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What to expect from Lions' defense in Glenn's second year as coordinator

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell was certain he was going lose one of his top assistant coaches, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, to a head coaching job this offseason.

Glenn, who was the defensive backs coach for the New Orleans Saints from 2016-2020 before joining Campbell in Detroit last season as defensive coordinator, interviewed for the Saints' head coaching vacancy in February, and Campbell thought Glenn had a great chance to win that job.

"I thought he was going to be gone, and I was going to be happy as hell for him," Campbell said last Thursday. "But the thought of losing him, I just had this feeling of like I was going to be walking around without any pants on. So, I would say having AG, there is a comfort level. I think that pretty much says it all."

Glenn also interviewed for the Denver Broncos head coaching job, and said the feedback he got from both New Orleans and Denver tells him he's on the right track to one day get his chance to be a head coach.

But for now, he's back to run the Lions' defense for a second season. He participated in the NFL’s new Accelerator program last week where he met with the owners for most of the other NFL clubs during the spring meetings in Atlanta.

Glenn said the experience was awesome, and he spent most of his time talking about non-football related subjects. One conversation he had with Dallas Cowboys executive Stephen Jones was a 45-minute debate on who is the best basketball player of all-time between Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Glenn is a Jordan guy.

"My mindset was, 'Listen, I'm not here to talk football,'" Glenn said of those meetings. "And as I did the interviews, I said there's a lot that we have in common. A lot. Just different backgrounds, upbringing, but likes and dislikes. Man, there was a lot. I said the only real difference is their bank account's bigger than mine. That's what it is."

Glenn and the Lions are coming off a 3-13-1 season in which they ranked near the bottom of the NFL in just about every major statistical category on defense. But Glenn has made significant changes to the defense this offseason, particularly switching the front seven from a read and react 3-4 unit to a more attacking 4-3 front in base.

Glenn came up the coaching ranks operating 3-4 systems, but said the switch to a more aggressive 4-3 attacking scheme this year fits his personnel better. He's willing to adapt scheme to players and not the other way around, which is something he thinks will make this defense much improved in 2022. The Lions still will work out of varied fronts, but the early theme on defense is 'attack.'

"Schematically, what can we do to help these players be the best they can be?" Glenn said. "So it wasn't hard at all."

Glenn is hoping the change will get the most out of some of his young players upfront, particularly second-year players Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike, and this year's No. 2 overall pick, Aidan Hutchinson.

"It was more players instead of just true scheme. I always go back and watch college and see what they were doing and Alim was always in this zero technique," Glenn said. "But once he came here and I started seeing how athletic he was, or watching Levi at the Senior Bowl and seeing him be able to penetrate, shoot gaps, attack his technique – now that's a huge word that I want you guys to understand.

"I say attack technique. I don't want you guys to think that we're just running up the field. That's not who we are and that's not what we're going to do. But it is a more aggressive style of defense and I want to be able to take advantage of every player, their ability as much as I can."

It will look a little different defensively in Detroit this year, but the continuity of having Glenn back on the sideline is something that has his players on that side of the ball fired up.

"He's the man," defensive back Will Harris said of Glenn. "Everyone here loves playing for AG and to be able to have somebody with that bank of wisdom that he has and that football knowledge having played for such a long time and having coached for a long time, having him here is a tremendous tool for us for all the players to be able to just soak up everything that he has to say. I'm so glad that he's back. He brings a lot of energy and passion."

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