As they do every normally scheduled week, the three Detroit Lions coordinators met with the media on Thursday morning. Rather than pepper our front page with a lot of little stories from those three press conferences, I’ve gathered the main takeaways from each session.
Here are the most notable storylines from offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp.
1. Don’t assume Levi Onwuzurike is going to play this week
With Alim McNeill out, there’s an opportunity for many Lions defensive tackles to step up and reclaim a job—or, as Dan Campbell put it earlier in the week, “prove their worth here.”
But when I asked Glenn specifically about Onwuzurike getting an opportunity this week, it didn’t exactly sound like Detroit was planning on putting him out there this week.
“Anytime he gets game reps, it’s always good for him. The thing is I mean we can’t play everybody. There’s only so many people we can bring on defense and if we could bring them all, I would, but we can’t.”
Glenn is making an overall point about the entire room, but for his mind to go there specifically with Onwuzurike seems like a bad omen for him.
2. Brodric Martin is improving his hand technique
The Lions knew Martin was going to be a long-term project when they drafted him at the end of the third round this year. So it’s no surprise the rookie has only made one game appearance on defense this year.
That said, Glenn gave us some insight into what Martin has been working on and some of the progress he’s made.
“Just coming from where he did in college and understand exactly how he has to play in this league. The one thing I think that he had an issue with early is just being able to use his hands and understand how to use his hands. And man, I tell him in practice, he’s doing a really good job of that. I mean before practice, after practice, those are the things that Brodric is doing a really good job of to get himself on the field. And then other than that, man, I’m a big believer in D-linemen being able to have lateral agility and he’s working his butt off trying to work on those things too.”
3. Aidan Hutchinson is learning from T.J. Watt
Hutchinson is having a decent year, even if the sack numbers aren’t rolling in. One thing he’s had to deal with is a ton of extra attention via double teams and chips. Glenn said the second-year defender has watched tape of Steelers edge defender T.J. Watt to help learn how to deal with the extra blockers.
“He had a chance to look at T.J. Watt who’s an explosive player, and man, he’s always using his hands. And I think if you see the game against New Orleans man, he did a really good job of using his hands and guys man, hell he had three guys on him at one point and he still had a chance to get a hand on the quarterback. So, he’s still developing in that regard.”
4. The Lions defense is benefitting from veteran presence
The Lions defense is one of the youngest in the league, but they’ve recently added a couple of 36-year-old players to bring some stability: Bruce Irvin and Tyson Alualu. Glenn pointed out how both have helped bring a veteran mindset to the room.
“Both of those guys can give just insight on what it takes to play at a high level. I mean I’ve known Tyson for a while as far as who he was as a player, that (a) pick’s (that) come from Cal. So, he has some belts on the wall and he can help our young guys as far as things that they need to do to create to be at that level. Same thing with Bruce. Bruce talked to some of the guys this week about playing at a championship level, so man, it’s good to just hear those guys’ voices.”
5. The weather is trending towards better and that makes Ben Johnson happy
Earlier in the week, it looked like Soldier Field could be a sloppy mess on Sunday. However, recent forecasts suggest that while it will still be cold (30s), we may avoid precipitation. That appears to be to the Lions’ benefit because while they love to run the ball, they also have aerial weapons.
“I think the weather’s trending our direction a little bit, but I’m with you. The way we are built on offense is we can be productive any number of ways. And so, we’ll do whatever we need to do to put ourselves in a position to win this ball game.”
6. Colby Sorsdal is improving
Sorsdal appears to be heading for another start at right guard with Frank Ragnow trending towards missing Sunday’s game. While he has had his struggles this year, Johnson appears comfortable with where Sorsdal is at—in particular compared to next year.
“It’s really night and day. I think the first game he was in was maybe Atlanta, that he had to get thrown in there, if I remember correctly. And he really got thrown in at right tackle and it wasn’t his prettiest tape and I think he would admit as much, but to see where he’s grown from those early reps and playing interior both right side and left side. He continues to get better each week.”
7. Dave Fipp could dunk and used to be a pole vaulter
Something mildly wacky happens during every Dave Fipp presser. As he leaped to the podium on Thursday, someone remarked on his ups, and it led to a conversation about how he used to be able to dunk.
“Yeah, I could dunk. Oh yeah. All those stereotypes don’t exist. That was the one thing, I was a pole vaulter, I had a good vertical jump. It was like the one thing I could do.”