Skip to main content

New DBs coach looks to get the most out of Lions' secondary

INDIANAPOLIS – When Deshea Townsend was a young cornerback coming into the NFL in 1998, he was looking for established NFL players with his similar build he could watch and try to emulate his game after.

"One guy I always watched was Aaron Glenn," Townsend said. "My plan was just anticipation, ball skills, quickness. A guy that size that was a No. 1 corner and lined up against all the receivers.

"Just find ways for myself being a similar size to add that to my game and watch how he played. That's what you have to do to be a good corner. Watch other guys and try to add it to your game."

Townsend would go on to spend 13 seasons as a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1998-2009) and Indianapolis Colts (2010). He appeared in 191 career games (80 starts) and totaled 428 tackles, 116 passes defended, 21 interceptions, 15.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions returned for touchdowns. He helped the Steelers record victories in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.

Townsend and Glenn formed a friendship as players that continued when each pursued a career in coaching after their playing days. Now the two will work together in Detroit as Townsend was recently hired as the Lions' new passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach.

"Deshea Townsend played a long time, coached a long time. He's gonna be able to deliver exactly what AG wants on the backend," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this week.

Townsend enters his 10th season as an NFL coach after most recently spending two seasons (2022-23) as the passing game coordinator/cornerbacks coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also served as the secondary coach for the Chicago Bears from 2019-21, assistant defensive backs coach for the New York Giants in 2018, defensive backs coach for the Tennessee Titans from 2016-17 and assistant defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals from 2011-12.

Townsend said he's hit the ground running getting right to work on free agent evaluations last week and then getting a start on the NFL Draft this week at the Combine. He's excited to start working with the returning players in Detroit's secondary and the additions expected to be made both in free agency and the draft.

Detroit's defense struggled the last month and a half of the season limiting teams in the passing game. The final six games of the season the Lions allowed on average 411 passing yards per game and allowed some big individual receiving performances.

Detroit allowed opponents to complete 69 passes of 20-plus yards, the most in the NFL this season. They also ranked 27th against the pass (247.4) and allowed 28 passing touchdowns, the sixth most in the league.

It's a unit that needs more consistent play, which includes a better marriage of rush and cover, and the Lions are hoping Townsend can get the most out of the group.

He said his philosophy to playing good football in the secondary aligns with Campbell and Glenn.

"If you won't tackle, you won't play," he said. "If I turn on the tape and you won't tackle you can't play. I'm just looking for guys that don't shy away from contact. Then the other part for us is how close can you get in coverage. After that it's building the technique from there."

Detroit has some young players in the secondary to be excited about. Brian Branch had a great rookie season and Detroit's young safety duo of Kerby Joseph and Ifeatu Melifonwu played well down the stretch.

"We are going to play together," Townsend said. "We are going to play for one another. And that's what it should be about."

Related Content