LIONS INSIDER

Lions keep eight assistant coaches from Jim Schwartz’s staff

Posted Jan 17, 2014

The Lions are retaining a number of assistant coaches from the previous coaching regime, including both offensive and defensive line coaches

A day after being named the new Detroit Lions head coach, Jim Caldwell got to work formulating his new staff. Part of that process included interviewing assistant coaches left over from Jim Schwartz’s staff.

Caldwell has decided that a number of those coaches fit into his plans moving forward and has retained a several of them.

Special teams coordinator John Bonamego is one.

Bonamego improved the Lions’ special teams from one of the worst units in the NFL last year to one of the more consistent groups around. The Lions ranked 14 in Football Outsiders’ special teams ranking this season after ranking 30th a season ago.

Jeremy RossWR Jeremy Ross (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Bonamego helped usher punter Sam Martin into a successful rookie season and the cover units didn’t allow a single return touchdown after allowing four in 2012.

He also helped Jeremy Ross become one of the better kick returns in the league the second half of the season. Ross returned both a kickoff and punt for touchdowns.

His No. 1 priority this offseason, however, is to improve the kicking game and find a new place kicker. David Akers, who took over for the retired Jason Hanson, made 19-of-24 kicks and had two blocked.

The Lions also had a punt blocked and an extra point.

Assistant special teams coach Evan Rothstein was also retained.

Also remaining on staff is the father-son duo of Jim and Jeremiah Washburn.

In his first season as the offensive line coach, Washburn helped take three new starters, two of whom were rookies, and gelled them nicely with veterans Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola to form one of the best offensive lines in football.

The unit gave up the second-fewest sacks in the NFL (23) and paved the way for the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004 in Reggie Bush (1,006).

The elder Washburn joined Kris Kocurek, who was also retained, to head up the defensive line last season

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had a Pro Bowl season and defensive tackle Nick Fairley was voted a Pro Bowl alternate for the first time in his career. Fairley finished with six sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown.

Defensive end Ziggy Ansah led all rookies with eight sacks.

Running backs coach and run game coordinator Curtis Modkins will also be back.

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

He helped transform the Lions run game into a reliable weapon this season. Bush and fellow running back Joique Bell became the first running back duo in NFL history to each record at least 500 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in a single season.

Terry Heffernan, who was Washburn’s assistant last season, will remain on staff.

So will Bobby Johnson, who coached the tight ends last year.

A few roles could change from last season with coaches like Heffernan and Johnson, but that has yet-to-be determined as the staff fills out.

Assistant coaches under Schwartz who weren’t retained include: defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, linebackers coach Matt Burke, assistant linebackers coach Bradford Banta, quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, receivers coach Tim Lappano, defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson, assistant defensive backs coach Steven Jackson and quality control coach Kyle Valero.

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