Dave Birkett | Detroit Free Press
They tried the Tampa 2 and the wide nine and whatever the hell that was the past three seasons, all with limited success.
“The No. 1 thing we’re going to do that we’re going to do as a staff, we’re going to make sure that it’s not scheme then players,” Glenn said Wednesday. “It’s players and making sure we fit them to a scheme. And that’s our No. 1 goal, that you put the players in position to be successful.”
To that end, Glenn said it is too early to say if the Lions will run a base 3-4 or 4-3 defense this fall, and will be “multiple,”, fitting the defense to the players on their roster.
The Lions have used elements of both odd- and even-man fronts in the past, including in 2018-20 under former coach Matt Patricia.
They allowed franchise records in both points and yards allowed last season, and finished in the bottom half of the NFL in scoring defense each of the past four years.
Glenn has coached and played in both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes. He spent the past five seasons as secondary coach of the New Orleans Saints, who ran an even-man front. And he brought 3-4 guru Dom Capers to Detroit as a senior defensive assistant.
Capers, who coached Glenn when both were with the Houston Texans, “brings a wealth of (defensive) knowledge” and good organizational skills Glenn said will help him in his first season as coordinator.
“The good thing about the systems that I’ve been in, last year I was in 4-3 for five years. Before that, with Cleveland and the Jets, I was in 3-4,” Glenn said. “So I’m well versed on both of those systems. Again, that helps me as far as who do we have and we make sure we put those guys in positions. So again, I’ve been part of both systems, well versed on both systems, and I’m going to make sure we’ve got the players for them to fit exactly how we need them to play.”
Glenn said he wants his defense to play “fast” and “confident,” but spoke only in generalities when asked what traits he wants for front-seven players in his defense.
At linebacker, where 3-4 players are typically bigger and longer to help rush the quarterback or take on defenders in the run game, Glenn said he desires only “linebackers that can make plays.”
“I love speed. I love big guys, too,” he said. “I like big guys with speed, so it’s just, man, if we get good players, players that can run, hit, cover, can do all those things. Man, everybody wants those players. I’d be lying and say I want small guys that’s 200 pounds. Yeah, I want big guys that can run. We all want that, but we want to make sure we get the right guys. Character guys, cause we know your character’s going to show up on the tape on the field at some point.”
On the defensive line, Glenn said he hopes the Lions re-sign sack leader Romeo Okwara, and said both Okwara and Trey Flowers can excel in his defense.
Okwara had a career-high 10 sacks last season. Flowers, who has a $20 million cap hit this fall and a $14.375 million base salary guaranteed for injury only — he finished 2020 on injured reserve with a broken forearm — had two sacks in seven games.
“Romeo had 10 sacks, so he’s a pressure player,” Glenn said. “Every team in this league, every coach in this league wants a pressure player. So if he’ll be back, which we hope we’ll get a chance to get him back, we’re going to have him rushing the quarterback. That’s what he does best. And again, we’re going to put him in position to do what he does best, and that’s get after the quarterback.
“Trey Flowers, there’s a lot of things he can do. You can reduce that guy down, put him at a three technique and let him go one-on-one against a guard. Or you can put him out on the edge as a defensive end and let him go against tackles. So he has a unique skill set you can tap into. We’re going to make sure as we continue to study him we’re going to put him in the best position to be successful.”
The Lions could have a decision to make on Flowers in the coming weeks as they need to clear cap space in order to execute their pending trade of Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and three draft picks.
Currently, the Lions sit about $6 million over next season’s projected salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com.
Flowers is due to have the second-highest cap figure on the team in 2021, behind Goff, and $10 million of his base salary becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year.
Flowers said after the season he expects to be “full go” for offseason workouts, though it is unclear if he would pass a physical right now. The Lions would save about $3 million in cap space by waiving Flowers now, or about $14 million if they post-date the move to after June 1.
Regardless of their decision on Flowers, the Lions likely will have to release several veteran players and/or renegotiate a handful of contracts in the coming weeks in order to make major additions in free agency.