Can C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Lions’ revamped secondary unlock Aaron Glenn’s defense?

Another excellent article in theAthletic. Discussing the secondary and Glenn’s defense.

Last year Lions played higher % of cover one in the league.
Lions sent five rushers on 33.5% of time in 2022, ranked 7th in the league.

System runs on trust, DB’s do their job and Glenn will let others create the chaos. In New Orleans it worked well. Per Glenn defense is built around CB’s and Dline

In 2020, Glenn’s final year as the Saints’ defensive backs coach, the team ranked sixth in defensive pass EPA per dropback, fifth in passing yards allowed per game, fourth in opponent passer rating, second in opponent completion percentage and first in interceptions.

Defense relies heavily on communication which wasn’t there last season, the change was notable in OTA’s. All the DB’s heavily communication and “meshing” which is critical to the defense .

They had fun out there this spring, but it was more than that. They were chatting pre-snap and calling out their responsibilities. They practiced like the stakes were high. There was cohesion and communication.

You rarely saw that last year. You can’t avoid it this year.


Campbell discussed how the added talent in that room have raised the intensity level in practice. It came naturally, intensity in practice went up which is critical per DC which makes everyone better. If you don’t have that level of intensity in practice you are probably going to get beat.

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Best defensive roster since '14.


On paper, yes.


All I am hearing is we added more leadership in the room. And that is the key. Players that are invested and are leaders and understand that the key to success in any organization is good communication. Especially in the front lines. Which in this case is on the field pre-snap. We hear it said over and over, players that know where they need to be play faster and more confidently.
This is why you typically need a good mix of veterans and youth. I will say that I really like the Campbell and Branch picks because I believe those are 2 players that already know how important communicating is to the team and even their own success. And are willing to use their voices with confidence early and often.

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And think too, we almost added Spoon to the mix

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Love all of this.

Really hoping Bro-Mart can explode this year.

We have great edge guys. Pressure on the interior would amplify that by a ton.

And if you are going to bring pressure that often, you better be able to cover. Pretty telling that they traded Okudah for peanuts and had no interest in AO or Hughes coming back in free agency.

Had the same thought when reading the article.
Also fortunate that CJGJ was available late along with Mosely who, if healthy probably wouldn’t have been there as well.

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I think we’re really going to like the Jack Campbell pick too. I watched a video yesterday on YouTube and the sidelines reporter was talking about her asking tristian wirfs about Campbell. I guess wirfs just raved about him to her. Said he’d hoped someone would take Campbell in the first round because that’s how good the dude is. I sure hope he’s right.

Just an FYI, CJGJ has incentives to help the team get better. His $1.5M in incentives are tied to the Lions having a top 16 defense.

Anzalone, Romeo, Buggs also have incentives tied to top 16 defense or making the playoffs. Love the move by the Lions to tie incentives to team success.


With Okudah underperforming and AO performing with smoke and mirrors before getting exposed, its clear that AG was trying to get blood out of rocks. He had no DB talent - when Walker went down he had to turn over center field to a green rookie and have a journeyman (Elliot) lead the unit. Along with two fringe roster players (Hughes, Harris) and a UDFA (Jacobs). When you look back, geesh that is not a talented room! With KerJo trending up, Branch, and the two new outside corners- there’s a complete re-vamp. But THE move was getting CGJ. While everyone wants to be the leader, make no mistake, he WILL be the dawg in the room. I’d love to hold onto him past 2023. These players fit AG’s style. I can’t wait to see these guys in action.

I’ll say it first:

  1. Our D is going to be better than our O this year.
  2. This is AG’s last year with us (CGJ may go with him)
  3. Shep will be our DC next year

I must go shopping for koolaid immedaitely after reading this! :wink:

Also, Magic Beans!!!

Oh Yeah GIF by Leroy Patterson

you ran out? tch, tch.
make sure its the blue kind. Rory will lend you some.

i think you need to get these from the Easter Bunny.

Not a chance when I have Brad Holmes! He’s the magic bean God!

We were forced to play cover one a lot more once Walker went down and with all the injuries in the secondary. We were too thin to really mix it up back there. Which made it easier for teams to attack us.

But the Lions base defense is a ton of two high with cover 1 and cover 3 mixed in fairly often.

In NO with Dennis Allen as DC they blitzed 5 or more the most in the league. They also lead the league much of the time in QB pressures. That defense used a ton of two high, with cover one and cover 3 mixed in.

The Saints played a slot CB most of the time and he would line up in the slot while in man or as a hole defender in zone.

This is the defense AG wants to run. You have to understand that’s who he learned to coach from.

Sean Payton is a big proponent on read and communication based systems. He does it on offense and defense. When Lombardi was our OC he couldn’t get the Saint offense to work because of the complexity and the fact that everyone was learning it at one time. There were constant miscues and misunderstandings which stalled the offense.

I think we’ve seen some of the same things on our defense. While AG is clearly bringing them along much slower than Lombardi did. He’s struggling to implement his vision because of the communication and misunderstandings of his players. Most of that confusion is in the back 7 where the complexity sticks out.

My understanding is Fox is here to free up AG so he can work with the back 7 and implement his vision. AG’s strength is there so if it fails there no one else to blame for it. I suspect with the talent, and his coaching emphasis, that we will see some huge strides in our back 7. I am however expecting growing pains too.

There’s plenty of talent on this defense. They should be a top 1/2 of the league defense at the worst.


Good post, appreciated this.


@Air2theThrown, great post above, but that’s also something that concerns me is AG thinking he’s still in NO, now maybe we have the talent, I think we might have that, but predictable defenses are often easy to beat

Fox should help with that.


What constitutes a top 16 D? Points, yards? Just curious.

It can be one or the other or either (i.e. earned if your top 16 in points but not yards or vice versa), but in CJ’s case his incentives are tied to top 16 in yards.