Along with the defensive tackle position, the Lions stocked up at cornerback this offseason in an attempt to strengthen that side of the football, which was an obvious weakness for the club a season ago.
The team returns last year's starting cornerbacks Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye, but also signed veterans Quinton Dunbar and Corn Elder, and drafted Ifeatu Melifonwu in the third round. That should promote some pretty good competition at the position come training camp.
"Jeff (Okudah), (Quinton) Dunbar, everyone looks so good," Oruwariye said after an open OTA practice last week. "Everyone just trusts the system and everyone is getting better."
Oruwariye played in all 16 games for the Lions last season with 15 starts. Opposing quarterbacks completed 55.3 percent of their passes in his coverage area with a 96.0 passer rating against and three touchdowns, per Pro Football Focus statistics. He also notched 53 tackles, defended seven passes and recorded an interception. Not bad numbers playing 1,028 snaps last season, or 92 percent of the defensive snaps.
But Oruwariye is hoping to take all that experience he gained last year, plus the coaching he's receiving from new Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and defensive backs coach/pass game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant, in the hope of taking his game to another level in year three.
"I feel like I can get better in all aspects," Oruwariye said. "Obviously my technique, I want to make sure I get better in man coverage and then just route concepts. Just knowing what routes come when they do this and align in that. Definitely film study. That's going to come later when we get some opponents in front of us."
One of the things Glenn talked about last week was how he's trying to teach all the guys in the secondary that they don't have to cover a whole route tree. It's important to learn where their help is and how scheme and play calling can help them in coverage.
The Lions didn't marry their rush and coverage very well last year ,and it's a big reason why they allowed the most points and yards in a single season in franchise history. Detroit's 24 sacks last year tied for 26th. Their seven interceptions were tied for the second fewest.
View photos from the third day of OTAs on Thursday, May 27.
Glenn comes over from New Orleans where he helped mold the Saints secondary from one the league's worst units when he took over as defensive backs coach in 2016 to one of the league's best in under five seasons.
Pleasant spent the last four years with the Los Angeles Rams where he helped mold them into one of the league's top secondaries.
"Coach Glenn and coach Pleasant bring so much knowledge to the game," Oruwariye said. "I feel like I've already grown as a player and it hasn't even been that long. It's been fun."
It will be interesting to watch how the cornerback battle shapes up in camp and what impact Glenn and Pleasant can have on the young guys like Oruwariye, Okudah and Melifonwu, but also on veterans like Dunbar, Elder and Mike Ford. Detroit needs more consistency from those players in the back end of their defense, combined with a more consistent pass rush, if they're going to be better on defense in 2021.