Allen Park —The Detroit Lions announced Monday the promotion of Tim Walton to Secondary/3rd Down Package Coach and hiring of Marcus Robertson as Defensive Assistant/Secondary Coach.
Walton enters his fourth season with the Lions after joining Head Coach Jim Schwartz’s coaching staff in 2009 as the team’s secondary coach.
The Lions secondary played a crucial role for the team’s defense as Detroit earned a playoff berth for the first time since 1999. The unit was opportunistic, garnering 16 of the team’s 21 interceptions (fifth in the NFL) while having four defensive backs (CB Chris Houston, 5; CB Eric Wright, 4; CB Alphonso Smith, 3; S Amari Spievey, 3) finish with at least 3 interceptions. The Lions were just one of four teams in the NFL to have four defensive backs register at least 3 interceptions.
The Lions finished third in the NFL with 458 return yards and were second with 404 interception return yards by defensive backs. Among the team’s interceptions, a League-high 5 interceptions were returned for touchdowns, with 3 interception return touchdowns coming from the Lions secondary.
Houston, under Walton’s tutelage, broke out with a career-year in 2011 as he led the team in interceptions (5), interception return yards (225) and interception return touchdowns (2). He was one of only three players in the NFL with 2 interception return touchdowns. His 225 interception return yards led the NFL, and were the fourth most in team history and most since Hall of Fame CB Lem Barney registered 232 in 1967.
Each year under Walton, the Lions secondary has increased its interception totals. Their 2011 total of 16 nearly doubled the tally of interceptions by the Lions defensive backs from the previous two years combined. In 2009, they registered 7 interceptions, and in 2010 the team’s defensive back collected 10 interceptions.
Walton will oversee the team’s 3rd Down Package on defense, an area that has greatly improved each of the last three seasons. On third down in 2011, Detroit’s defense ranked third in the NFL by allowing a conversion percentage of 32.7 (67-of-205). In 2010, the team was 20th on third down with a conversion rate of 38.9 (77-198), and in 2009 the Lions defense ranked 25th on third down allowing a 40.5 (85-of-210) conversion percentage. The improvement of 6.21 percent from 2010 to 2011 was the largest improvement by a defense on third down in the NFL.
Walton’s secondary helped the Lions limit opponent offenses to a passer rating of 69.2 on third down, which was the fourth-lowest rating on third down in the NFL.
Prior to his arrival in Detroit, Walton spent the 14 previous seasons coaching on the college level, and he had three summer internships with NFL teams. Walton graduated from Ohio State in 1994 and was a defensive back for the Buckeyes.
Robertson joins Detroit’s coaching staff entering his 22nd season in the NFL and his sixth season as a coach. He has coached the past five NFL seasons with Tennessee where he started as an Assistant Secondary coach (2007-08) and finished as their Secondary coach (2009-11).
Robertson’s first season assisting with the secondary was 2007. That season the Titans improved from 27th to 10th in pass defense and from 32nd to fifth in overall yardage allowed.
In 2008, three of the four Tennessee secondary players (CB Cortland Finnegan, S Chris Hope and S Michael Griffin) were invited to the Pro Bowl for the first time in their careers. Overall, the defensive backs collected 19 interceptions, which ranked second in the NFL in interceptions by a secondary. The Titans ranked ninth in pass defense and seventh in total defense.
Robertson was promoted to Secondary coach in 2009 and the Titans finished that season eighth in the NFL in interceptions (20) and second in interceptions returned for touchdown (4). Over the span of his three seasons coaching Tennessee’s secondary (2009-11), the Titans were second in the NFL in average passing yards/completion (10.55).
Robertson played 12 NFL seasons after being drafted out of Iowa State in the fourth round by the Houston Oilers in 1991. He played his first 10 seasons in Houston/Tennessee and finished his career with Seattle (2001-02). Roberson’s NFL career was highlighted by All-Pro seasons in 1993 and 1997. He played in 157 games (144 starts) with 851 tackles, 24 interceptions and 1.5 sacks.
After Robertson’s playing career ended with the Seahawks, he returned to the Titans as their Director of Player Development (2003-06). He spent the next four years assisting players with their career transition into and out of the NFL through continuing education, financial education and dealing with family matters through player programs. Robertson and his staff won the Winston and Shell Award in 2006 for their innovation and commitment to player development in the NFL
Robertson was inducted into the Iowa State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009, where he starred as a cornerback and totaled 257 tackles, six interceptions and nine forced fumbles during his four-year career.
A native of Pasadena, Calif., Robertson and his wife, Holly, have three children: Morgan, Milan and Marcus Andrew.