With training camps starting to kick off across the NFL this week, the Detroit Lions find themselves in the midst of a transition. Yet another rebuild is underway in the Motor City and it brings many questions that will need to be answered this summer.
One of the biggest questions being about the team’s defense. After all, this is a unit that was ranked dead last in 2020 in both total yards allowed (6,716) and average points allowed to opposing offenses (32.4). Detroit’s defense ranked in the bottom five against both the pass and the run in the NFL last season.
The team’s overall lackluster performance resulted in the Lions posting yet another losing season in Motown with a disappointing 5-11 record. And that lead to the team moving on from former general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia last November and trading away their longtime franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, this offseason.
On top of hiring new front office personnel like general manager Brad Holmes and a new head coach in Dan Campbell, the Lions also completely revamped their coaching staff. And the most impactful addition could be first-time defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
The former Pro Bowl cornerback has spent the past five seasons as the defensive backs coach of the New Orleans Saints. Under Glenn’s watchful eye, the Saints fielded the fifth-best pass defense in the NFL in 2020, allowing only 217.0 passing yards per game.
If Glenn is going to work that same magic in Detroit, he’ll have to square away the team’s safety position this summer during training camp. While fourth-year safety Tracy Walker seems to be a safe bet to start this upcoming season, who will lineup beside him is still to be determined.
Here’s what Tim Twentyman, a senior writer over at DetroitLions.com, pointed out about the team’s competition at safety to watch this summer …
"“[Dean] Marlowe comes over from Buffalo where he was the third safety behind Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, and is excited about the opportunity here in Detroit to compete for a starting spot. He and [Will] Harris both took first-team reps in OTAs and minicamp opposite [Tracy] Walker, and that should be a pretty good competition come training camp.”"
Twentyman also pointed out that the Lions’ secondary allowed a whopping 73 plays of 20-plus yards to opposing offenses in 2020, which ranked 28th. And Detroit’s defense also allowed quarterbacks they were facing to post a 112.4 passer rating against them.
The Lions signed Dean Marlowe as a free agent this offseason to help replaced exiting veteran safeties Duron Harmon and Jayron Kearse. The undrafted safety out of James Madison in 2015 has played primarily a reserve role in the NFL earning a career-high four starts last season with the Buffalo Bills. Marlow recorded 22 combined tackles, two interceptions, and 1.5 sacks while playing just 22% of the defensive snaps in Buffalo last year.
For the soon-to-be 29-year old, this is his opportunity to win the starting role outright and earn himself another contract in Detroit as he reportedly inked a modest one-year deal for 2021. In a recent starting lineup prediction by Pro Football Focus, Marlowe was chosen as the projected starter opposite Walker at safety when the Lions kick off Week One. The competition at safety will be one to watch closely this summer in Allen Park.