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The Detroit Lions defense is upping its trash-talking game in 2023

The Detroit Lions defense is already promising to play with some swagger, and that means opposing offenses are going to get an earful.

Cincinnati Bengals v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Trash talking in the NFL has become commonplace, and for good reason. While it may be off-putting to some fans, it has real benefits on the field. Getting under your opponents’ skin is an art and can throw them off their game or draw a costly penalty. Of course, there has to be discipline on the trash talkers’ part to make sure their own actions don’t draw a taunting penalty of their own.

But more than anything, trash talking conveys confidence, and it seems like the Detroit Lions defense is going to be beaming with confidence in 2023.

The addition of defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson may be the catalyst to this borderline-cocky unit. During a live stream last week, Gardner-Johnson said he has already brought some of his trash talking to practice.

“People heard me today, and I’ma tell you why,” Gardner-Johnson said. “It’s more so bringing in intensity. What you’re going to see in the game is what you’re going to see 24/7 at practice. I practice how I play. So if I can’t go out there and do my stuff and be me and get under guys’ skin, I don’t think I’d be at my best.”

Lions safety Tracy Walker is no stranger to trash talk himself. But even he recognized that Gardner-Johnson’s addition could bring Detroit’s secondary to a whole new level of swagger.

“Definitely a character. I love it. Me and him have a lot of similarities,” Walker said last week. “We love talking our trash. So it’s gonna be a lot of trash talking this year. Stay tuned for that. Honestly, he’s just energy. He’s a very energetic guy. And like I say, we got a lot of guys right now who’s gonna bring a lot of energy and gonna make a lot of plays.”

That energy isn’t just limited to the Lions secondary, either. Defensive tackle Alim McNeill noted that all of that swagger and confidence from the veterans in the defensive backfield is trickling down to the defensive line, too.

“Their attitude on the field has changed us so much as a defense,” McNeill said on the Twentyman in the Huddle podcast. “Because I’m listening to C.J. and Cam (Sutton) and them back there—high energy and just talking trash or whatever it is—and it just gets me going. So not even football wise they’re getting me going, but it’s going to be crazy this season, especially with those guys locking people up like that.”

Obviously, the Lions defense needs to go out there and earn the right to talk trash. They may have made a lot of promising additions this offseason, but this is a defense that finished dead last in yards allowed and 28th in points allowed in 2022.

That said, the Lions defense certainly played better in the second half of the season. They allowed just 20.2 points per game in the final 10 games (11th), after allowing a league-high 32.1 points per game in the first eight weeks. The expectation from the coaching staff is to pick up right where they left off—and improve from there.

“With the additions that we have, we better be (as good as we finished),” defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “I mean listen, I give a lot of credit to what our guys did the last 10 games of playing, and obviously every year you’re looking to upgrade your team, you upgrade your talent. And we did that this offseason. Man, I’m looking for us to be aggressive, be smart, be tough, play football like it should be played. This is going to be fun. It’s going to be fun.”

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