The Detroit Lions defensive struggles in 2021 are well documented, ranking near the bottom of the league in almost every statistical category.
But as a new year emerges, many within the organization have noted the increased talent and depth.
The competition at safety appears to be for the second string role, with Tracy Walker and Deshon Elliott seemingly having locked up the starting jobs.
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"I like the fact those two have a really good chemistry between themselves," said safeties coach Brian Duker on Tuesday. "They push themselves, push each other in addition to their skillsets being very complimentary.
"Both have good range, both are physical which allows them to be interchangeable and hide what we're doing."
Walker returned this offseason on a three-year, $25 million deal after starting all 15 games he played in a season ago in what was a career year with a team-best and career-high 108 tackles.
Elliott, 25, signed a one-year deal this offseason, after battling injuries his first three seasons in Baltimore. During his first two seasons, Duker was a defensive assistant on the Ravens.
The Lions also added to their secondary through the draft, selecting Illinois' Kerby Joseph — PFF's top graded college safety in 2021 — with the No. 97th overall pick.
"The biggest thing we've always known about Kerby is he's going to have great range, good ball skills and he's shown that all camp," Duker said. "He's really progressed on the pre-snap communication side of it, he's getting better at his run fits all those kinds of things, so really happy with where Kerby is."
Ifeatu Melifonwu has transitioned this offseason from cornerback to safety — Will Harris did the opposite — and has flashed his physicality. Standing 6-foot-3, he has the size defensive coaches covet, with his ability to guard every position from tight end to safety.
JuJu Hughes (24), Brady Breeze (24) and C.J. Moore (26) are all fighting for jobs as well.
If there is a main concern, it's that Walker is the oldest in the position group at 27, so there will be a learning curve across the unit.
That's different from Baltimore, Duker said, where he helped coach one of the more senior defenses in the NFL. Duker said it's not necessarily just a bad thing, because it does make the young guys more malleable.
"Just knowing how to be a good pro, sometimes if you don't have good examples on the roster then coaches need to take on more of that role," he said. "But you can kind of set the expectation for them. ... On the flip side of the veteran conversation, that's the difference between a good vet and a bad vet.
"A good vet knows what it looks like ... but maybe you can have a bad vet who is a little more set in his ways certainly."
Not watching Hard Knocks
While fans are highly anticipating the first episode of "Hard Knocks" at 10 p.m. Tuesday, the players and coaches aren't exactly counting down the hours.
Players and staffers have said the film crew have been nothing but enjoyable and respectful, but that doesn't mean they're going to watch it. Duker said it's on too late and quarterback Tim Boyle said he doesn't want to lose focus on the task at hand.
"I will not watch tonight," he said. "I'm in the middle of a good training camp right now and I don't want any distractions. We'll probably hear about it through family and friends.
"There will be a point in time I watch it down the road, that will be a good thing for me to look back on ... but I'm not going to watch it for training camp."
This is quarterback Jared Goff's third time on the show. He said that he did watch the first time around as a rookie, but didn't on the second.
“I’m sure you guys will tell me if I do something stupid,” Goff said.
Contact Tony Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @realtonygarcia.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Why not all Detroit Lions will be watching HBO 'Hard Knocks'