ALLEN PARK — While many of the Lions rookies have been drawing well-deserved praise for the recent turn-around, coach Dan Campbell opened his Monday presser with words of appreciation for the veterans.
After Sunday’s 34-23 win over the Vikings, the Lions have now won five of their last six and playoffs remain a possibility. The team has matured after a 1-6 start, with the veterans leading the way for the talented class of rookies.
“Sometimes you lose sight of it, you don’t ever want to take it for granted, but they play at such a high level week in and week out. They’re a huge part of our success,’’ Campbell said.
He specifically named left tackle Taylor Decker, center Frank Ragnow, linebacker Jarrad Davis, fullback Jason Cabinda, linebacker Alex Anzalone, special teams C.J. Moore and defensive lineman Romeo Okwara. He also mentioned defensive lineman Michael Brockers who hasn’t been activated in recent games.
“He’s a huge part, he’s helped develop those young guys in that D-line room. I don’t want that to be lost. Those guys are damned good players for us, they’ve been outstanding in the locker room, they’re great leaders,’’ Campbell said. “They’re workers and they set the tone for everybody and those young bucks fall right in line. We have a number of those guys.’’
Of all the veterans, Decker has the longest tenure in Detroit. A first-round draft pick in 2016, the left tackle has seen the ups and downs from a playoff loss in his rookie season to struggles to get back to the postseason or even just to win more than a handful of games.
“Honestly I know they’re all kind of similar. Decker is one of the guys I think about. He’s the player who has been around here the longest, he saw some early success then some rough times,’’ Campbell said. “Now to be able to have some hope back is the best way to say it. I know he’s having fun, he’s very much invested in this team. He’s all in. That’s one of the guys you want to win for, you want to help him get there. But we appreciate him, man. He’s putting in the work, he’s all in, he’s a true pro.’’
On Sunday the Lions will play at the N.Y. Jets (7-6), a team that has lost three of its last four. The final three games are at the Carolina Panthers (5-8) on Dec. 24, home to Chicago (3-10) on Jan. 1 and at Green Bay (5-8) on Jan. 7/8.