Back in February, when the Detroit Lions were still filling out their coaching staff, newly-hired defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn promised that he would not necessarily stick with one scheme. Instead, he said he needed more time to assess the players on the roster—along with the ones they would add in the offseason—before planning exactly what they’d do.
“The No. 1 thing we’re going to do that we’re going to do as a staff, we’re going to make sure that it’s not scheme then players,” Glenn said during his introductory press conference. “It’s players and making sure we fit them to a scheme. And that’s our No. 1 goal, that you put the players in position to be successful.”
Glenn has now had time to evaluate his own players on film and on the field, and likely had a hand in some of the team’s offseason acquisitions. As he continues to develop the scheme, it appears he likes what he has in his arsenal. Specifically, the defensive coordinator pointed to the versatility of his players, and how that will allow him to throw multiple schemes at opposing defenses.
Of course, this is something we often heard from the previous regime. Former Lions head coach Matt Patricia seemingly spoke every week about his desire to make Detroit’s defensive front “multiple,” and so he acquired players with varied skillsets. In fact, Glenn actually gave credit to the previous regime for the players they acquired.
“And I give credit to the coaching staff that was here before, because, man, we’ve got some versatile players,” Glenn said. “And I’m excited for the different schemes we’ll be able to create with the guys that we have. We have size, we have speed, we have length. So you can use that in a number of different directions.
Interestingly, Glenn pointed to two specific players whose versatility will give him options while creating substitution packages and schemes: linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. and rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu.
“We could be in nickel, and you think about Jamie Collins. Then I could end up creating a five-down package with him being on the edge,” Glenn said.
Later, he mentioned that Collins’ size could also be used as a nose tackle in sub packages.
“I have a number of ideas I want to do with him. Could put him as a stack back, could put him on the edge. Maybe put him at the zero technique and let him beat some of these centers that are slow-footed.”
As for Melifonwu, it is unlikely he will be in a starting role this year behind the likes of Jeff Okudah, Quinton Dunbar and Amani Oruwariye. Working the third-round selection into specific packages gives Glenn a way to put the rookie on the field this year.
“We’re big in the back end with Iffy,” Glenn said. “There’s a number of things we can do with that player, also.”
What exactly that plan will be is not known yet, but right after they drafted him, general manager Brad Holmes praised that same versatility and mapped out some potential roles for him.
“Personally, I do think that he has versatility to do everything,” Holmes said. “I think he has versatility to play outside, to play back deep and even to play inside in the matchup on big guys.”
Whether we’ll actually see the versatility that this coaching staff is preaching on Sundays is still to be determined, but it is refreshing to see this regime be a little more specific with their plans than the previous coaches.