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Coaches weigh in on new defense

We got our first real look at Detroit's new defense at last week's open OTA session, and as advertised, the Lions were very multiple in their fronts and personnel groupings.

We saw three-man fronts, four-man fronts, and a good amount of sub-package looks as well. It's a defense players have described as fun to be a part of, because of its multiple looks and the fact that it's evolving.

For those same reasons, defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni has had fun helping to set it up in Detroit alongside head coach Matt Patricia.

View photos from the Detroit Lions assistant coaches meeting the media on May 29, 2018.

"We'll have some four-man fronts and three-man fronts and a variety of stuff," Pasqualoni told reporters Tuesday.

"It's been very enjoyable because the players have been really terrific and are working hard in the classroom, in the meeting room and out on the field. It's been very, very, very good."

Pasqualoni stressed, however, that he's not too worried about scheme at this point in the offseason.

"The scheme in the end will take care of itself," he said.

He's more focused on individual skill development. If the Lions are going to be as multiple on defense as they say, then some players are going to have to wear many hats. The fundamentals, and learning how to play the techniques, are really important this time of year. 

New linebackers coach Al Golden described this new defense as a "thinking man's defense" when talking to the media Tuesday.

He said it's not the kind of defense where a player is told to go to this gap and make a play. Golden said the defense is more about problem solving, and being able to read and react.

"We give you the tools," he said in describing it. "It's your job to put them in your belt and then use them when the situation arises.

"It's still tackling and all those different things but there's a little nuance to how we're teaching things and there's not many exceptions to it. There's a high standard and that's what we're trying to follow right now."

It's the same approach new defensive line coach Bo Davis has with his players upfront. Davis has a number of players – Kerry Hyder Jr. Da'Shawn Hand and others – who have experience playing both inside and outside, and could offer this defense some flexibility in that regard.

Davis explained how sometimes the mental approach to the game can be more important than the physical.

"Knowledge. Being a smart football player," Davis said. "That's what it takes (to a multiple front defensive lineman). It's not you have to have a certain tool, but just have knowledge of the game and have a good understanding of the game to be able to do that."

Golden described the linebacker position as the conduit between the line and the back end, so when things change or shift on defense, they have to fill in and be able to move and be versatile. It's a position that carries a great amount of pressure in this defense.

"From a player's standpoint, this is a linebacker-friendly defense," Golden said. "I think all of our guys are embracing it right now."

It sounds like smart, versatile and multiple are key attributes of the defense early on.

"My defensive philosophy is to be smart, to be tough and that means being able to perform at a very dependable, high level on a consistent basis," Pasqualoni said.

"Like you've heard a hundred times, stop the run and try and make the quarterback uncomfortable. You're not going to sack the guy (all the time), but there has to be a variety of ways discomfort is created for the guy playing the quarterback position, whether it's disguise or pressure, whatever it might be, you just can't let quarterbacks at this level operate and be comfortable. In the end, they'll get you."

The Lions were 18th against the run last season, and their 35 sacks ranked 20th.

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