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What Detroit Lions Are Getting in Linebacker Alex Anzalone

Kyle Mosley of the Saints News Network explains how new Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone helps the defense.

Kyle Mosley covers the New Orleans Saints for SI Saints News Network

He answered five questions to help supporters of the Lions get to know new linebacker Alex Anzalone.

1.) What are the Lions getting in Alex Anzalone?

Kyle Mosley: Well, I believe the Lions are getting a good, young man who is starting to understand the game at the linebacker position. He has a tendency to play a step behind. He doesn't trust his instincts, as well. But, he's a hard worker. He's a smart kid. 

But, I think with the Saints, he lacked the speed that was necessary to be able to handle backs coming out of the backfield or the tight ends, as well, or even wide receivers crossing the intermediate areas of the field. So, those are some of the reasons why I think New Orleans did not use him or want to retain him.

2.) So, how was Anzalone primarily used?

Mosley: It was just he and Demario Davis at times, before they traded for Kwon Alexander. Up until that Tampa Bay game in Week 8, he blitzed -- I believe it was probably 30-40 times -- he never was able to get to the quarterback, he wasn't able to affect the quarterback with any hurries or anything to that nature. So, they wanted him to possibly be a better speed guy, but he never really materialized in that area. So, he was a good tackler, you know, at times. But, he was just a complement to Demario Davis.

3.) What are his biggest strengths and weaknesses?

Mosley: He's a smart, young man, but he is not a fast or quick linebacker. He does play hard. He is a tough, young man. He bounced back from injuries in a couple of seasons with the Saints. Very good character.

I just don't think in this league that he can handle any speedy running backs or speedy tight ends. That's the way he's limited right there. Is he a sideline-to-sideline linebacker? No, he's not. Is he good against the run? He's OK against the run. So, he's not an All-Pro, top-tier linebacker. He's more of probably a tier-two type of guy, you know, if you need a good, solid backup. I think that's more of his profile, if you need somebody tough on special teams.

4.) What was his best game in a Saints uniform?

Mosley: That's a tough one. I can only recall a couple of games early on in his career, like as a rookie, before he got injured. He had some pretty good games. So, I can't pinpoint any games where Alex really stood out, and I just will have to go through the records to see which games he really did do well in. 

You know, the Tampa Bay game in Week 8. He did some good things, but he also was limited at times. I just believe, you know, that those injuries early on in his career at Florida, as well as with the Saints, kind of hampered his speed.

5.) So, how much will the Saints' defense be impacted by his departure?

Mosley: Well, anytime you lose a veteran presence, I think the impact will be there. But, remember, he lost the starting job, as soon as Kwon Alexander came from the San Francisco trade. And, in the playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they abused him. Leonard Fournette, coming out of the backfield near the goal line, he scored that touchdown. That was a critical touchdown. And Anzalone was looking in the backfield at Tom Brady, not seeing in his peripheral Fournette coming out on the outside-in route/slant. And I'm like, he's right in front of your face, and how are you going to let this guy just, you know, catch the ball and go into the end zone. 

And those were some of the head-scratching type of plays that you would get from Anzalone from time to time. Looking in the end zone, not being sure of himself, not understanding the football situations, as well. That was another liability. 

On third downs, if you know the tight end that you're covering needs three yards, why are you five yards off the line of scrimmage? You know, so those are just some of the things that I've noticed. 

He's going to be missed on special teams. He'll be missed, of course, in the locker room, because he was a really good kid. You know, you can't say any negative things about his character. It's just, you know, that he just was limited against guys who were stronger or faster. 

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