Alex Anzalone became the last Detroit Lion to be bitten by the injury virus.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell announced Monday that his starting linebacker would miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Anzalone started early in Detroit’s 30-12 win over Arizona on Sunday.
“It’s a tough business,” Campbell said. “I don’t feel like we think it’s a serious injury, but it’s going to knock him out for the year. So he had the shoulder, but we don’t think that’s a long-term problem. It’s just with three games to go, we know that will likely knock him out for this season.
Anzalone ends his first year as a Lion with 14 games played, it all begins. During that span, he made 49 total tackles, one loss tackle and one interception. The long-haired Pennsylvania native brought veteran leadership to a linebacker hall that remains very young.
“He was a rock solid man,” Campbell said. “He’s been one of those guys, man, he’s been rock steady. He’s really our quarterback in defense and it’s going to hurt.
Without his starter in that position, Campbell will look to Jalen Reeves-Maybin to take over defensive responsibilities on play calls. He too was injured but was forced to play 72 games after Anzalone’s exit.
“Now (Jalen) Reeves-Maybin has to step in and take the green dot,” Campbell said. “Which isn’t something he normally does and our plan was, with him and Alex, knowing that they were both coming back from injuries, just giving them stuff to get them back in the flow and no, us. didn’t want that to be the bossy case and yet Reeves-Maybin has to play 72 man pieces. And he’s the green dot, and he played it all. It wasn’t perfect but I tell you what, the guy did a ton of games for us.
The Lions scored 30 points on offense for the first time since Week 1. Quarterback Jared Goff led the charge, completing 21 of 26 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns. He connected to score goals with rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds and Jason Cabinda.
Heading into the last three games, Campbell said his team had plenty of room to grow on the attacking side.
“They’re starting to mesh,” Campbell said. “Between the quarterback and them, the addition of (Craig) Reynolds, I spoke about Ben Johnson to bring clarity. Look, I think (receiver trainer Antwaan Randle-El) does a great job with these receivers. There were just so many little details about what we were doing that just needed to be fine-tuned. I think it’s fair, the confidence is starting to grow between all these guys in the passing game.
Campbell took over the call-of-play duties from offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn ahead of the team’s Week 11 game in Pittsburgh. Since then, he has evolved and shown a certain creativity in attack.
Against Denver in Week 14, it was a false reverse action that cleared wide receiver Kalif Raymond for a touchdown. On Sunday, the Lions played a game featuring St. Brown simulating a running block, then passing his defenseman en route to a 37-yard touchdown.
“It’s a game that we actually played this week,” said St. Brown. “Basically like a little stealth exit, I block on one end, removing the defense from me and it works perfectly against the area as they took the upper road from the left side, and I squeezed out the side and Jared threw a big ball.
Moving forward, the rookie wide receiver said he liked the idea of offensive creativity. St. Brown, in particular, played out of the backfield and even got a carry over in the win over the Cardinals.
“When they put me in the backfield, they like to pair me with a linebacker,” said St. Brown. “They feel like I can win this face-to-face. They gave me a little draw because we were doing 100 percent passing when I was in the backfield, so they gave me a little draw to beat the defense. But it’s okay, I like to do everything.
Campbell noted that cornerback Amani Oruwariye’s interception in the third quarter was the biggest game of Sunday’s win.
“It just took away any opportunity for them to regain momentum,” said Campbell. “Or go for it at all. It was huge.
Running back D’Andre Swift could return to training this week after missing the last three games with a sprained shoulder.
“I still think we take this week to week, day to day,” Campbell said. “There again, I know that since (Monday) morning, he feels better than last week. He feels better than he was on Saturday when we worked with him. Our plan is to get him back to training this week and see how he feels.