Detroit Lions tweaking defense; assistants Kelvin Sheppard, Todd Wash to take bigger roles

Detroit Free Press

INDIANAPOLIS — The Detroit Lions are realigning some of their coaching staff to help with a schematic change coming to their defense this fall.

Lions coach Dan Campbell said Tuesday at the NFL combine that the Lions will maintain three-down principles on their defensive line but will move to “a little more of a four-down type” defense.

The Lions played out of both three- and four-down lineman looks last season, when their edge pass rushers often rushed from a stand-up outside linebacker position.

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The Lions’ sack leader from last season, Charles Harris, excelled in the defense and is scheduled to hit free agency later this month. The Lions could add a pass rusher like Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 pick of the draft, and they return Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara and Austin Bryant on the edge.

Romeo Okwara is returning from a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Defensive end Trey Flowers also remains under contract for now, though his high cap number ($23.2 million) could make him a cap casualty before the start of the new league year.

Campbell said outside linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard will coach inside linebackers in 2022, and defensive line coach Todd Wash will take a more prominent role working with edge rushers.

Dave Corrao, the team’s director of football research, will work with outside linebackers. Corrao was defensive coordinator at Northern Michigan in 2016.

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The Lions fired Mark DeLeone as inside linebackers coach in February.

Along with the defensive staff changes, Campbell said offensive quality control assistant Tanner Engstrand will take over as tight ends coach. Engstrand worked with tight ends during the second half of last season, after tight ends coach Ben Johnson became more heavily involved as pass game coordinator.

The Lions promoted Johnson to offensive coordinator last month.

Campbell said the Lions still have one hire to make for their coaching staff, on the offensive side of the ball.

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Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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