Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp spoke to the media Thursday as they do every week. Here are my 10 biggest takeaways from those media sessions:
1. Pride. Practice. Trust. That's what Glenn said has been the catalyst behind Detroit's No. 1 ranked run defense through four games. He said his players are taking pride in that being a hallmark of their defense early on. He also mentioned the way they've been practicing and going hard, trying to get better every day. And then trust has also been big. Trusting that the player next to you will do their job.
2. One of the big points of emphasis for Johnson this week is being more productive on the first drive coming out of halftime. The Lions have three three and outs on the first four drives to open the second half this season.
3. One player who Fipp has been impressed with lately is second-year cornerback Chase Lucas, who is getting some run on special teams. Lucas had a couple special teams tackles in Green Bay last week and has played well on teams. He seems to consistently be the first guy down the field on teams.
4. One thing Glenn said sticks out watching tape of Panthers rookie quarterback Bryce Young is his ability to process the entire field really fast and get through his reads. Glenn has been impressed with the rookie for having that skillset so early in his NFL career.
5. What is the next step for rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, who leads all tight ends in receiving yards (242) and is third in receptions (22). Johnson said the next step for LaPorta is just continuing what he's doing now. LaPorta is advanced for a rookie tight end, and Johnson said they currently don't cap any aspect of his game. That's pretty rare at that position. Johnson just wants to continue seeing what he's been seeing through four games from LaPorta.
6. Fipp said he was reminded a few weeks ago when the Patriots blocked a field goal after timing the rhythm of the opponent's field goal operation to make sure there are no tells his units are putting out on tape for opponents to take advantage of. He said it's something he watches carefully early in the week from the previous game. He said having rhythm on special teams is good, but it can't get to a point where it becomes a tell for an opponent that could time a snap, block a kick and impact a game.
7. Second-year edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson is playing 91 percent of Detroit's defensive snaps on the season, and Glenn said there's really no plan to scale Hutchinson back because Glenn says Hutchinson is such a rare athlete who keeps himself in great shape that he can handle it. In that regard, Glenn compared Hutchinson to Saints edge rusher Cam Jordan, who played in New Orleans when Glenn was a defensive assistant. Jordan played over 90 percent of the defensive reps in his first six seasons as a pro.
8. Veteran running back David Montgomery had 32 carries for 121 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Green Bay last week. Johnson said the 30-plus carries was just how the flow of the game went with the Lions in the four-minute offense late. But Johnson said Montgomery is physically built to carry that kind of load and they have no hesitation asking him to do it again if the game calls for it.
9. We've seen a decline in the number of kickoffs returned this season, but Fipp said it's not so much a product of the fair catch rule but rather teams being smart about when and where they return kicks from the end zone. Detroit has one of the best kickoff coverage units in the NFL, so Fipp hopes teams continue to return kicks on them like Green Bay tried last week, returning five for just a 23.6-yard average.
10. One of the big matchups this week for Detroit's defense will be their slot corner vs. Panthers veteran slot receiver Adam Thielen, who leads Carolina in targets, receptions and touchdowns on the year. Thielen is a crafty veteran who has become a security blanket of sorts for Young. If Brian Branch (ankle) can't play this week, veteran Will Harris will likely fill in. Harris knows Thielen well from his time in Minnesota matching up with Detroit twice a year.