(DETROIT) - Nine games into the season and it is clear, Boss Bailey is Detroit's best linebacker. The rookie second round draft pick has clearly become a player that has to be accounted for on the field and he showed that by wreaking havoc on the Chicago Bears offense yesterday.
Bailey ended the day with 7 tackles, 2 passes defended and half a sack of Bears quarterback Chris Chandler. Lions President and CEO Matt Millen admitted he was happy with the way Bailey has progressed in just half a season.
Boss is playing better and better every week. Hes playing more physical. Hes beat up and hes still making a lot of plays. Im happy with him."
Bailey is still dealing with the effects of a sore shoulder that he says is not dislocated "it's just sore." Coach Steve Mariucci felt Bailey's ability to be productive while hurting was a big plus.
He was holding his shoulder too; he was sucking it up and playing. Hes just getting better and better Hes learning how to suck it up and play. A lot of guys are playing with some injuries and they know that not only do they have to play on game day, but they have to practice too. Thats part of becoming a professional, learning when you shouldnt practice because you might hurt yourself further or just sucking it up and getting work done with some pain. Right now hes playing with a sore shoulder, but hes becoming one of our real bright spots for the future and for this year.
Bailey says his production against Chicago was a case of understanding what the coaches want out of him in this defensive scheme. I think Im getting there. I still have a lot of work to do but Im understanding the defense better. I think this was one of my better games. I definitely have to go back and evaluate it but it definitely feels good right now.
One area Bailey really seems to have improved in from the beginning of the season is pass coverage. He blanketed Bears tight ends all day long, forcing Bears' quarterback Chris Chandler to go away from him in coverage.
Im really trying to study week in and week out what kind of routes guys are trying to run on me -- just to try and have an edge. I still have a lot of technique to work on and get better, to be the best to be able to go out there and compete with those guys and I think I did pretty good today.
Speculation is that if Detroit doesn't re-sign Barrett Green, who is an unrestricted free agent at season's end, they will move Bailey to that position in an effort to get more production. Green has never totaled the 100 tackles benchmark for a good weak side linebacker since being converted from his collegiate position of strong safety, but is on track for a projected 92 tackle season which would be his best as a pro.
Since Green is only 26 it would make sense to keep the trio of Holmes, Green and Bailey together and see if they continue to progress. But it is clear, there's a new sheriff in Detroit ... oops, make that a new "Boss."
EXTRA POINTS: Bailey is one of a group of excellent rookie linebackers joining the NFC North division. While Bailey is the starter for Detroit at the strong side position, which traditionally see's less action than the weak side and middle position, he still has a very respectable 46 tackles.
Nick Barnett, a first round pick from Oregon State is having a sensational year for Green Bay. Barnett ranks second in the conference with 67 tackles for the departed Nate Wayne and has two sacks and two interceptions.
Minnesota, on the other hand is getting very little from 2nd round draft pick E. J. Henderson of Maryland. Henderson has just five tackles to date. Henderson has been unable to get on the field until Sunday's loss to San Diego where he replaced starter Greg Biekert on some passing downs.