Lions’ defense faces personnel, scheme changes; Aaron Glenn safe

ALLEN PARK — After a disastrous defensive showing in the loss to the Seahawks, coach Dan Campbell said he will make changes in personnel and scheme. 

Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s job is safe.

“I’m not afraid to make a hard decision, if I really believed that was the cause of it and I don’t believe it is. I believe Aaron Glenn is the man for the job and he gives us our best hope, our best option to run this defense,’’ Campbell said at his Monday presser.

At the end of last season, Campbell made the tough decision to fire offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.

The Lions defense gave up 555 yards in the 48-45 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday. It wasn’t just a bad day. The defense was ranked the worst in the NFL after the first three games. It’s an ongoing situation that was magnified on Sunday because the injury-depleted offense rose to the occasion.

Campbell wouldn’t offer specifics on the changes, saying he was still in conversations with Glenn.

“I think you’re looking at the totality of it, our FBI (football intelligence). We’ve got to get some players we feel like we can rely on, we can trust to get out there. Because once they’re trustworthy then their teammates will trust them,’’ Campbell said. “When you really watch it, the thing and I told these guys this, the thing that shows up over and over is a snowball effect.

“We have a guy who doesn’t do the right thing and the guy who knows what to do is trying to overcompensate for it and that’s costing him a step behind his job and then this guy is trying to cover for him and the next play they don’t trust that the teammate is going to be there and we’re in this vicious cycle right now,’’ Campbell added. “We have to pull things way, way back and get our confidence back and gain some trust among teammates. That comes with scheme, that comes with personnel, we’re going to work through it.’’

The problem is not just with the players or the coaches, they all share in the woes. Campbell admits his fingerprints are on the failures too.

The defense is playing without starting safety Tracy Walker who is out for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon. No excuse, though. The offense was playing Sunday without its top two playmakers in D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Campbell did not talk name names, but was asked about rookie Aidan Hutchinson, the second overall pick, who had three sacks in the first half in the win against the Washington Commanders. He hasn’t had one since. 

“I think he’s come a long way, I think every week he’s getting a little bit better. He’s one of the players we need to look long and hard about. Do we need to move him in different spots to give him the opportunity to have more success?’’ Campbell said. “He did a lot of good things in the running game yesterday. I think he’s where our defense is right now — we’ve just got to improve and get a little better. I think we can all help each other. I’m certainly not disappointed in him.’’

One key is to not allow finger pointing which can tear apart a team.

Wide receiver Josh Reynolds was in this situation the first few years he was with the Los Angeles Rams and the offense was putting up points while the defense struggled.

“As the year goes on — we’ve got a long season — as the year goes on the defense starts finding their groove and figuring out how to play together,’’ Reynolds said. “That’s big for the defense you’ve got to trust the guy next to you.we’ve got to give them some time, let them figure it out, especially losing Tracy. They’ll figure it out and we’ll be clicking.’’

(Next up: Lions at New England Patriots, 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 9.)

Dan Campbell regrets decision late in game as Lions lose to Vikings

Dan Campbell’s aggressiveness seems like a breath of fresh air after watching the Lions’ mostly conservative play calling for so long.

The coach and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson called a solid game on Sunday, but a few questionable calls cost them the win. The Lions couldn’t finish and much of the blame falls on the shoulders of the coaches.

Campbell went for it on fourth down six times in the 28-24 loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The Lions converted four of those but it was one miss that stands out.

With 1:14 left – and holding onto a 24-21 lead – the Lions’ call on fourth-and-4 from the Vikings’ 38 was for a 54-yard field goal which would have been a career high for Austin Seibert. It sailed wide right. 

For me, I regret my decision there at the end,’’ Campbell said. “I should have gone for it on fourth down. Told the team that.’’

The Vikings (2-1) then needed just three plays to cover 56 yards and score a touchdown to take the 28-24 lead, their first lead of the game with less than a minute on the clock. 

The Lions (1-2) were up by 10 with 8 minutes left in a tough road game, but couldn’t hold on. Campbell told his players not to get frazzled by the loss.

“I told them it should sting, it shouldn’t taste good because we had it. I just told them we’ve got to learn from it, we’ve got to learn from the plays that bit us in the (butt),’’ the coach said. “As you know, you guys have a job to do, there’ll be a lot of criticism placed on a number of guys myself and including the players, which is natural. They all know it. You can’t go on the downs and ups. Just stay true to what it is and learn from our mistakes.’’

Another questionable call came early in the fourth quarter, the Lions had a third-and-1 at their own 27. Instead of handing the ball off to Jamaal Williams or D’Andre Swift (who was playing hurt), Jared Goff’s pass to Josh Reynolds was incomplete. That forced a punt and on that next series the Vikings’ running back Alexander Mattison scored a touchdown on a 6-yard scamper that closed the gap to a 24-21 lead for Detroit.

The Lions struggled on third downs — going 3 of 16 — which led to so many fourth-down attempts.

Even after the loss, Campbell said this result won’t affect his aggressiveness in general

“I’ll always evaluate, I go back and watch (film) and really think about was this the right thing to do, was it not the right thing to do. I do know if you’re going to go in and feel you need to be aggressive early in the game, you can’t second guess when it doesn’t work out for you early in the game,’’ Campbell told the media. “It’s not going to affect me. I’m going to always do what I feel is best to help us win.”

The defense put pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins early but had trouble stopping the run. Dalvin Cook had 96 yards on 17 carries before he was injured late in the game. After three sacks in the win a week ago, rookie Aidan Hutchinson didn’t have a sack or a tackle. Alex Anzalone had the Lions’ lone sack and led the defense with 10 tackles.

Goff was 25-of-41 for 277 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a 79.0 rating.

Swift, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, played but was limited. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (six catches for 73 yards) limped off the field late in the first half. He played in the second half, but wasn’t 100 percent.

Running back Jamaal Williams stepped up, finishing with 87 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns.

Safety Tracy Walker left the game in the second half and did not return. Campbell said they will know more on Monday, but it could be an Achilles or an ankle. An Achilles injury could possibly end his season.

(Next up: Seattle Seahawks at Lions, 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, at Ford Field.)

Lions newest safety DeShon Elliott appreciates team’s gritty style

Although he was celebrating just his 25th birthday on Thursday, DeShon Elliott is looking forward to a fresh start as a safety for the Lions.

After spending four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, he thinks the Lions are a good fit.

“On my visit last week being around the coaches I really feel they love and care about each one of their players and they want to be great,’’ Elliott said on Thursday.

His first inkling about coach Dan Campbell and his staff came when the Ravens beat the Lions 19-17 at Ford Field last season in Week 3.

“It was a slobber-knocker, but they played so hard and I could just tell from that game how much they loved their coach by the way they played. You can always tell that,’’ Elliott said. “They really bought in and loved the experience they have in the building. That was one thing on the outside looking in.’’

His 2021 season ended with biceps and pectoral injuries sustained in a Nov. 8 game. His rookie season in 2018 was spent on injured reserve with a broken arm. He played just six games in 2029 due to a knee injury. But started all 16 in the 2020 season.

Obviously staying healthy is key for Elliott, a sixth-round pick in 2018, who signed a one-year deal with the Lions on April 14.

Before he signed he talked with Quandre Diggs, a former Lion who was shipped out of town by Matt Patricia. Elliott said Diggs is like a big brother to him and told him the Lions’ style of football – gritty and hard-nosed – matches the character of the city.

“That reminds me a lot of Baltimore so that’s another reason I came here, I wanted to go somewhere that matched my game,’’ Elliott said.

He also knows Tracy Walker – they were in the same draft class – and admires his game.

Elliott said in his talks with Lions coaches, he felt what mattered the most is  the kind of person he is.

“They wanted to build a certain type of character into the locker room. I think I bring all the right traits,’’ Elliott said. “I’ll be myself at the end of the day. No matter what, I’m not going to be somebody I’m not.’’

He describes himself as aggressive, one who puts it all on the line.

“I’m here to win, that’s it, that’s all I care about,’’ Elliott said.