The one thing veteran Dean Marlowe has learned over his last seven seasons playing in successful defenses in Carolina (2015-16) and Buffalo (2017-2020) is that playing the safety position is all about the ball.
The Lions have changed their defense to a base 3-4 split-safety scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. It's the kind of scheme that allows the safety position the freedom to read and react to the quarterback, something Marlowe said really attracted him to Detroit in free agency.
"With this split-safety scheme, your eyes are always on the quarterback a lot more," Marlowe said. "You're not chasing guys around the field. You're not just playing man-to-man every snap.
"In Buffalo, we stressed the ball. There's only one ball on the field and one quarterback and he has the ball every snap, you know? Just read your keys and play fast and make plays."
Marlowe played behind a pretty good safety duo in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde the last four years in Buffalo, but the Bills created packages for Marlowe to get on the field, and he played in the dime quite a bit.
He'll have a greater opportunity to win playing time in Detroit with the safety position a little more up for grabs here. Tracy Walker is entering his fourth season and is looking for a bounce-back campaign after an up-and-down 2021. Third-year safety Will Harris has had a bit of an inconsistent start to his career. With Marlowe now in the fold, and some of the other young guys on the roster, Lions head coach Dan Campbell likes the depth they've accrued at safety.
"That's one area where our depth is pretty good right now, for sure," Campbell said. "It's not the only area, but yet, I would say just overall, we feel pretty good about that unit as it pertains to having depth and competition.
"Let the best men rise to the top, because whoever the best is out of both safety positions, are probably going to be pretty solid players for us. We feel real good about it."
View photos from second day of Lions minicamp on Wednesday, June 9th.
Campbell knows Marlowe pretty well from when Campbell was coaching in New Orleans. He faced Marlowe when they were in the same division. Campbell said Marlowe knows there's a certain way to communicate, to practice, to play, and that's caught his eye.
Marlowe played more in the box in his previous stops, so there's some opportunity for him to get in on a dime package in Glenn's defense and play up some, but Detroit is also giving him a chance to play more of their shell safety or strong safety position to where he's a little more in coverage at times, but has the ability to fill in the run.
"We're trying to open up his repertoire, so to speak, and see what he does," Campbell said. "We told him we'd give him the ability to compete at one of our safety positions. Look, he's improving and honestly, he's really growing too. He gives us veteran leadership, he gives us somebody that's done it, so look, we're happy to have him."