Lions defense bringing attack first mentality to defensive scheme

·3 min read

Walking into the second year of the Brad Holmes/Dan Campbell regime, you can feel major steps are being made after many lessons were learned following their first year. One of the major changes implemented in the evolving nature of the Lions defense is switching from a read-react defense to one that punches the opponent in the mouth, which surely fits what Campbell and Aaron Glenn are looking to accomplish on defense.

The Lions have done a great job in bringing players who can generate the thump and thunder to make this change successful. With the majority of the players back from last year to supplement with the infusion of draft talent that fits the mindset, the pieces are in place to make the leap.

For the attack first mentality to work, the defense needs to work in complete unison to force the opposition into what the Lions want them to do versus the other way around. Everywhere from the defensive line to the linebackers to the secondary needs to be one unified front. The Lions retained most of their coaches from last year, which led to productive seasons from unexpected players, specifically defensive line coach Todd Wash and linebacker coach Kelvin Sheppard, who was promoted from outside linebacker coach last year.

In a recent interview with Lions Tim Twentyman on his podcast, Sheppard mentioned how Wash influenced him through his first season as an NFL coach.

“Without Todd Wash, I would not have had half the success that I did,”

These coaches will be at the forefront of the new Lions attack first defense. Considering their relationship’s strength, they can scheme the best situations for their players to maximize their potential, especially under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s tutelage.

Earlier, Wash brought up that with the additions of Hutchinson and Paschal, the Lions will be able to attack due to the skillset each of the players can bring, lining up with what Sheppard had to say about the attack first mentality is a blessing for the linebacker corps.

“As a linebacker, it’s everything you ever wanted. To a react defense, you have to marry everything that’s happening up front. So they can’t be playing react and we’re just shooting—no. When they play react, it’s a lot of principles that those 3-4 systems have, where you see bigger inside linebackers, because they’re two-gappish type of players. Attack-react is normally involved with 4-3 systems more attacking. To be honest, that comes top-down from Aaron Glenn. He is a dictator, in my opinion.”

As a defensive player, you want to be the one to force the offense into something they are not comfortable in, and if the Lions can shut down some of the opponent’s offensive aspects, they can gain the upper hand. Sheppard is excited to implement this new style and is ready to stack the deck in the Lions favor.

“Defense, I know we’re a reactionary component in football, but we’re flipping the table. We’re trying to dictate to people—and we’re going to do what we do. We’re going to do what we do, and then we’ll react on the move. But we’re lining up, and we’re going after you. We’re going to do what we do, and then depending on what you give us, we’ll react accordingly.”

Right off the bat, you can feel a changing of the guards surrounding the Lions heading into the 2022 season. With coaches like Sheppard, it is very easy to jump on the bandwagon with the amount of optimism and excitement radiating from Allen Park. If the Lions can implement what they are looking to accomplish, opponents will fear the new Lions attack first defense.