Miles Killebrew carved out a pretty important role toward the end of last season in Detroit's defensive sub-package groupings.
He played a similar role in Detroit's season-opening win vs. Arizona. But if last week is any indication, Detroit's use of those packages with Killebrew could be greater this season.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin likes to use extra safeties in a bunch of his sub-packages, which continues to benefit Killebrew.
Last year, Killebrew played in about 16.2 percent of Detroit's defensive snaps. Only twice did he reach at least 20 defensive snaps in a contest.
Last week, he played 29 snaps on defense, the most of his career, or roughly 39 percent of the defensive snaps. He also played 21 special teams reps.
"Well, we can do a lot more things with Miles because he understands our system a lot better," Austin said. "Last year was kind of, 'Boom, where am I going, what am I doing? I'll get there and make some plays because I have some talent.'
"This year he kind of understands really our defense and what he has to do within the defense. Not perfect, again like all of us, still trying to get better, still got a ways to go, but you can see that he's much better equipped this year to make more plays and to play more plays. So, I'm happy where he is but he's still got a long way to go."
Killebrew had a key third-down stop in the red zone last week, he defended two passes, scored his first career touchdown with a pick-six, and made a tackle on special teams for good measure.
"Like you've seen, (Austin) has a lot of multi-safety packages and I think that me being a safety in this system (has helped me)," Killebrew said.
"I just think in this system that's what he likes to do and I'm just hoping I can stay in that package and do the best I can."
Killebrew's ability to run, cover and tackle gives Austin a lot of flexibility with those sub-packages. The more opportunities Killebrew gets, the more he seems to make plays. As long as that continues, we're likely to see more of him.
"His progress has been good because he's got the right traits," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said of Killebrew.
"He works at it. He loves it. He has great passion. And he has the talent level. But it was Colvin's statement, he said, 'Talent will prevail over hard work every time if talent works hard,' and he's a talented guy that works hard."
NO. 1 TREATMENT
Marvin Jones Jr. didn't light up the stat sheet last week, but his impact went beyond the box score.
He drew Arizona's top cornerback, Patrick Peterson, for most of the contest, which allowed Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay to have favorable matchups throughout the course of the game. Tate and Golladay combined to catch 14 passes for 176 yards and a couple scores.
Jones caught a six-yard touchdown in the first half and had a 31-yard reception later in the second half, but there were opportunities for more, according to offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
"It's not going to show up on the stat sheet, but he fought and competed to get open," Cooter said. "He made a couple really nice plays, and there were some other ones where maybe we were looking the other way that he went and got open. So, Marvin's really doing a nice job."
Jones has worked hard this offseason to improve a number of aspects of his game -- One of those being improvement against press-man coverage. Cooter said he's seen Jones' improve there and elsewhere.
"Marv's improved in a bunch of things in this training camp and we're going to see that pay off in this season," Cooter said. "He is a better player than he was last year, and I'm pretty confident in six weeks he's going to be even better than now. That's what we're all trying to do, and Marv's going about things the right way."
Second-year running back Dwayne Washington started last week's game as the kickoff return man. He did not finish the game in that role, however.
Washington made a couple poor decisions bringing the ball out of the end zone, and was eventually replaced in that role by rookie Jamal Agnew, who also returns punts for the Lions.
Caldwell said we could see both Washington and Agnew return kicks Monday night.
The three Lions captains for this week's matchup vs. New York are: Center Travis Swanson (offense), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (defense) and kicker Matt Prater (special teams).