Wide-nine defense still has a place in Detroit

Posted Jan 23, 2014

Both head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin say the wide-nine defense can still be a part of the repertoire on defense

The Detroit Lions may have a new coaching staff, but Jim Caldwell and Co. will still utilize some of Jim Schwartz’s old tricks.

The wide-nine defense being one of them.

Schwartz and defensive line coach Jim Washburn made the technique popular in Tennessee, and Schwartz brought it with him to Detroit in 2009 when he took over as head coach.

New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin plans to use multiple fronts off his base 4-3 look, and he said the wide nine, which aligns defensive ends outside the tight end in order to get better rush angles, could certainly be one of those if the situation calls for it.

"It depends who you have rushing," Austin said. "If you have tremendous speed coming off the edge, yeah, the wide nine is great. If you don’t have those kinds of rushers maybe you do some things a little different.

"That’s all going to be determined as we get our guys and get them on the field and see exactly what we have."

Ziggy AnsahDE Ziggy Ansah (Photo: Gavin Smith)

The Lions made a concerted effort to get bigger and stronger on defense last offseason by drafting Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor and signing Jason Jones on the first day of free agency.

That size helped the Lions hold up to the run much better than they had in prior years under Schwartz. The Lions were the sixth-best defense against the run (99.8 yards per game) last season.

Their sack totals, however, have dropped each of the last four seasons and the defense ranked 29th this past year with just 33.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said Monday there was still a place for the wide nine in Detroit and Caldwell said it’s "necessary" to use.

"If you’ve taken a look at us, when we were in Indy, did you see (Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis?" said Caldwell, who was the head coach in Indianapolis from 2009-11 . "What’d they line up in? There we go.

"It just kind of depends on the individuals, that they can do the kinds of things we’re looking for. Certainly, it’s been employed here and it’ll be employed again. Those are things that, I think, that do give offenses some problems, particularly the tackles that have to set. Protect against guys that can get up the field, get them some problems, it changes the angles."