Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs spoke to the media Tuesday ahead of Detroit's Week 4 matchup vs. the New Orleans Saints.
Here are 10 takeaways from those media sessions:
1. Don Muhlbach, 39, will play in his 248th football game Sunday, which will place him in the top 50 all-time in NFL career games played. Asked about Muhlbach, Coombs said the veteran long snapper is essentially an extra coach on the field because of his knowledge and experience with every protection, cover and rush scheme there is. Coombs said Muhlbach is selfless and committed. The two have built a close coach-player relationship, a relationship built on mutual respect and the ability to kid with each other about their age gap. Coombs is 33.
2. The Lions are able to get safety Jayron Kearse back off a three-game suspension this week. Undlin is excited to get him back, but did say because Kearse missed three weeks, he might not be in top game shape. It's different working out on your own. Undlin said they're taking it one day at a time in determining Kearse's role on the defense moving forward.
3. I got the impression from Bevell that Adrian Peterson is definitely Detroit's lead back moving forward, and Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift will play complementary roles. That's not to say those aren't important roles for Johnson and Swift. Bevell said Johnson was his MVP last week for the way he protected the quarterback all game and set up the Jesse James touchdown. Johnson so far has the best blocking grade among running backs by Pro Football Focus.
4. Undlin is fully aware of the challenge he has this week facing quarterback Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara and the rest of the Saints' offense this week. He even joked when asked an in-depth coverage question that he really didn't have time to explain everything because he was busy trying to figure out how to cover Kamara, who's caught 22 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns out of the backfield for the Saints the last two weeks.
5. Bevell admitted that being better in the red zone is a big focus this week. Detroit was 2-for-5 scoring touchdowns in the red zone last week and are 6-of-13 on the year. He said it's been a combination of play calling and execution.
"We have to be able to pull it all together," he said.
6. The Lions have played well in all phases on special teams to begin the season, but Coombs said his guys will see the gold standard of where he wants Detroit's units to eventually get to in the Saints this weekend. New Orleans has a Pro Bowl kicker in Will Lutz, Pro Bowl punter in Thomas Morstead and a Pro Bowl returner in Deonte Harris. Coombs said Saints special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi is top three in the league in his book among all special teams coordinators.
7. A lot of the cornerback conversation has centered around rookie Jeff Okudah for the Lions the last couple weeks, but Amani Oruwariye has been playing pretty well under the radar on the other side. Undlin pointed to two defensive plays he made in the final Arizona possession to help force a punt and get the ball back to the offense to drive the field and win the game with a field goal. Undlin said his defense has been fortunate to have Oruwariye out there playing the way he has.
8. Halapoulivaati Vaitai was moved inside to guard last week against Arizona from his customary right tackle spot. The move was made, in part, because of how well Tyrell Crosby filled in for Vaitai when he missed the first two games with a foot injury. It sounds like Vaitai could be in that role again this week. Bevell said he expects him to play more consistent as a full participant in practice with more reps than he got last week.
9. The defensive mindset changes a little bit for Undlin when it comes to the pass rush this week. Last week it was the dual-threat challenge of Kyler Murray. They had to rush a little different against him because of his threat to run. This week it's veteran Drew Brees, who isn't going to run much, but who you can't afford to let sit in the pocket and throw it all over the field. The rush changes, but the goals don't. They have to get Brees off his spot this week.
10. Okudah had his first career interception last week, and Undlin said the rookie No. 3 overall pick is "trending in the right direction." Undlin sensed that the game slowed down for the rookie a little bit in his second start, and he thought Okudah's body language was better and he wasn't as wide-eyed as he was two weeks ago in his first NFL start in Green Bay.