Can Aaron Glenn drag the Lions defense out of the gutter?

Aaron Glenn, Detroit Lions (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Aaron Glenn, Detroit Lions (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions fielded the worst defense in the NFL last season under the watchful eye of former head coach Matt Patricia and first-year defensive coordinator Cory Undlin. The Lions allowed a league-high 419.8 yards and 32.4 points per game to opposing offenses in 2020.

WIth Patricia being replaced with Dan Campbell as head coach and Aaron Glenn replacing Undlin as defensive coordinator this offseason, the hope is this combo can drag the Detroit defense out of the gutter and into the light. And Glenn has some experience doing just that.

For the past five seasons, Glenn served as the defensive backs coach of the New Orleans Saints. Before that, he was the assistant defensive backs coach for the Cleveland Browns for two seasons. And even before that, he was a three-time Pro Bowl NFL cornerback.

But focusing specifically on his time with the Saints and prior to Glenn’s arrival in 2016, the passing defense in New Orleans ranked 31st, allowing an average of 284.0 yards per game through the air. The passing defense in Detroit was similarly terrible last season, ranking 30th in the NFL allowing an average of 284.9 passing yards a contest.

By Glenn’s second season with the Saints, that ranking jumped to 15th after finishing dead last the year before. In 2020, the secondary in New Orleans had its best performance under Glenn, allowing just 217.0 passing yards through the air, giving the Saints the fifth-best passing defense in the NFL.

The Saints were tied for the third-most takeaways in the NFL last season with 26, 18 interceptions and eight fumbles recovered. Forcing turnovers has been a mainstay of the defense in New Orleans through Glenn’s tenure.

In Detroit, Glenn will finally get his first chance to sculped a defense in the way he wants to as defensive coordinator. And as a former NFL cornerback himself, you have to expect he’ll be paying special attention to the secondary in the Motor City.

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Obviously, the prize jewel of this group is cornerback Jeff Okudah, the Detroit Lions’ first-round selection from last year. If Glenn and company can get Okudah to live up to his draft hype, that will go a long way in turning around the defense in Detroit.