Falcons provide Lions with defensive emphasis heading into season opener

Detroit News

Detroit — During the grind of training camp, it’s difficult for NFL coaches and players to focus much beyond the current day, but it’s naïve to think the Detroit Lions don’t have Week 1 opponent Philadelphia in the back of their mind.

And coming out of the preseason opener against Atlanta Friday night, Detroit was sharply reminded of the team’s need to improve defending mobile quarterbacks before the Sept. 11 tilt with Philadelphia.

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Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is one of the league’s better dual-threat passers. Last year, in his second season, he led all quarterbacks with 784 rushing yards, all while making marked improvements as a passer. In a 44-6 victory in Detroit last October, he completed nine of his 14 passes, while running for 71 yards on seven carries. That marked his best rushing average (10.1 yards per carry) of the season.

Against the Falcons in the preseason opener, slowing down the mobility of quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder proved to be a problem for the Lions. The two opposing passers gained 92 yards on 11 carries, including a 6-yard touchdown scramble by Mariota to cap the opening drive against Detroit’s starting defense. And Ridder got free twice during a two-minute drill at the end of the first half, gaining 39 yards, leading to a 47-yard field goal as time expired.

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“Sometimes, you just gotta see it, you’ve gotta see it live,” Campbell said. “Our (quarterbacks) don’t do that (in practice), so we haven’t worried about it. So, no, that hasn’t been an emphasis, and we didn’t work that for Atlanta, either.”

It wasn’t an emphasis ahead of Friday’s contest because the Lions, like most teams, don’t game plan in the preseason. But the tape coming out of the matchup will re-emphasize the importance of defenders being disciplined when needing to defend a quarterback who can run.

“Yeah, it’ll be everything,” Campbell said. “…If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do and being disciplined to it, they’ll break contain in a hurry, and that happened today. So, it’ll be good for us and as we start getting close to Philly. We’ll be working those things. It was good for us to get tonight, because it is, it’s a re-emphasis on what they’re gonna do, and how they’re gonna attack us.

Rookie Aidan Hutchinson, who was culpable on a couple of the early defensive breakdowns in the game, agreed.

“Yeah, it’s huge,” Hutchinson said about the learning experience. “Gotta have those good rush lanes. It’s always a factor with those very mobile quarterbacks, so I’m sure that’ll be a point of emphasis in these next couple weeks, and then we’ll get it cleaned up for Philly.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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