Skip to main content

O'HARA: Improving Lions' defense a shared responsibility

Aubrey Pleasant brings a different take on what makes a great cornerback that's quite a bit different than the norm.

As the Detroit Lions' new secondary coach, Pleasant's view is based on the three seasons he played cornerback for the University of Wisconsin and what he observed the last four years coaching defensive backs for the Los Angeles Rams.

"I joke and tell people that the greatest cornerback I've ever played with is Aaron Donald," Pleasant said Thursday in a Zoom interview with the Detroit media.

Donald, of course, is the Rams' dominant defensive tackle who has terrorized quarterbacks for the last seven years.

Pleasant's message is clear on what makes a good cornerback: It starts up front by getting pressure on the quarterback.

"In order to be a successful football team, things have to marry," Pleasant said. "Things have to collaborate. I think the pass rush, as well as the ability to play sticky coverage, I think no matter what your philosophy is, those things go hand in hand.

"When things work together, it makes it very difficult for opposing quarterbacks."

The Lions had numerous problems the last three seasons, but none was greater than the pass defense.

The bottom line in 2020 was that they weren't good at any level.

They had only seven interceptions, second fewest in the league and gave up a league-high 38 TD passes.

Only six teams had fewer than the Lions' total of 24 sacks.

Pleasant isn't putting the blame on any particular player or unit for the Lions' defensive shortcomings.

"When you look at the statistics and the organization's record, you can point your finger at a lot of things that went wrong," he said.

The job of fixing the defense is a shared responsibility for defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and his staff of assistants.

No one is ducking from what needs to be done in the base 3-4 defense that Glenn is bringing north from New Orleans, where he spent the last five years coaching defensive backs.

Defensive line coach Todd Wash is looking at more than the raw numbers to point out the value of the pass rush.

"Everybody wants sack numbers," Wash said. "The young men want sacks, and we want sacks. The bottom line is, we have to be able to affect the quarterback.

"AG's (Glenn's) scheme, in what we're trying to do, really allows those guys to affect the quarterback.

"They had really good players (in New Orleans), and I think we have really good players."

Pass rushers need help to get pressure on the quarterback.

"If the DBs help us out by having tight coverage, it helps us make the quarterback hold the ball a little longer so we can get to the quarterback," Wash said.

"It's rush and coverage, working together."

Whatever happens up front, Pleasant's focus is on his job -- coaching the secondary.

"Right now, my job is to take care of what we need to for the secondary," he said. "Anything that comes in the air, I make sure I take care of it. Anything that sticks out in the run game, I make sure I take care of it.

"The pass rush falls in someone else's category, but I will make sure I give them all the love I possibly can to help us in the back end."

Related Content