Detroit Lions hoping Kris Kocurek, Jim Washburn coaching combo can revitalize the defensive line

Posted Jan 24, 2013

Head Coach Jim Schwartz is hoping Jim Washburn's history with many of the coaches on his staff - mainly defensive line coach Kris Kocurek - will help the defensive line get back to the way it performed in 2011.

Kris KocurekJim Washburn recruited Kris Kocurek out of high school when he was a defensive line coach at Arkansas.

Kocurek ultimately decided to play at Texas Tech, instead, but wound up playing for Washburn with the Tennessee Titans for two seasons.

Talking with reporters at the Senior Bowl this week, Washburn referred to Kocurek as his "other" son. His real son, Jeremiah Wasburn, is the Detroit Lions' offensive line coach.

Washburn said he jumped at the opportunity to join his "sons" on the Detroit Lions coach staff when head coach Jim Schwartz extended the offer shortly following the season.

Now he'll get the opportunity to work side-by-side with Kocurek, who was promoted to defensive line coach in 2010 when Bob Karmelowicz retired.

Schwartz said Washburn doesn't have a defined title as of yet, but he's expected be on even footing with Kocurek as the two will tag team the defensive line coaching duties.

"The more eyes on those guys the better," Schwartz said Wednesday. "That can help with technique, it can help with scheme, it can help with game plan, it can help with game day. There's a lot of positives there. He's very familiar with our scheme, he's had a lot of production. I think it will be a benefit for us."

Washburn has been coaching the defensive line in the NFL since 1999 and helped develop Pro Bowl players like Jevon Kearse, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth while in Tennessee.

In his first season with Philadelphia in 2011, the Eagles recorded 50 sacks to lead the NFL. They ranked 18th with 39 the season before he arrived.

"We're going to double-team our defensive line, and he's going to work hand-in-hand with Kris Kocurek," Schwartz said. "Our D-line's very important to us."

Schwartz spent 10 years with Washburn in Tennessee.

"We're very happy with Kris, but a chance to be able to get a coach that I've worked with, that everybody on our defensive staff has some relationship with ... there's a lot of relationships there that we respect what he's done," Schwartz said. "I think he can bring something to our defense and can add to it."

The Lions' sack total dipped this season from 41 in 2011 to 34. So, too, did the number of impact plays in the form of forced fumbles and strip-sacks from the unit.

That's mission No. 1 for Kocurek and Washburn. Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew wants to see more impact plays and players on defense.

The two coaches seem to be a great fit to work alongside one another. Kocurek is a high-energy coach, who demands a lot from his players. Washburn is a no-nonsense personality, who tells it like it is and isn't afraid to get on players for underperforming.

"It's a good situation for an old timer like me," Washburn said. "I just want to go up there and try to help. See what I can do to help."

Washburn was fired from the Eagles in December after he expressed publically his displeasure with some personnel moves the Eagles had made and also for having an icy relationship with some fellow coaches.

"I enjoyed my time with the Eagles, but, wow, it was different," he said. "It just wasn't a good fit, you know. This is a perfect fit."