New Detroit Lions defensive line coach John Scott Jr. has a deep appreciation for the marriage between rush and cover when it comes to playing good pass defense.
Scott came to Detroit after spending the past three seasons at Penn State, serving as the team's defensive line coach/run game coordinator in 2022 and as the defensive line coach from 2020-21.
This past season, Penn State was No. 1 in the country in pass breakups and had three players in the secondary – CB Joey Porter Jr., CB Kalen King and S Ji-Ayir Brown – earn All-Big Ten accolades. So it was no surprise Penn State finished sixth in the FBS with 43 sacks.
It's the reason why a big smile came over Scott's face when he was asked Wednesday how the additions of veteran free agents C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Cam Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley to Detroit's secondary this offseason could ultimately help his guys upfront get to the quarterback more.
"When those guys can lock guys up and take them off the map that gives us more time to get to the quarterback," Scott said. "Then the flip side is they know if we're rushing the way we rush they don't have to cover for long. I think it works hand in hand. So, anytime we get great people in the secondary as a d-line coach I'm really excited about that because that gives us more opportunity to get back there, and we just feed off each other."
Scott inherits a defensive line room with a good mix of young and veteran talent that was playing pretty darn well to end last season. Lions rookies, led by Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, combined for 20.5 sacks last season, establishing a new NFL rookie record.
Hutchinson, James Houston and Josh Paschal were all key contributors as rookies and are expected to be even better in Year 2. The team also re-signed veterans John Cominsky and Isaiah Buggs this offseason, and have Alim McNeill, Charles Harris, Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara and others all returning up front. Not to mention likely additions coming via the NFL Draft later this month, where the Lions have nine total selections and five in the top 81, including No. 6 overall.
"The guys are eager and excited and ready to build upon where they stopped last year," Scott said of his room. "For me, that's so encouraging as a coach because I'm ready to help them get to where they want to go."
One area where the Lions have to get better upfront is against the run, where Detroit's defense ranked 29th last season. Scott said that starts with being great technicians, having the right eyes, hand placement and good footwork. It's also an attitude and mentality thing, and that's where Scott's coaching philosophy starts.
View photos from Wednesday's media availability with the newest Detroit Lions coaches.
"It's just applying that to being a technician and finishing plays and things like that," he said. "I think it starts with mentality, we have that here, and we're just going to continue to work and be great technicians at what we do."
Scott loves what the Lions have done to improve the defense so far this offseason and he can't wait to get his defensive linemen back in the building and get to work helping this defense be much better in 2023.