Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn spoke to the media Tuesday just a few days before the team's final preseason contest against Indianapolis on Friday and exactly one week before the Lions have to trim their roster from 80 to an initial 53 players.
Here are seven takeaways from Glenn's session with the media:
1. Glenn said it was "outstanding" to see second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike come into his first preseason game last Saturday in Pittsburgh and do some of the things he did in terms of rushing the quarterback and speeding up his clock and being disruptive. Glenn said Onwuzurike flashed.
2. Speaking of his defensive line, Glenn described the unit, which appears to be pretty deep and talented, as big, physical and continuing to improve.
3. Rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes was really impressive vs. Pittsburgh Week 2 of the preseason. He's quickly adapting after missing some time with a hamstring injury and is becoming a playmaker. Glenn has certainly taken notice, but he also wants to continue to bring Barnes along slowly and not give him too much too quickly.
Glenn said there are still a lot of things Barnes has to get better at, even though he's been making a lot of plays. Barnes is putting himself in a good position to be successful and play good football in Glenn's defense. But just how will the Lions use Barnes? Will it be certain sub packages or different series on a rotational basis?
"If you're a good player, I'll find a way to put you on the field," Glenn said. "It's as simple as that. He's a good player, so we'll find a way."
4. Glenn gave a quick shout out to GM Brad Holmes and the Lions personnel department for finding players like undrafted rookie cornerback AJ Parker and Barnes on Day 3 of the draft. These are two players who could have big roles on Glenn's defense, and he was quick to give credit for the finds. Parker could start in the nickel for the Lions Week 1.
5. Asked further about the roles of some of the young players on defense like nose tackle Alim McNeill, Onwuzurike, Parker and Barnes, Glenn said he learned from a 'big time' scout a long time ago that a coach can't be afraid to play young players. If they make plays, they should be on the field. He said he's been around coaches before that prefer the stability of veterans over youngsters. Glenn said there will be mistakes with young players, but he'll never be afraid to put them out there.
6. Glenn had a good line when asked about getting to the 53-man roster next week. He said it's his job to make it hard for Holmes and Dan Campbell to get down to 53 by developing his players and making those roster decisions difficult on defense. Glenn said he wants it to be hard to sit in the room over the weekend and determine who they are going to cut, and he thinks he succeeded in that.
7. Glenn is excited about what veteran Romeo Okwara can do switching to outside linebacker in his base 3-4 defense. Glenn thinks Okwara's ability to play in space is a lot better than he gets credit for. He also said Okwara's ability to get to the quarterback (Okwara led Detroit with 10.0 sacks last year) is awkward sometimes, but that's what makes him good. He said some coaches would try to coach the awkwardness out of a player, but in Okwara's case, that's what makes him the player he is. He's going to let him be who he is because he makes plays that way.