By all accounts Lt. Caleb Campbell is struggling to catch up with the speed of the NFL while also trying to learn a new position in his first NFL training camp. Drafted out of West Point as a safety two years ago, Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has moved Campbell to weak side linebacker.
Fellow linebacker Zack Follet, who was on the receiving end last year, said Campbell is getting an earful from Cunningham.
“I definitely would not wish that on anybody,” Follett told Mlive.com. “Caleb Campbell is in the exact same position as I was last year. He’s a guy trying to adapt to the NFL, to learn that position and kind of lost out there running around. I’ve been in his ear, trying to help him learn and understand the process.”
Listed as the third-string weak side linebacker, Campbell got his first taste of NFL live action Saturday in the Lions’ first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Campbell looked lost at times trying to pick up coverages, especially on the Steelers last touchdown, Antonio Brown’s 68-yard catch and run from quarterback Dennis Dixon. He finished with one tackle, albeit for a loss in the backfield.
Cunningham admitted his rookie linebacker is trying to shake off the rust, or rather the “dust,” as the veteran defensive coordinator described it to the Detroit Free Press.
The Lions have openings in their linebacking corps especially after losing Jordan Dizon for the season and DeAndre Levy still nursing a back injury. However, it looks like the Lions will try to sign another linebacker possibly after teams cut their rosters rather than move Campbell up.
Right now, the Army first lieutenant looks more like a player destined for the practice squad, which might be best for both parties. It would give Campbell more time to learn the position and shake off the rust. The Lions obviously see potential or they wouldn’t have put this much time into him thus far.
“”I’m surprised he’s grown as much at the linebacker position as he has,” Cunningham told the Detroit Free Press. “We made a commitment to him, and we’re going to try to keep him around to see if he can eventually get there.”