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Exploring Aaron Glenn's Defense

Read more on what the Lions' defense might look like with Aaron Glenn as the team's new defensive coordinator

As the Detroit Lions coaching staff begins to take shape, one domino recently fell on the defensive side of the ball. 

Coming over with new head coach Dan Campbell from the New Orleans Saints is defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn. Glenn takes over as the team's defensive coordinator. 

Make no mistake, there will be plenty of work to do. 

Leaving behind the hybrid defense of ex-Lions head coach Matt Patricia, Glenn will likely follow a 4-3 base defense, similar to what he was working with in New Orleans under its defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. 

That’s not to say it will be exactly the same, especially if Glenn can cater to the strengths of some of the current roster. 

With the Saints having finished the regular season fourth in total defense and with the No. 5 scoring defense, any improvement to the Lions' worst-ranked defense will go a long way for the team in 2021. 

It was well known that Patricia was not very aggressive in terms of a pass rush and utilized a man-heavy scheme. 

Looking at how the Saints deployed plenty of coverage schemes in 2020, they also had one coverage that they ran more than most. 

According to Matt Bowen of ESPN, the Saints ran the most two-man coverage of any team in the NFL last year (22.2 percent). 

  • Cover 1 — 31.2% (24th-highest percentage in the NFL) 
  • Two-man — 22.2% (1st in the league) 
  • Cover 3 — 12.8% (30th) 
  • Cover 2 — 12.6% (27th) 
  • Quarters — 11.7% (12th) 

Two-man coverage is another form of man, but unlike the 2020 Lions' Cover-1 dominant team, the Saints would frequently use two deep safeties over the top, as opposed to the Lions keeping one safety deep and typically a linebacker underneath in the hole. 

The two-man coverage is more susceptible to crossing routes underneath, yet is meant to limits big plays over the top. 

Now, even with the Saints leading the league for the percentage of two-man used, they actually ran Cover-1 the most of any coverage at 31.2 percent -- the 24th-highest percentage in the league. 

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Still, the Saints ran plenty of zone coverages, but there wasn’t just one specific coverage that they would turn to. Overall, their coverage mix was pretty well diversified. 

On the pass-rush side of things, Pro Football Focus graded the Saints' overall pass-rush unit as the seventh-best in the NFL. 

Per Pro Football Reference, the Saints' blitz rate of 31.8 percent was good enough for the 14th-highest percentage in the league. 

Their total pressure rate on pass snaps was 26 percent, as well -- the fifth-highest percentage in the NFL. 

Quite the contrast from the Lions last season. 

The Lions' 16.9 percent pressure percentage was worst in the NFL, and they had the eighth-lowest blitz rate. 

Ultimately, the Saints' defense has plenty more talent than what Glenn will have immediately in Detroit. 

Glenn probably has his own ideas for what approach he wants to take on defense. 

If last year's Saints team is any indication, Glenn will likely be much more aggressive and unpredictable for coverage -- two spots Lions fans were highly critical of regarding the former regime. 

No matter who would've been hired as the Lions' defensive coordinator, though, it wouldn't be difficult to improve upon those two attributes.

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