MOBILE, Ala. — The defense the American team runs at the Senior Bowl this week will only modestly resemble the defense Aubrey Pleasant will employ when he gets a chance to be a defensive coordinator one day.
Pleasant, the Detroit Lions secondary coach who is serving in an elevated role as coordinator this week, said he spent a week putting together a playbook for his unit that conformed to the rules of the college football all-star game.
That means no mismatch personnel groups, no blitzing and no covering up the offensive center, constraints that go against Pleasant’s — and the Lions’ — usually aggressive personality.
“The Senior Bowl does a really good job of giving both offense and defense parameters of what you can and can’t do,” Pleasant said before Day 2 of Senior Bowl practice Wednesday. “And really what it allowed me to do is almost create a playbook for what we do here. So you’ll see some things that we’re doing in the Senior Bowl that might not necessarily look exactly like the Detroit Lions and that’s because of some of the parameters with the rules. But it forced me to be creative and kind of also get on the same page with all the position coaches.”
Pleasant called it “a blessing” to be able to have a dry run at coordinator after slowly working his way up the NFL coaching food chain.
The Senior Bowl instituted new rules to help broaden the coaching pool this year, having head coaches like Dan Campbell serve in an advisory capacity and promoting position coaches to more senior roles.
Assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley is the American team head coach this week, and tight ends coach Ben Johnson is serving as offensive coordinator.
“I think it’s really just putting another tool in my tool shed and continue to do things the old school fashioned way, which is just grind, work hard and hopefully let your work take care of yourself,” Pleasant said.
Campbell said he considers Pleasant and defensive line coach Todd Wash, a former defensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars, coordinator candidates if Aaron Glenn gets the head coaching job with the New Orleans Saints.
Pleasant insisted he has not thought about how being in this role could put him on the coordinator or head coach track with other teams, too.
“To be honest with you, I never really thought about anyone else looking at me at this position besides the people that I’m necessarily working with,” Pleasant said. “I would say that that’s actually my mindset cause I think it’ll take care of itself.”
With limited coaching responsibilities on his plate this week, Campbell said he’s been able to work closely with general manager Brad Holmes to start preparing for March free agency and April’s NFL draft.
The Lions started free agent meetings this week, and will continue the process when they return to Allen Park.
Free agency opens March 16, when the Lions currently project to have about $30 million in available cap space.
“I actually just left a meeting with Brad. We’re talking about free agents,” Campbell said. “We’re still talking about other guys that are going to be involved in the draft that aren’t at the Senior Bowl, so the work doesn’t stop just cause we’re here. So that actually helps me, frees up some of my time to be involved with kind of all of it, from this to what they’re doing a little bit of and then certainly go out to practice, meeting with other coaches.”