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With 'Honeymoon Phase' Over, Aaron Glenn Must Fix Detroit Lions Defense

Detroit Lions defensive coordinator still enjoys being part of Dan Campbell's coaching staff. Now, the results must arrive on the field.

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell is significantly more comfortable defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn will remain on his coaching staff this season. 

The comfort Detroit's second-year coach has experienced working with his staff was almost disrupted, as Glenn participated in extensive interviews for the head coaching vacancies of the Saints and Broncos. 

"The thought of losing him, I just had this feeling of like I was going to be walking around without any pants on," Campbell told reporters this week. 

Despite not landing a head coach position, Glenn is aware more work still needs to get done in Detroit. 

"My goal and my motto for these is guys is 'Man, we’ve got to take the next step.' That’s what it is. There’s no turning back for us right now," Glenn said, shortly after the Lions selected Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 overall pick. "I mean, the honeymoon phase is over for us defensively, I know that, and I’m going to challenge those guys every day to make sure they understand that.” 

The revamped defensive line will have an opportunity to hone their skills against the offensive line, a unit that is highly regarded heading into the new season. 

For Glenn and the rest of the coaching staff, the value of competition that takes place at practice, even at OTA's, cannot be understated.  

“I really don’t think our defensive line looks at it that way," he said. "I think our defensive line looks at it like, ‘Listen, we know for a fact that we’re going against one of the top offensive line tandems in the League. We get a chance to get a lot of work against a good team, against a good line.’ The more that we can do that, the better it’s going to make us as a defensive line."

Glenn continued later, "The fact that you have competition -- competition drives this League. You look at that with our team now. There are going to be some hard choices for us at several positions. It’s because of competition. When you have that, it already tells you that the talent of your team is starting to get better. We enjoy that.”


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Detroit's linebackers unit struggled mightily last season, according to the majority of analytical metrics. 

Despite the clamoring for the team to invest a high draft pick to upgrade the position, the team waited until the sixth-round to select a pair of linebackers to compete for a roster spot. 

Malcolm Rodriguez and James Houston will have an opportunity over the next few months to impress their position coach, Kelvin Sheppard.

With a combination of youth and veteran experience, Detroit's coaching staff remains confident the linebackers who earn a roster spot will perform at a high level. 

“Out of all of those guys we have in that room, it’s going to be a bloodbath in there," Campbell said. "There’s a ton of experience, there’s a ton of youth, there’s a ton of energy. I think when you combine it with the type, and on top of that every one of those guys that’s in there is competitive. They’re highly competitive. I just think, man, when we come out with the finished product and the two or three that are left standing -- there will be more than that -- but my point is, I think we’re going to be excited about those guys.”

In free agency, Detroit added veterans Chris Board from the Baltimore Ravens and Jarrad Davis returned, after a short stint with the New York Jets. 

Glenn noted veteran Alex Anzalone performed the best he has since his rookie season. 

“I think we got some pretty damn good ones, all right? You guys haven’t had a chance to probably see Board yet. Or Woods. He get a chance to play. Anzalone. I mean, this is probably the best season he’s had since his rookie year," Glenn said. "We got JD back, who’s motivated. We got Malcolm Rodriguez, who I think is a sleeper. We got (rookie James) Houston from Jackson State. He’s going to be a pretty good player. So there is competition in that room.”

If Glenn is going to have the opportunity to land one of the coveted head positions in the league, the time is now to turn around the fortunes of a unit that gave up far too many yards on the ground, missed far too many tackles, and gave up far too many points late in games. 

In the pursuit of career advancement, Glenn now has the opportunity to demonstrate why he should be trusted to lead an entire team, not just one side of the football. 

For the time being, Detroit's coaching staff is relishing working in a collaborative environment. 

“I think I have the best job in the world. I really do. Man, I think I’m working for an outstanding head coach. I’m working for an outstanding owner. Outstanding. Outstanding president. Really good people in the building to work with," Glenn said. "My main deal right now, I want to be the best coordinator Detroit has ever had. I’m going to stand by that, and continue to say it, because I really believe that in my heart. If the head coaching deal happens, it happens. But for right now? I think I have an outstanding job. I really do.”