After huge defensive play, Campbell calls Jalen Reeves-Maybin Lions' most improved player

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — When the Detroit Lions made the decision to part with veteran linebacker Jamie Collins, many assumed it was to hand the starting job to rookie Derrick Barnes.

But in the three games since the change, Jalen Reeves-Maybin has seen the bigger part of the timeshare, out-snapping Barnes, 106-77. 

Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin celebrates his fumble recovery, after ripping the ball out of Vikings running back Alexander Mattison’s hands late in the fourth quarter.

The Lions never hid their intention to get Reeves-Maybin in that mix, and the fifth-year veteran has been delivering with his opportunities. That includes coming up with the team's biggest defensive play of the year in Sunday's eventual 19-17 loss when he ripped the ball free from Vikings running back Alexander Mattison inside two minutes, setting the Lions up for a go-ahead touchdown. 

"I don't really know if it was loose; I wanted the ball," Reeves-Maybin said. 

Maybe it's recency bias after that moment, but when Lions coach Dan Campbell was asked which player had improved most since his initial film study from the roster he inherited, Reeves-Maybin was the first name on the list. 

"Reeves-Maybin is one of the first ones that stands out because he played so much special teams and landed at linebacker," Campbell said. "Over the last three weeks, he’s just gotten better and better and he makes plays. He’s productive for us. He’d be one of the first ones that stands out in my head if you’re asking."

In those three games, Reeves-Maybin has tallied 11 tackles, a pass breakup and the forced fumbled, which he also recovered. He's well on his way to having the biggest defensive role of his career, easily besting the 297 snaps he played in 2019. 

"It's definitely great to be out there, but it will be better when we start getting some wins. I'm just trying to do my part," Reeves-Maybin said. "I think it's kinda part of my personality, I just try to focus on where I'm at, at the time, no matter what I'm going, If this is my situation for now, I'm going to attack it and try to make the best of it."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers