Detroit Lions fielded the worst defense in the NFL last season, allowing an average of 32.4 points and 419.8 yard..."/> Detroit Lions fielded the worst defense in the NFL last season, allowing an average of 32.4 points and 419.8 yard..."/> Detroit Lions fielded the worst defense in the NFL last season, allowing an average of 32.4 points and 419.8 yard..."/>

Lions coaching combo key to secondary turnaround?

Los Angeles Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Los Angeles Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /
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The Detroit Lions fielded the worst defense in the NFL last season, allowing an average of 32.4 points and 419.8 yards per game to opposing offenses. The Lions’ pass defense ranked 30th (284.9) and, against the run, they were a lowly 28th (134.9).

The poor performance of their secondary cut even deeper as the Lions had invested the third overall selection in the NFL draft into their defensive backfield months earlier. Detroit acquired Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft hoping he was a generational talent and an instant starter.

Unfortunately, a worldwide pandemic forced normal in-person training activities to go virtual and resulted in the cancellation of all preseason contests. Combined with multiple injuries, Okudah would only play a total of nine games as a rookie, starting in six. He’d record 47 total tackles, two pass deflections, and one interception in 2020.

Entering year two, the hope is Okudah’s able to take a giant leap in his development with a full offseason training program under his belt. But the biggest boost could actually come from the Motor City’s new coaching staff.

Here’s what general manager Brad Holmes told DetroitLions.com about the new coaching combo of first-time defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant in Motown.

"” … when you have Aaron Glenn, and then you pair that up with (defensive backs coach) Aubrey Pleasant, that’s different because Aaron Glenn and what he’s done speaks for itself. Then I know firsthand, I’ve worked with Aubrey Pleasant, and I can’t remember a defensive back he had his hands on that he didn’t get the most out of.”"

A former three-time Pro Bowl NFL cornerback himself, Glenn has spent the past six years drastically improving the New Orleans Saints‘ secondary. Last season, with Glenn acting as the defensive backs coach in New Orleans, the Saints’ pass defense ranked fifth in the NFL allowing just 217.0 yards a contest through the air. Their scoring defense was also tied for the fifth-best in the league (21.1).

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As for Pleasant, he’s spent the past four years as the cornerbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams. Last season, the Rams featured the top passing defense in the NFL, allowing just 190.7 passing yards by opposing offenses. Their scoring defense, which only allowed 18.5 points per game, was also tops in the league in 2020.