Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp spoke to the media Wednesday ahead of Detroit's Saturday game in Carolina against the Panthers. Here are my 10 biggest takeaways from those media sessions:
1. With starting safety DeShon Elliott (shoulder) unlikely to play Saturday in Carolina, Glenn said veteran C.J. Moore and second-year player Ifeatu Melifonwu are battling this week to fill the role. Listening to Glenn it sounds like that competition is still working itself out. I'd be a little surprised if it wasn't Moore to start, but we could see both players at points throughout the contest.
2. "How about that offensive line?" That's how Johnson opened his presser, giving a big shoutout to Detroit's offensive line, who have now gone 10 quarters without allowing a sack and are tied for the league lead with allowing just 19 sacks all season.
3. Fipp knew heading into last week's game that Kalif Raymond had never returned a punt for a touchdown in his NFL career, and Fipp was really wanting that for him. So no one was happier than Fipp to see Raymond return the first punt of the game 47 yards for a touchdown. Raymond was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts Sunday. Fipp always preaches that field position is a result of all three phases, and he gave a lot of credit to the offense and defense for setting up that opportunity for Raymond.
4. The Panthers' identity on offense is running the football. Carolina has rushed for better than 100.0 yards in every one of their five wins this season. They've averaged just 76.3 yards on the ground in their nine losses. Detroit's been really good against the run dating back the Giants game. Glenn said this game will be a good test of wills when it comes to their rushing offense and the Lions much-improved rushing defense.
5. Johnson said he knew the 51-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brock Wright on the last offensive play of the game was going to be an explosive play, he just didn't know who to. He said he was waiting to make that play call all game for the perfect situation.
6. Two more tidbits on the Raymond punt-return touchdown from Fipp:
- Cornerback Jerry Jacobs asked to be in on punt return to go against New York's best special teams player – gunner Justin Hardee – and Fipp said Jacobs did a great job blocking Hardee on that play.
- Rookie linebacker James Houston made two plays on that return, first forcing a low punt with his pressure, then delivering a key block at the end of the return to get Raymond into the end zone.
7. Glenn said first and second-down defense will be critical Saturday. In studying Carolina's offense, Glenn said the Panthers get very unpredictable to defend when they get into third down and five yards or less situations because they are willing to stay in character and still run the football in those scenarios. Play-action then comes into play and it's a more difficult job getting off the field. Glenn said a big key for them Saturday is being good defensively on first and second down.
8. What did Johnson learn evaluating the Jets game? They have to limit mistakes against good defenses. Some of the mistakes they've made in the past, particularly in the red zone, they've gotten away with against lesser defenses. They didn't get away with them against a really good Jets' defense. Johnson pointed to penalties and miscommunication as the biggest mistakes in the red zone they need to clean up this week.
9. On the missed Michael Badgley 54-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, Fipp said it was just one of those instances where Badgley miss-hit it on the toe a little bit and didn't hit a clean ball. No concerns with him moving forward.
10. Playing the football a little better in the pass game this week has been an emphasis for Glenn and the players on defense. The Jets won significantly more 50-50 balls than the Lions did last week, and that's something Glenn has talked about this week in terms of improving and taking better advantage of those opportunities to get the ball when they present themselves. The Lions missed out on a potential three or four interceptions on 50-50 balls last week.