How a 2nd-year CB might give Detroit Lions secondary a boost after coach firing

Detroit Free Press

Drastic changes likely will not be in store for the Detroit Lions secondary after the dismissal of defensive pass game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant on Monday. Instead, Lions coach Dan Campbell said he’s looking for something simpler.

“I want to see us all on the same page,” Campbell said Monday while announcing Pleasant’s firing. “And if we’re going to get beat it’s because we’re – maybe we’re getting outrun or we’re not quite in phase, but at least we’re kind of there. We got to cut our mentals in half.”

The Lions (1-6) rank last in the NFL in points and yards allowed per game, and persistent mental errors have been a big reason why.

As the Lions have juggled personnel in their secondary due to injuries and poor play, they’ve compounded their mistakes by being out of position or failing to execute their assignment.

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Campbell said a lack of execution doomed his team’s defensive plan in last week’s 31-27 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Specifically, Lions defensive backs were not physical enough with Miami receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle at the line of scrimmage.

Hill and Waddle combined for 20 catches, 294 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Waddle got a free release off the line of scrimmage against different Lions defenders and ran untouched to the end zone on both scores.

“I feel like to even give yourself a chance in this league defensively, everyone knows this is an offensive league and to even give yourself a chance you can’t have those mental errors to play good football,” Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone said. “So yeah, like Dan said, even if it’s half of the mental errors just gives us an even better shot to win these games that we’ve been letting go.”

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The Lions have started nine different defensive backs — four cornerbacks and five safeties — in various configurations this season and could welcome a 10th to the lineup Sunday when they host the reeling Green Bay Packers (3-5) at Ford Field.

Campbell hinted after the Dolphins game Jerry Jacobs could play a more prominent role in the secondary over the season’s final two months.

Jacobs, a nine-game starter as an undrafted rookie last season, has played one defensive snap in his first two games back from the torn ACL he suffered last December. Against the Dolphins, he played exclusively on special teams.

“Oh yeah, we’re going to be looking at Jerry,” Campbell said in his postgame news conference. “We’ll be looking at everybody. We want to make sure Jerry is ready to go and then let him compete and see where he is. We still feel like last week was a step in getting him — continuing to get his confidence back, getting his legs under him, and that started with (playing on special) teams and he got a little bit more in this department. And once we feel like, ‘OK, he’s right, he can take the load,’ and he competitively is better than one of the other guys, then he’s going to get his chance.”

Jacobs took reps at slot cornerback in practice last week, a position he has not played since his junior season at Arkansas State.

The Lions have gotten good play from Jeff Okudah at one cornerback spot this season, but Amani Oruwariye has struggled in the No. 2 corner role and the Lions have used Mike Hughes, AJ Parker and Will Harris in their nickel packages.

Jacobs would add physicality to the position.

“Hell yeah, we on the way,” he told the Free Press when asked Sunday about getting more defensive action. “We on the way for sure. Should be next week. Time to turn up. I’m ready.”

Jacobs said he approached Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn in the third quarter of the Dolphins game and said he was ready to help the defense any way possible.

Glenn told Jacobs to be patient, that his time was coming.

“I can just really like help the defense out in the way I did last year when I came in,” Jacobs said. “Like whatever they need, nickel, corner, I’ll play anyone. And then tackle (in the) run game, I can do that. Pass, I can do that. Honestly, I think they’re just trying to take their time with me. I talked to A.G. two days ago, we had a man-to-man conversation. He just said take your time, which I’m OK with, but when you know your body, you know your body. And when you’re out there, been playing for two games, running with special teams, I can play on defense if I’m doing that on special teams.”

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

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