Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp spoke to the media Thursday as they do every week. Here are my 10 biggest takeaways from those media sessions:
1. Johnson was asked about the potentially increased role for rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs with veteran David Montgomery dealing with a thigh injury and missing practice this week: “Gibby can do anything. We’ll see what all we ask him to do but we feel very comfortable with him doing anything that all our backs need to do.”
2. What did Glenn like the most and dislike the most about Sunday’s defensive performance vs. Seattle?
Like: The way they played the run. Seattle had just 82 yards on 25 carries (3.3 avg.). Detroit ranks ninth in the NFL against the run after two weeks, allowing on average 86.0 yards per game on the ground.
Dislike: Glenn said the pass rush needs to be better and they have to win more of their one-on-one matchups upfront and move the quarterback off his spot.
3. The injury to Montgomery and the potential of him not playing Sunday means Craig Reynolds could get more run with the offense, and Fipp said that could affect how much they use Reynolds on special teams. Reynolds has been a core special teamer and kick returner early on for Fipp’s special teams units.
4. The Lions could be without two starters upfront along their offensive line with left tackle Taylor Decker (ankle) and right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) missing practice this week along with Montgomery and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (toe). Johnson said he feels good about the depth they’ve developed on offense and the players who could be asked to step up Sunday and play a bigger role.
5. Safety Tracy Walker steps back into the starting lineup this week for the injured C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Glenn called Walker a ‘pro’s pro’ for the way he’s continued to study and help develop the game plan week-to-week as a backup. It’s nice to be able to turn to a veteran with 64 games played and 37 starts on his resume in this situation.
6. Cordarrelle Patterson has been dealing with an injury and was inactive last week for Atlanta vs. Green Bay, but Fipp said they are preparing as if one of the best kick returners in NFL history will be back there on Sunday at Ford Field. Patterson has nine career kickoff return touchdowns, including a 103-yarder last season.
7. Atlanta’s defense has played pretty well through their 2-0 start to the season and Johnson said the thing that jumps out to him on tape is how they rotate in eight or nine defensive linemen in the game to keep those guys fresh. He said it allows them to be relentless upfront, and their games and stunts upfront are some of the best in the NFL.
8. When asked about Atlanta’s rushing attack, which ranks fourth in the NFL averaging 170.5 yards per game early on this season, Glenn said everyone wants to talk about rookie running back Bijan Robinson but it’s much more than him. He said it’s head coach Arthur Smith, his schemes and his dedication to the run, it’s a stout offensive line that can operate their outside zone schemes like few other lines in the league, and also second-year back Tyler Allgeier and his power style being a perfect complement to Robinson.
9. The Lions are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry on the ground, but Johnson thinks it’s just a matter of time before they start hitting some big gains in the run game. He said they’ve been close these first two weeks and thinks it’s coming.
10. Former Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah could make his Falcons debut this week after battling injury and missing the first two games. Glenn said he’s kept in touch with Okudah and respects the heck out of him and his work ethic. He said sometimes a player just needs a fresh start somewhere else and a different opportunity to reach his potential. We’ve seen that from a number of players in the NFL over the years.
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