It sure set up beautifully for Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. A home game with an amazing sell-out crowd and a Seahawks team coming to Ford Field with both starting offensive tackles out — it’s an optimal situation for his defense to attack Seattle.
It didn’t play out as hoped for Glenn and his Detroit defense. Not even remotely close. And that’s the kind of suboptimal performance from Glenn’s unit that is no longer acceptable.
After playing pretty well in the opening win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Lions’ defense collapsed against the Seahawks.
Okay, okay. The Seahawks have a potent offense. D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Kenneth Walker and company are great weapons for steady veteran QB Geno Smith. Heck, they hung 48 on Detroit last year, never punting once in the process. They’re going to get theirs against a lot of teams, not just Detroit.
That doesn’t excuse how easy Detroit’s defense, no–Glenn’s defense–made it for them. Again, it’s no longer acceptable, not for Glenn, not for the players, not for Dan Campbell as the man in charge of the on-field product.
The Lions didn’t register a single QB hit in the game until Alex Anzalone sacked Geno Smith late in the fourth quarter on a play where Smith eschewed several chances to throw the ball away. They didn’t have a single sack in the opener in Kansas City, either.
Aidan Hutchinson has been Detroit’s only source of real pressure in the first two games. He’s been blanked on the sack sheet, but Hutchinson has definitely been impactful. Nobody else has sniffed what Patrick Mahomes or Geno Smith smells like in the pocket, not without Hutchinson’s help in attracting attention away from them.
Some of that is on the players themselves. Charles Harris had a couple of effort wins and pressures against the Chiefs, and James Houston nearly bagged a sack on Mahomes. John Cominsky played well in Kansas City but was invisible against the Seahawks. Alim McNeill almost got home once against Smith right after Seattle had to insert rookie Olu Oluwatimi at center for an injured (ex-Lion) Evan Brown, but that was it on Sunday. The players are not getting the job done. They’re also not being helped by their coordinator.
Glenn hasn’t been aggressive or creative in attacking the quarterback. There have been a few blitzes, mostly from Brian Branch out of the slot, that have had some success even without finishing the sack. Most of the time, it’s Glenn asking his players to win their battles one-on-one, or two-on-one if it’s Hutchinson.
It jumps off the game film when watching the frequently chaotic blocking scheme the Detroit offense deploys. There’s almost always some movement, or a trap block, or a pulling lineman, or a backside pickoff help built into the blocking scheme. Glenn’s defense doesn’t do anything like that. No stunts, no twists, no asynchronous rushes, no overloads. The limited ones they do try don’t seem well-coordinated or rehearsed. They’re certainly not effective.
There is too much individual talent on the defensive front to have just one sack in eight-plus quarters of football. The players are not producing. The scheme and defensive play-calling aren’t helping. It’s making life too hard on the linebackers and defensive backs in coverage, and that’s a very easy way to keep losing football games.
(Those coverages look better than last year’s early-season abomination but could also use some simplification, too.)
Glenn has to mix things up. He’s from the Bill Parcells coaching tree. He was a Pro Bowl cornerback in multiple Parcells defenses. Parcells would not stand pat and keep failing by trying the same ineffective methods and schemes over and over again. It’s time for Glenn to either channel his Hall-of-Fame coaching mentor or find a different place to coach.
Campbell has been down this road once before, unfortunately. His initial choice of offensive coordinator, Anthony Lynn, was disastrous back in 2021. Campbell had no choice but to pull the plug on Lynn after an 0-8-1 start. It’s getting perilously close to time for Campbell to make another tough but necessary decision, this time on his defensive coordinator and longtime colleague, Glenn.
Next week’s game against Atlanta is a direct challenge for Glenn, or rather it should be. The Falcons are a run-based team with an inconsistent young quarterback in Desmond Ridder who doesn’t attack downfield well. Detroit’s run defense has been a bright spot; the Lions are allowing under 2.8 yards per carry on non-QB runs through the first two weeks. The linebackers and safeties are doing great at snuffing out the opposing running backs.
Now it’s time for them to do that to the opposing passing game. If not, Glenn’s seat should be on fire.