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Defensive reps give Lions' Miles Killebrew chance to grow into linebacker role

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — With most of the Lions starters not playing in the preseason opener against the New England Patriots on Thursday night, Miles Killebrew got a bigger opportunity in his move from safety to linebacker.

Killebrew held his own, with six total tackles, including five solo, but the Lions struggled to get stops on defense and to control the ball on offense in the 31-3 loss at Ford Field.

Killebrew didn’t play a defensive snap last season, his fourth with the Lions, as he was a special teams maven. He’s looking to take that energy to the defense with more playing time there.

The film from Thursday’s loss won’t have many highlights, but simply having some plays to review and glean from is a step for Killebrew.

“We lost, so obviously there’s a lot of work to be done. There’s nothing that beats game reps,” Killebrew said. “Personally, I was glad I was able to go out and compete. The Patriots were the better team and they beat us.

“We have to go watch the film and see what we can take away from it. As a team, collectively, we just made too many mistakes today. the Patriots are a good team and they capitalized.”

New England Patriots receiver Jakobi Meyers, defended by Detroit Lions defensive back Miles Killebrew (35), catches a touchdown pass during the first half.

Depth is an issue for the Lions and the Patriots looked sharper on offense but in the opening week, there are going to be some areas to improve. The adage is that teams improve most from the first week to the second.

Killebrew is looking for that kind of step forward as an area of growth, in preparation for the Houston Texans in the second game. 

“I like to run and I like to tackle. That plays to my strengths, to be able to run in space. Just going back to the team dynamic, there’s a lot we have to work on and break down the film and see what we can improve for next week,” he said. “In Week 1, we know there were going to be a lot of things we needed to work on.

“Now we can see what those things are, attack it as a team and get better next week.”

Killebrew, a fourth-round pick in 2016, has struggled to make a big impact. He had three starts in 2017 and totaled 31 tackles and an interception but the consistency in playing time has been slow to come, especially in transition in Coach Matt Patricia’s defense with the move from strong safety to linebacker.

As frustrating as last year was for him in not getting the reps on defense, he’s looking at the here and now instead of factoring in other things that he can’t control. The Lions had similar concerns in the early going in the transition to Patricia’s scheme, but that angst isn’t carrying over to this year.

“We’re not looking at last year or worried about next year,” Killebrew said. “We’re focusing on right now and we’re going down to Houston — that’s what’s next.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard