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Aaron Glenn drawing inspiration from playing career, 2021 Chiefs’ defensive resurgence

Aaron Glenn has felt the pressure before, and believes he can turn Detroit’s woeful defense around.

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions defense has been one of the worst units in football through four weeks, and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is starting to catch some heat in the media and the public.

But this is far from the first time Glenn has been under fire in his football life. As a former NFL cornerback—one of the most scrutinized positions on the football field—this kind of pressure is just a normal day in the life of football for him.

“There’s so much pressure that I’ve been under, playing the position that I’ve played, that it is what it is,” Glenn said. “It comes with the job, and I guess you can say that I’ve been built and I’ve been hardened to be able to handle things like this.”

Glenn quickly recalled a day from his playing career as a member of the Bill Parcells-coached New York Jets in 1998—against, as fate would have it—the Seattle Seahawks. In that game, Glenn gave up two long touchdowns to Joey Galloway, a 70 and 57 yarder. Glenn and the Jets defense held their opponents below 20 for the next three games.

“At that point, I’ve become a Pro Bowl player to the worst corner that ever played the game,” Glenn said.

So after Sunday’s bludgeoning at the hand of those same Seahawks, Glenn went out to dinner with his wife, vented for a period of time, and then took his wife’s advice.

“She said, ‘Well go be AG. Go be AG. Man, you’re built for this,’” Glenn recalled. “And she’s right. And that’s what I’m excited about. Like this is a great opportunity for me. Great opportunity for my staff, great opportunity for some of these players who are going to get a chance.”

In Thursday’s press conference, Glenn also pointed to the 2021 Kansas City Chiefs as reason to believe a quick turnaround is possible in Detroit. Over the first five games of that season, the Chiefs allowed an averaged of 32.6 points per game (the current Lions are allowing 35.3). The rest of the way, Kansas City’s defense averaged just 16.8 points allowed per game on their way to division title and a trip to the AFC Championship game.

“At some point, those veterans, the leaders of that team put a stakes in the ground said, ‘This is not us,’” Glenn said. “So, Week 6 through 14, they averaged 10 points a game. They were like 45 percent in the red zone, third down they were under 50 percent. So at some point, this thing’s going to change.”

Of course, that Chiefs team had some serious talent, including Frank Clark, Chris Jones, and trading for Melvin Ingram at the deadline certainly helped, too.

But part of the reason they became so successful, too, is shifting around guys on the defensive line. Jones became so much more productive in the second half of the season, because the addition of Ingram allowed him to play more on the inside. (There’s a great article on the Chiefs’ defensive turnaround here.)

Likewise, the Lions are doing some shuffling of their own—like adding Demetrius Taylor to the lineup and moving him to the big end position—which could free up players like Aidan Hutchinson to be more productive as they move him around. It’s not fair to compare Ingram to an undrafted rookie, but the basic idea of changing defensive roles to put players in their most productive spots certainly makes some sense.

Based on the language both Glenn and coach Dan Campbell have used this week, there are more personnel shifts to come. This week, against a Patriots team averaging just 18.5 points per game, is a good place as any to shift the narrative about this defense, but the Lions defensive coordinator knows there is no magic fix overnight.

“I wish I could have a magic wand and this whole deal will be fixed right now, alright, but that’s just not reality,” Glenn said. “So, there’s things that we still have to get right in this defense and we will get it right. “

But that isn’t going to stop Glenn from using his competitive nature from his playing days to fire up the players and keep hope alive.

“We’ve just got to continue to believe,” Glenn said. “I’ll tell you what, that’s a powerful drug is belief.”

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