Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp spoke to the media Thursday ahead of Detroit's game Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Here are my 10 biggest takeaways from those media sessions:
1. Interesting statistic that Johnson highlighted with the offense this week. Detroit has as many negative runs in their last two games as they did their first five games of the season when they were one of the better rushing offenses in the league. Running the ball with more consistency has been a point of emphasis this week for Johnson. The Bears come into Sunday ranked 30th in the league in rushing defense (151.2).
2. Last week's defensive performance against Carolina was uncharacteristic of how the Lions had been playing defense leading up to that game, especially against the run. Glenn was asked about the game plan and said he didn't regret the scheme decisions.
"Obviously, as a coach, the first thing you look at is yourself," he said. "But when you're just playing down-safety defense, when that's been the talk the whole week as far as stopping the run because we know exactly who they are."
Glenn said execution, technique and missed assignments were more to blame for Carolina gaining 570 yards of total offense and 320 rushing. He addressed those mistakes with his defense and moved on. He said they had a good practice Wednesday and he doesn't expect a performance like that again. Detroit certainly can't afford one with these last two weeks being must-win for them.
3. Kalif Raymond's 14.6-yard average per punt return would rank No. 2 in the league if he had enough punt returns to qualify. He has 17 returns on the year. The league standard is 1.25 times the number of games played (15 for Lions) to qualify, so he'd need at least 19. It's a weird way of doing it, but the league also doesn't want a player with five returns for a 30-yard average to quality as well. Here's hoping Raymond gets enough returns to qualify because he's been a stud for them all year in the return game and deserves the recognition.
4. Quarterback Jared Goff and rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams are continuing to build chemistry. Johnson said the two work together during special teams periods of practice so Goff can see the breaks and anticipate throws with Williams' speed. Williams has been targeted only five times in his first four games back since his ACL rehab, but Johnson said they're not going to force the football to anyone. It's a deep receiver room, and Goff will continue to throw to the open guy.
5. Detroit began the practice week without both starting safeties – DeShon Elliott (shoulder) and Kerby Joseph (back). We'll have to see how the week progresses for both players' availability for Sunday. Glenn said C.J. Moore and Ifeatu Melifonwu will just have to step up and play well if asked to do so. Glenn said there's no plan currently to move safety turned nickel corner Will Harris back to safety.
6. Fipp talked a little bit about the role Don Muhlbach has for this team week to week. The former Lions long snapper helps out both in the front office and with special teams coaching. He helps assistant special teams coach Jett Modkins with the scout team looks and works closely with current Lions long snapper Scott Daly.
7. The Lions have really unlocked their deep passing game over the last few weeks. Johnson gave a lot of credit for that to wide receiver DJ Chark being back healthy. Chark has more than 90 receiving yards in three of his last four games with longs of 51, 48 and 41 yards mixed in there.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, December 28, 2022.
8. Glenn said it's always good practice when preparing for an opponent to watch film of other defenses that were successful against the offense they're about to face. Glenn only had to go back one week when Buffalo held Chicago to 80 rushing yards and quarterback Justin Fields to just 11 rushing yards. Glenn was quick to point out the difference in scheme and personnel between his crew and the Bills' defense, but he said they did look at that film and tried to find some things the Bills did successfully in that game that could fit their personnel and what they like to do.
9. Merry Christmas to the media from Fipp. Last year, because of COVID-19, we conducted press conferences in a back garage at the Allen Park facility that got pretty cold in the winter months. Fipp gifted some media members space heaters. This year it was a nice desk name plate.
10. Penei Sewell is such a dominant athlete at the right tackle spot that Johnson said they actually scheme plays during the course of a game his way to highlight what he does best. Johnson said Sewell runs pound for pound as well as any player on offense.