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Lions LB Alex Anzalone Earns Statistical Comparison to Team Legend

The Detroit Lions have had a need at linebacker through the years, but in 2022, it seems they found a few potential fixes for the future.

Not only did rookie Malcolm Rodriguez rise from sixth round pick obscurity to become a top NFL rookie, but veteran Alex Anzalone seemed to come into his own within the defense as well.

Anzalone was ripped at times for his play in 2021, but coming back on a one-year deal, the linebacker more than earned his keep in 2022. In fact, Anzalone made a mark that was set by stud Chris Spielman back in 1995.

As the team’s PR account pointed out, Anzalone managed to be active not only with regards to tackles, but interceptions, sacks, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries to make the history.

In 2022, @Lions LB @AlexAnzalone34 logged the most tackles (125) by a Lions player since 2016. His 21 total pressures generated ranked 4th among all @NFL LBs.

He is the first Lion with 125 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF & 1 FR in a season since Chris Spielman (1995).#OnePride pic.twitter.com/PUrdFFKwRo

— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 19, 2023

“In 2022, Lions LB Alex Anzalone logged the most tackles (125) by a Lions player since 2016. His 21 total pressures generated ranked 4th among all NFL LB’s. He is the first Lion with 125 tackles, 1.0 sack, 1 INT, 1 FF & 1 FR in a season since Chris Spielman (1995),” the site tweeted.

Given he retired with 1,363 tackles, six interceptions, 13 forced fumbles and 19 fumble recoveries, Spielman’s impact was never doubted by fans. He left the Lions after 1995, and was out of the NFL following the 1997 season in Buffalo. In 2021, Spielman was inducted to the team’s Pride of the Lions group, which is essentially Detroit’s ring of honor.

Seeing Anzalone’s name linked with Spielman will likely open some eyes, and is significant as the team ponders what to do with the free agent this offseason.

Anzalone Enjoyed Solid 2022 Season for Lions

If it seems as if Anzalone has come on strong this year, that is clearly the case in plenty of ways. He is flying to the ball and making plenty of clutch moves on the field for his team.

Statistically, Anzalone managed to have a career year in Detroit. This past season, he put up 125 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one interception. Prior to that, his high water mark in tackles was 78 in 2021.

In terms of his own play, it can be said that Anzalone has led the way for the Lions in a ton of senses. Arguably his best play this season was the interception he made on first-and-goal early in the third quarter on Thanksgiving Day against Buffalo.

Anzalone took a tipped pass and snuffed out a promising Bills drive to net his own offense some major momentum. It was another case of the veteran understanding the defense and being sound in the moment to make an impact play.

The rook tipped it, the vet picked it!#BUFvsDET | 📺 CBS pic.twitter.com/E4w9bLcf3O

— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 24, 2022

Seeing that Anzalone compares with a legend like Spielman should not be a surprise to fans, as his play mattered a great deal to the Lions in a lot of different ways this season.

Anzalone Made Case for 2023 Return

As part of what he was able to do, Anzalone made an easy case to the Lions to return once again. More than the quality statistics, Anzalone has shown that he is a good veteran leader for the team.

Anzalone is one of a handful of free agents the Lions will need to make a big decision on this offseason. While linebacker is another major defensive need for the team, Anzalone proved he could raise his own play while mentoring others such as second-year man Derrick Barnes as well as Rodriguez.

As Anzalone would prove after the season with a Twitter post, he is a thoughtful leader always capable of being a fantastic face for the franchise.

Year 6— Best year yet. Not because of the results but because of the journey. Beyond thankful for all of the blessings and lessons this year. Thank you God! @ Detroit, Michigan https://t.co/xgCbp5eUnT

— Alex Anzalone (@AlexAnzalone34) January 10, 2023

“Year 6— Best year yet. Not because of the results but because of the journey. Beyond thankful for all of the blessings and lessons this year. Thank you God!,” Anzalone tweeted shortly after the season ended.

Whether Anzalone is high on the list to return or not remains to be seen, but his name will always be linked with Spielman in terms of linebacker history in Detroit. No matter what happens, that’s significant in a big way.

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