In Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Detroit Lions allowed the second most points in the NFL (38), the third most yards (455) and were one of seven teams who failed to force a turnover.
And while defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said he was “disappointed” with the defense’s performance, he also wanted to be clear that there were a lot of encouraging things he took from his unit against the Eagles. Chief among those positives was the energy the defense brought to the field—although, at times, that turned out to be a negative, too.
“Highly encouraged, and I say that because when you watch the tape, you see a group of men that came out very excited, probably overly excited, and some of the responsibilities kind of went out the window,” Glenn said.
That excitability led to Lions missing assignments, leaving rushing lanes for quarterback Jalen Hurts, and missing tackles.
“When you go back and you watch the tape, and as far as the run game is concerned, a number of that were these third-down runs where, man, we had Jalen Hurts corralled, and he just made a move, and he made guys miss,” Glenn said.
But with a young roster, some of this Week 1 excitement and pre-game jitters should fade as the season progresses. Glenn is confident the team will play more disciplined ball going forward.
“I think going into the second game will be more calm, and we get back to just doing our responsibility and doing our job,” Glenn said.
The Lions defensive coordinator was also encouraged by some individual performances against the Eagles, most notably with former third overall pick Jeff Okudah. The young cornerback, Glenn said, played confidently and set a good pace for the rest of the year.
“You saw a guy that really challenged. You saw a guy that really improved,” Glenn said. “You saw a guy that is building confidence, and it’s been another week for him to build his confidence. Excited about that player, excited what he did, but man it doesn’t stop here. And you’ve got to continue to keep stacking like games like this.”
Then there was rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez. The sixth-round pick got the start against the Eagles and was credited by coach Dan Campbell for having no missed assignments for his NFL debut. Glenn, too, was encouraged by Rodriguez’s play.
That said, he knows Rodriguez likes to play fast, and a team like this week’s opponent—the Washington Commanders—could use that against him with some misdirection plays.
“They’re going to try and do things now since they know how you play, because you’re a fast reactor,” Glenn said. “They’re going to try things to get your eyes, and that goes with what you were saying with this team. A lot of eye candy. Alright, a lot of eye candy to just run simple plays. Just motion here, turbo motion there, then they run outside zone, so he’s a guy that I can see them trying to attack in that way, but that’s something that we talked about to him about all the time.”
The Commanders also boast a pretty good set of receivers that should challenge a secondary that only allowed 18 receptions last week against the Eagles. With young receivers like Terry McLaurin and rookie Jahan Dotson to go along with tight end Logan Thomas and running back Antonio Gibson, the Commanders have a lot of options that can attack different areas of this defense.
“They do have weapons that we have to get ready to (defend) but that’s every week,” Glenn said. “So our cover guys, when we get a chance to double the guys, we’ve got to win, but when you’re in one-on-one, you have to get a chance to win too, so each week, as far as us as coaches, we’ve got to make sure we have a plan for those guys to be able to go out there and be successful.”