Not a lot worked well for the Detroit Lions defense in 2021, and head coach Dan Campbell has revealed some changes for next season.
As might be expected during a three-win campaign, not much went well for the Detroit Lions defense in 2021. Some players emerged (Charles Harris, Amani Oruwariye, Tracy Walker), and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and defensive back coach Aubrey Pleasant got looks for other jobs. But there’s plenty of improvement to be done this offseason.
The Lions shifted to a 3-4 base alignment under a new coaching staff last season. Tuesday from the NFL Combine, head coach Dan Campbell unveiled some defensive changes.
Starting on the coaching level, Kelvin Sheppard will shift to inside linebackers coach, replacing the departed Mark DeLeone. Defensive line coach Todd Wash will handle more outside linebacker coaching duties, with director of football research David Corrao helping out there as well.
Campbell also announced a tweak to the defensive scheme.
Will the Detroit Lions really be shifting defensive scheme that much?
A wholesale scheme change doesn’t seem be in the offing for the Lions. NFL teams are rarely in a base, traditional seven-man fronts anyway these days, in favor of nickel and dime packages with extra defensive backs on the field. But as Justin Rogers of The Detroit News noted, it does change strict evaluation of defensive ends and outside linebackers for free agency and the draft, due to different alignments and skill set requirements in three or four down lineman alignments. For whatever it’s worth, Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux, two edge rushers tabbed to the Lions with the No. 2 overall pick in many mock drafts, are labeled as defensive ends more befitting of four-man alignments.
Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara transitioned from “hand-on-the-ground” defensive ends to standup outside linebackers in the new scheme last season. Flowers in particular seemed like a poor fit when he was healthy, which helps point to him being cut this offseason, and Okwara played in just four games before suffering a torn Achilles.
Being more variable and unpredictable can only help the Lions’ defense moving forward. Now it’s about finding more players.