brad Holmes must have seen in Rodriguez was becoming clear.
For Holmes, it is a constant and endless work in progress to upgrade Detroit’s talent level.
That is done by acquiring new players who can push the starters, and Rodriguez will push Anzalone hard.
Rodriguez is coming off a 129-tackle (76 solo) performance in 2021 for Oklahoma State. He tacked on 16 tackles for loss, three sacks, one interception, four passes defensed, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Those statistics alone scream Rodriguez was a play-making hustler from his middle linebacker spot.
All said, collectively, Rodriguez logged four straight 80-plus tackle seasons for Oklahoma State, which also speaks volumes about his consistency and his production.
This is the football resume Rodriguez, a modern day Matt Millen, is bringing to Detroit, and Anzalone better buckle his chin strap and get ready for the battle of his life in training camp.
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#44 Malcolm Rodriguez - 5-foot-11, 225 pounds
2021 game film reviewed: TCU, Baylor and Texas
Thick, compact-built middle linebacker who gives a good effort, has burst, but struggles taking on and shedding blocks inside. Active and physical. Very willing to fill holes inside, but no real pop or explosiveness in taking on blocks and did a poor job using his hands to shed and disengage. Tends to hit into blocks with his body instead, which can get him turned out of the running lanes too easily.
Fights, battles and gives effort to compensate, which does get him in on stops often enough. Always working towards the ball. A jarring hitter and a wrapping-form tackler. Flashed good range, but range looked average a majority of the time. Average instincts against the run and pass. Late in reacting at times.
In pass coverage, showed the ability to drop into shallow zones and to carry man assignments against backs and tight ends. More of a defender after the catch type. Has blitzing upside from the interior. He did create some pressure, and showed a short-area burst of speed closing in on the quarterback by the sideline. Did also hit the QB a couple times as he threw. A well-rounded prospect.
Obviously, Anzalone has a leg up on the competition, because of his NFL experience and his familiarity of the Lions defensive playbook.
However, the game film doesn’t lie.
Rodriguez shows more drive as a run stopper, and he covers and blitzes significantly better.
It is for these reasons that I am penciling Rodriguez in as the starter at middle linebacker for Detroit this season.