What They're Saying: Continuity Looming Large for Lions' Staff

What impact will returning coaches have on Lions in 2024?
Detroit Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard watches practice during OTAs at Detroit Lions headquarters and practice facility in Allen Park on Tuesday, June 11, 2024.
Detroit Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard watches practice during OTAs at Detroit Lions headquarters and practice facility in Allen Park on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Here is a collection of quotes from Detroit Lions assistant coaches prior to the team's final organized team activity open practice session Tuesday.

Terrell Williams (Defensive line/Run game coordinator)

If the youth on the roster was a deciding factor in his decision to come to Detroit:

“It was a big part of it. And I looked at the roster and I know the coaches here and I know what they want, so it was an easy transition. But it was a big part of it. Looking at Alim and looking at Hutch and looking at Paschal and all these guys that I feel like are getting better, my job is to give them a little shove and see where they go.” 

Mark Brunell (Quarterbacks)

On the impact of Nate Sudfeld within the quarterback room:

“Yes, there’s no substitute for a veteran presence in that room. The experience that he has. Now, he hasn’t played a lot but he’s been around a lot. This is what Nate brings to the table. He’s been in multiple systems. He is a hard-working guy with a great attitude. He’s excellent in the room, he’s excellent in the locker room, guys like him, but he’s very smart. He understands situational football as well as anybody I’ve been around. We ask a lot of our quarterbacks at the line of scrimmage and in the huddle. We ask our guys to get us into the right play.

"So if you have a play and there’s a problem over there, you have to be able to fix it. And within the parameters of the play, we have the opportunity to go from one play to the next depending on what we’re seeing, and 99 percent of the time, Nate is right. He understands defenses, he knows what to look for and he’s just very, very smart. He can get you into the right play and that’s half the battle. If you can do that and then go execute it, you’re gonna move the team. Having him in the room, with that ability and his ability to work well with the other guys and be a resource for Jared, much like David Blough was last year and much like Nate has been, having those guys in the room is a huge asset for the quarterback and the quarterback coach.”

Jim O'Neill (Defensive assistant/Safeties)

On whether he prefers a veteran or youth-heavy group:

“I like the mix. I like the mix. I think when guys understand the why, they know how to get themselves out of trouble when they’re out on the field when something bad happens.” 

Steve Heiden (Tight ends)

On whether he sees one of his tight ends taking the fullback role:

"Yeah, right now it's really all hands on deck with it. I've got a deep room with all the guys that we have in there. So we all have to know it, and we'll see how it plays out through camp."

Kelvin Sheppard (Linebackers)

On the continuity of the defense having several players who have spent multiple years in the defensive scheme:

"I think that's something that you'll see and you saw this offseason. The biggest jump that we're making, I can tell you first hand, as a defense and then that leads further to the team, is the chemistry, the collectiveness. When you talk about the defensive scheme, this is the first time in four years that we're carrying over the same system for the most part for the bulk of it, so guys have been in it. Now, it's not installing basic 101 stuff. We're now hitting the 3, 4, 500 level nuances of the ins and outs of it, which allows these guys to play faster, make plays that you probably couldn't make learning it first day, brand new.

"And then these guys gelling together. Knowing how Alim McNeill plays and how I'm gonna play off him. Knowing how Hutch plays. These guys now have had two, three, four years. Some of them, like the Levi (Onwuzurike)'s of the world, these guys have been here since 2021. So when you have that, obviously there's natural growth and progression within it."

Antwaan Randle El (Wide receivers)

On the increase in pay for wide receivers after Amon-Ra St. Brown signed a contract extension this offseason:

"It's crazy ain't it? Well, 20 years earlier, I probably would've been a quarterback. That's a whole other conversation. That money, kudos to those guys to be able to get to the point where they're making that type of money. You seem some cats, they're worth it for sure. Especially our guy. Our guy, he gets it, he understands not just ball, but he understands team. Speaking about Saint. So it's good to be able to see him get paid and it's well deserved."

Hank Fraley (Offensive line)

On continuity within the offensive coaching staff and personnel:

"It's always a good thing when it comes to the O-line. This is the time of year that we were able to get all out here and run around a little bit. Some guys were out more than others. But it was good. Just being in the room together was awesome for us and it's always a great time to be around here. As a coaching staff too, it's always good to be around each other. It's a daily grind but have fun at it. When I use that (term) grind, this time of year it's, 'How can we get better as a coaching staff?' And we have a lot of fun, it's fun coming to work, seeing each other. But we need this break, I need my break from coach Johnson."

Tanner Engstrand (Passing game coordinator)

On the impact of retaining many offensive coaches and the continuity within the offense:

"I think it's been fantastic because as coaches, you're always coaching, but last year there was a lot of coaching the coaches because they were new. This year, we all know, everyone's on the same page, we all know what we're doing. We're able to jump into year three in the offense and not drag, but bring it along slowly as we're teaching the players and the coaches. Now, the coaches are coaching the players as we go and everybody's really on the same page in continuity understanding why we're doing things, what are the details, where do we need to be. So I think that has been a huge advantage for us this spring, for sure."

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John Maakaron


John Maakaron has covered Detroit Sports since 2013. Brings a vast array of experience covering the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans, Detroit Mercy Titans, and Oakland University Golden Grizzlies. John brings a wealth of sports broadcast experience. In 2013, John had the vision to establish the Detroit Sports Podcast Network. Has recorded over 3000 podcasts analyzing Detroit Sports. In 2019, Sports Illustrated Media Group, a historical sports media outlet, partnered with Detroit Sports Podcast to provide daily Lions content for their growing and expanding digital media outlet. Our Lions content can also be read in the newspaper at The Oakland  Passionate about Detroit Sports and it is reflected in his coverage of the local teams!