Allen Park — Even though it’s his first season as a defensive coordinator, Aaron Glenn comes to the Detroit Lions with all kinds of credibility.
The resume is topped with an exceptional 15-year playing career. A first-round pick in 1994, he would go on to be selected to a trio of Pro Bowls, while racking up 41 interceptions in 205 games.
After retiring in 2008, Glenn tried his hand in personnel, first as a general manager of a small indoor team called the Houston Stallions before a two-year stint as a scout for the New York Jets, the team that drafted him.
Even his stint as an evaluator was relatively short, Glenn’s former coach and now senior defensive assistant Dom Capers believes the experience was valuable to Glenn’s transition into coaching, where he helped transform the New Orleans Saints secondary from one of the worst in NFL history to one of the better units in the league before coming to Detroit.
So yeah, Glenn knows a thing or two, and now he’s looking to impart that knowledge on Detroit’s young, potential-laden defensive backfield.
That group is headlined by Jeff Okudah, the second-year cornerback who was selected by the Lions with the No. 3 pick in the draft a year ago.
Okudah is coming off a rocky rookie season, where he took his lumps weekly while being tasked with covering some of the league’s best receivers, before a lingering groin injury prematurely ended his year.
The first thing Glenn has noticed in his brief time around Okudah is the young corner’s athleticism, movement skills and his prototypical size for the position. What Glenn wants to get out of Okudah, to help him start maximizing his physical gifts, is a better understanding of his responsibilities on the field.
“(You have to) allow the defense to take away certain things for you, and allow your leverage to take away the other,” Glenn said. “I think it kind of calms him down, ‘Man I’m not covering the whole route tree.’ And that’s one thing, a lot of corners don’t really understand when they come in this league. They try to cover everything, and they don’t allow the defense to cover certain routes for them. You would see a really happy player right now because he’s starting to understand that.”
Glenn credited assistant coaches Aubrey Pleasant and Brian Duker for helping hammer this point home, not just with Okudah, but with all of Detroit’s defensive backs.
“They’re starting to understand leverage, they start to understand, what does my body take away?,” Glenn said. “That’s just teaching, and AP and Duke are doing a great job of understanding exactly how I want the scheme to operate, and they’re fitting everything to that mold. And now the players are really starting to understand.”
At the safety position, Glenn is tasked with getting a pair of former third-round picks on track in Tracy Walker and Will Harris.
Walker, in particular, has shown loads of potential, but is coming off a disappointing season where he played out of position after the Lions acquired Duron Harmon in a trade and changed up Walker’s role.
“First and foremost, it’s our job as coaches to not have a down Tracy, to have the up Tracy,” Glenn said. “We have continue to teach, and he has to learn and understand exactly what we expect of him. That was the No. 1 thing, the expectations. Now it’s get in the classroom, and put the tape on and showing him exactly how we want our safeties to play.
“These past two days (of OTAs), man, he’s been outstanding. He keeps asking questions. When we’re done with practice, trying to get his film watched and things like that. So he’s eating up all of this stuff.”
Glenn also hinted he’s looking for more turnover production out of Walker, who was held without an interception for the first time in his young career last season. To make his point, Glenn noted the steady interception production from New Orleans safeties during his time with the franchise.
“If you go back and watch New Orleans safeties, man, each year, they will have four, five interceptions,” Glenn said. “Malcolm Jenkins, who’s maybe had one or two interceptions a year for the past seven years, he comes to New Orleans and he has the best year of his career. So, any player in their right mind would want to learn as much as they can as far as how we play our safeties in the back end. So, I’m excited about the player. I’m excited about Will Harris. Both of those guys are eating up as much information as they can, because they want to be successful, just like we want to be successful.”
The Lions finished with the second-fewest interceptions in the NFL last season, tallying just seven for the third consecutive season.