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. Glenn was a defensive back with the Jets and on the sideline in 1997 when Lions linebacker Reggie Brown suffered a spinal cord injury, briefly lost consciousness and was given CPR on the field. He said that moment has never left him. Glenn opened his press conference offering prayers and thoughts to Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest in Buffalo's Monday night game against Cincinnati.
2. Looking across the field at the defense he'll face Sunday night, Johnson said the thing that stuck out to him this week preparing to play the Packers was the cornerback duo of Jaire Alexander (five interceptions) and Rasul Douglas (4). Both cornerbacks play with great quarterback vision, according to Johnson, and really know where their help is, leaving little room to attack them on the outside.
3. Packers return man Keisean Nixon returned a kickoff for a 105-yard touchdown last week. The week prior he had a 93-yard kickoff return. He leads the NFL in kick return average and has recently become Green Bay's main punt returner. Fipp said his confidence and playmaking ability has given the entire Packers special teams unit a spark. Fipp and his players are excited for the opportunity to face a talent like Nixon. They allowed a big kickoff return last week against Chicago and can't let Nixon get loose in this one.
4. We saw rookie James Houston play his most snaps of the season so far last week against Chicago (33), and he rewarded Glenn with 3.0 sacks and a forced fumble. Glenn said Houston has earned the right to start and play more reps, particularly first and second down reps, with the way he's practiced of late. Houston has shown he can process the playbook and be a playmaker. Expect his reps to continue to tick up Sunday in Green Bay.
5. Running back Jamaal Williams is six yards shy of 1,000 for the season and one touchdown shy of tying Barry Sanders' single-season franchise record of 16 touchdowns. Johnson said Williams has been the bell cow for the Lions' run game all season and thinks really highly of his game.
6. Fipp said he loves to coach at Lambeau Field any chance he gets because of the nostalgia and history of the stadium. Getting to do it on Sunday Night Football as the last game of the regular season with so much on the line just makes this week so special. Fipp said it's a playoff game for them.
7. Outside of the Carolina game Week 16, the Lions' defense has been pretty good against the run during their 7-2 stretch to end the season. The Packers have gotten back to running the ball well during their current 4-0 stretch, averaging 139 yards per game on the ground.
Glenn said Aaron Jones with his speed and AJ Dillon with his power give Green Bay the ability to be pretty scheme diverse. The Lions will have to be on their game defensively against the run Sunday or it will be a long night.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, January 4, 2023.
8. Running back D’Andre Swift has battled injury all season, but Johnson said he looked more like his old self last week when he caught a touchdown, ran for a touchdown, and totaled 117 scrimmage yards. When Swift is healthy and feeling like he did last week it makes it a lot easier on the play caller.
9. It was good to see running back Justin Jackson back on the practice field this week. Jackson has the second highest kickoff return average in the NFL behind Nixon. Fipp said it's trending toward Jackson being able to suit up Sunday and return kicks.
10. This young Lions' defense passed a pretty big test last week in the eyes of their coordinator. Glenn wanted to see how his players would respond after getting their 'a** whooped' the week prior in Carolina. How would they respond? Glenn said last week's performance showed growth and maturity. Will they continue that upward trend Sunday?