New Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has a big job in front of him.
Glenn, along with new Lions head coach Dan Campbell, have the unenviable task of transforming a Detroit Lions defense that set new franchise records in points and yards allowed this past season into a respectable unit.
Glenn, who comes to Detroit after spending the past five seasons as the secondary coach for the New Orleans Saints, brings more than 24 years of experience in the NFL including playing, front office and coaching experience with him to the Lions.
The Lions need to retool that side of the ball this offseason, but Glenn does like some of the pieces he's inheriting, including some of the players the former regime put together in Detroit's secondary.
Glenn said the biggest thing he's tasked with is changing the narrative and confidence among some of the players on defense. He said confident players play fast, and that's what he wants to build in Detroit.
"Let those guys let loose," Glenn said. "We don't need a lot of thinking out there. We just want the guys to understand, 'What's my job? What do my eyes have to be coach? What do I have to do?' They are going to go out there and play fast and play with confidence and it's our job to let that happen."
The Lions have some young players in their secondary with some potential, starting with Jeff Okudah, the No. 3 overall pick in last year's NFL Draft. Okudah's rookie season didn't go as he probably would have hoped. There were some up-and-down moments in coverage, but he showed a tenacity against the run, and it was revealed late in the season he'd been battling a core injury that required surgery in December that had affected his play all season.
"I think 2020 was definitely a year of growth," Okudah said after the season. "Really, since I've been playing football, just my most adverse year with everything I had to go through, me myself and as a team. I know for me personally, it was just a different year. Just having to deal with injuries, and obviously you want to win more when you're a competitor. Obviously, you want to play better from that perspective. It was really hard to come to terms with just not playing to the standards of the City of Detroit and what they expect to see out there.
"I think going forward, definitely have that on my mind and definitely something that's really going to fuel my hunger this offseason. Not necessarily trying to prove everyone wrong, just trying to prove a lot of people right."
Glenn said the Lions secondary reminds him of the secondary he had in New Orleans with cornerback Marshon Latimore leading that unit, along with safety Marcus Williams. Glenn helped mold those guys, and he is excited about doing the same in Detroit with young cornerbacks Okudah and Amani Oruwariye, and safeties Tracy Walker and Will Harris.
Glenn gets a chance to work with and develop those young players, which should be exciting for Lions fans given Glenn's resume in New Orleans.
"I'm excited about that secondary," Glenn said. "I know those guys will do a good job for us."
Detroit ranked last in the NFL last year defending passes of 20-plus yards in the air, last in opponent passer rating and 31st in passing first downs allowed.
Glenn said he wants to be a tough-minded team. Tough, smart, confident and athletic players win in this league.
"I'm excited to get my hands on these young guys," Glenn said of Detroit's secondary. "When you have guys of that age (four starters with less than four years of experience) you can mold them and train them exactly the way you want them to go."
Glenn said he needs Detroit's secondary to play well for this defense to improve, and he expects they will do so next season.
Glenn's overall theme talking about his new defense in Detroit was that he wanted his players to be the best version of themselves coming into this year. He wants competition to push players, and he hopes every player is pushed for their starting job.
Glenn wants to simplify the defense. He said they won't be simple to the point they're a target, but they will be simple enough that the players know what they're doing and can play faster.