Notebook: Coordinators Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham seem to have necessary pieces

Posted Jun 12, 2013

Taking an early look at the talent the Lions have assembled on either side of the ball heading into the 2013 season, it appears Linehan and Cunningham finally have most of the pieces in place

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham inherited a 0-16 team heading into 2009.

There were few playmakers on the roster and even less depth.

Cunningham joked Wednesday that the days in Detroit are gone when the Lions cut a player and he never plays in the league again. That will certainly be the case this year with some tough decisions looming following training camp.

Taking an early look at the talent the Lions have assembled on both sides of the ball heading into the 2013 season, it appears Linehan and Cunningham finally have most of the pieces they may have envisioned back in 2009.

"I like the mix of talent," Linehan said of his offense. "Everybody brings something different.

Reggie BushRB Reggie Bush (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

"We'll probably be a little more versatile (with our personnel). Your depth gets back to where you want it. We definitely would like to use groupings that we can utilize to the best of their abilities.

"So, now having someone that has a dual role as a running back and receiving threat in Reggie (Bush), you can use that. You've got a slot receiver (Ryan Broyles) that was coming on real good for us. You're going to use the slot receiver not just for the pass game, but also, he can get in those formations to run the football.

"So, those are the things we try to do and when you have your depth back where you want it, it certainly helps."

Linehan has the quarterback in Matthew Stafford, the stud receiver in Calvin Johnson, the versatile running back in Bush, a big-target tight end in Brandon Pettigrew, an experienced possession receiver in Nate Burleson and a couple power backs in Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell.

The key to that operation will be the offensive line, obviously, but Linehan doesn't seem too concerned about three new starters considering both tackles have been in the system.

On defense, Cunningham has been looking to get bigger and faster.

The Lions made that one of their big offseason plans with the additions of defensive ends Jason Jones (6-5, 276), Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah (6-5, 271) and Devin Taylor (6-7, 276); defensive tackle C.J. Mosley (6-2, 310), cornerbacks Darius Slay (6-1, 191) and Domonique Johnson (6-1, 191); and safety Glover Quin (6-0, 210).

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay

Last season, the Lions drafted cornerbacks Chris Greenwood (6-1, 193) and Jonte Green (6-0, 184) and signed veteran Ron Bartell (6-1, 210).

Cunningham wanted length and durability in the secondary as well as size and speed along his defensive line, which the Lions now have heading into training camp.

"Well, the number one thing, I got up Saturday morning last week and Nate Burleson was quoted in an article. He said, 'I don't know how good they are, but they're getting their hands on a lot of balls,'" Cunningham said of the article.

"I'm reflecting on the corners and the safeties. (Defensive backs coach) Marcus Robertson has done a great job to this point. I don't know what he says to them, but I'm going to find out because some of those young guys are really responding to him.

"I'm really impressed by the secondary's ability physically. Now let's see if they can play like that in a real game."

On paper, the Lions have a good mix of the right pieces on both sides of the ball. Now we'll see how it translates to the field.


Reggie Bush briefly left the field after tweaking an ankle late in practice, but quickly returned and didn't show any ill effects running routes after the fact.

"I knew I just tweaked it a little bit – just planted wrong," he said. "Nothing I haven't been through. I'm good. I haven't missed any time, any reps."

Missing the second of three mini-camp practices this week were safety Louis Delmas, cornerback Jonte Green, wide receiver Brian Robiskie and guard Leroy Harris.

Bill Nagy didn't practice Wednesday after going through individual drills Tuesday.

Defensive end Ronnell Lewis returned to the field after sitting out Tuesday.


Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Bush talked Wednesday about the benefits of playing alongside Calvin Johnson -- a matchup nightmare for NFL defenses.

But Johnson expects the same kind of benefit from Bush, too.

"It's going to force another defender to come down when he starts getting free and making plays out there," Johnson said Wednesday.

Johnson certainly held his own last year without Bush (122 catches for 1,964 yards), but is expecting even more room to operate in 2013 with the versatile running back added to the mix.

Linehan believes defenses wil have to pay special attention to Bush.

"That's what he's been able to do and that's why we brought him here," said Linehan. "He's a heck of an athlete, heck of a player and I don't foresee that changing for our team either."