For the Detroit Lions to improve, the tackling must improve

With 32 NFL teams the Detroit Lions were dead last in the NFL in tackling last season. That is right, the Lions ranked 32ond in tackling. The Lions defense allowed 75 (you read that correctly) broken tackles last season. A whole six more than the next team. For defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, it seems the way to go is teaching the  fundamentals and getting back to basics.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – JANUARY 09: Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn of the Detroit Lions looks on against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on January 09, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Aaron Glenn would not accept switching the Detroit Lions defensive scheme last season as an excuse for the teams woefully poor tackling. Nor is Glenn dwelling on the past, simply saying the Lions defense needs to take the next step forward this season.

To say there is nowhere to go but up is an understatement. This was an overall arc that hampered the entire defense. In other words, the tackling deficiencies was not on one group but the defense as a whole. By switching to a 4-man front that should help with the run defense this coming season.

The 4-man front will take some pressure off the linebackers. By adding the trio of DE Aidan Hutchinson, DL Josh Paschal and LB Malcolm Rodriguez, in this years NFL Draft, the Lions went after sure tacklers to help out.

Ranking dead last in a major category is a sure way to struggle to find wins. As the Detroit embarked on a rebuild winning just 3 games was a bit low. The win total was not just missed tackles lead, as the offense struggled as well. As the season went on both the offense and defense made improvements.

With the additions of guys who excelled in college tackles and aided by a new 4- man front that should help the Lions defense out at the start of the 2022-23 NFL season.

CLEVELAND, OH – NOVEMBER 21: A Detroit Lions helmet on the sideline during the second quarter of the National Football League game between the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns on November 21, 2021, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The idea is to build off of the good that happened the last 5-6 games, make improvements and move forward. That is what Aaron Glenn and the rest of the Detroit players and coach’s are hoping for.

Defensive back Jeff Okudah has some telling words about former Detroit Lions coaches

To say Jeff Okudah struggled during his rookie season is to say the sun is bright. Okudah struggled with injuries and when healthy he struggled to cover the wide receiver across from him. Yet, Jeff Okudah came out of Ohio State as a top 5 talent, who was widely viewed by NFL and football experts as the top cornerback in last years NFL Draft. Day’s ago during an interview Okudah shed some light on why he struggled so mightily.

Jeff Okudah is good at saying what he means even if it means talking in code. I do not believe Okudah was taking a pot-shot at form Detroit Lions coaches, as much as he was explaining why he struggled despite being top 5 talent.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – SEPTEMBER 27: Cornerback Jeff Okudah #30 of the Detroit Lions in the NFL game Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. The Lions defeated the Cardinals 26-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Jeff Okudah was recently asked about the new Lions coaching staff specifically new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant.

“Within the first couple of meetings, I was just picking up so much things that I thought to myself, ‘It just would have been nice to have these tools in my toolbox in my rookie year, Looking at the film and breaking down how the offense is trying to attack. That’s what I try to do every single day going into the game plan. So just having the tools that (Aubrey Pleasant) has put in my toolbox, it’s like I’m seeing film from a whole new perspective, I’m seeing the game completely different. That’s one thing that has me really excited going into my second year.”

On the surface it is a harmless quote. A deeper look is a rather damning blow to former Lions head coach Matt Patricia and his coaching staff. Okudah in essence pointed out that film study was never part of Lions game day preparation.

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 14, 2014: Assistant defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a game winning field goal by kicker Billy Cundiff #8 after a game against the New Orleans Saints on September 14, 2014 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won 26-24. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Many NFL experts have singled out Jeff Okudah as a player that will have a bounce-back season. Highly regarded Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn also has faith in Okudah who will be entering his second NFL season.

This is not a finger point at former Detroit Lions coaches! This is just a look at part of what went so wrong during that era of Lions football and how there could be hope with the new Lions coaching staff.

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell aims to fix corner back Jeff Okudah

The Detroit Lions drafted defensive back Jeff Okudah with the third pick in last years NFL Draft. Okudah, started just six games and appeared in nine due to a hamstring injury that lingered throughout the season. When he was healthy, Okudah did not play well. At all. Enter new Lions head coach Dan Campbell who likes Okudah and believes his issues may all stem from a lack of confidence.

It needs to be stated that the NFL is typically rough on first year defensive backs. But Jeff Okudah had a rookie season to forget. Yet it seems that Okudah is a player the Detroit Lions are going to lean into during a massive rebuild.

Lacking confidence for any athlete is not good for player, coach’s, organizations and fan bases. Defensive backs already have a spotlight on them. They are all alone trying to cover the guy with world class speed across from them.

LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 15: New Orleans Saints coach SECONDARY Aaron Glenn before an NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams on September 15, 2019, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA.(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Defensive backs even the good one, even Hall of Famers, have been beaten more than once. The good ones figure it out. Defensive backs need to be thick-skinned. That sound easy, it is not.

Jeff  Okudah had 47 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, one interception and four passes defended in 2020. One thing that should be mentioned, Okudah spent his rookie season in Detroit, a team that fired it’s head coach and front office after Thanksgiving.

Part of the issue I feel was former Lions head Matt Patricia’s defensive system. New Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn favors the Cover 1 with a little Cover 2 mixed in.

It is widely thought that Okudah is as good as advertised when the Detroit Lions drafted him. Dan Campbell said early this week he feels the players will be better because of the coach’s he has brought in. Confidence starts at the head and trickles down. It is good that Campbell is confident about his coaching staff.

LANDOVER, MD – NOVEMBER 24: Amani Oruwariye #24 of the Detroit Lions celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Washington Redskins during the second half at FedExField on November 24, 2019 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Jeff Okudah and fellow defensive back Amani Oruwariye give the Lions two promising corner backs to build the secondary around. I look for Jeff Okudah to rebound under Aaron Glenn’s watch.