ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Some of the big names from last year’s Detroit Lions defense are gone, but the expectations are the same.
Ndamukong Suh went to Miami and Nick Fairley to St. Louis, so the national perception is that one of the NFL’s best defenses could take a step back.READ MORE: GM Recalls 484K Big SUVs To Fix Problem Third-Row Seat Belts
“You can throw names out there and their production last year, and it was greatly appreciated, but this year we kind of put that in our rear view mirror and our focus now is becoming better than we are,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “We have a brand of who we are and what we put on film, and now it’s perfecting that and getting better at our craft.”
Suh led all defensive linemen with 53 tackles and 8.5 sacks. Fairley had 14 tackles with one sack.
“We’ll be able to get some things done,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “We might have to get it from different areas. It might have to come from the edge, it might have to come from the second level. We don’t know exactly how we’re going to do it, but we’ll figure out a way to get it done.”
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he anticipates continued defensive success.
“We may have to do some things a little bit differently,” Caldwell said. “This is a little bit different group but I think without question it should be highly effective as well.”
One advantage the Lions do have is the return of Austin, who interviewed for a few head coaching positions last year but ended up returning to Detroit.
“He’s a great coach and understands us as men and as players,” Ihedigbo said. “He sets the bar high for us and demands a lot and we reach those goals. He’s a great coach, great system and we’re glad that he’s our leader.”READ MORE: Boil-Water Alert Could Last 2 Weeks For Some In SE Michigan
Defensive end Darryl Tapp, who had 17 tackles and a half-sack last year, said being in Austin’s system for the second straight year means the Lions already are ahead of where they were in training camp a year ago.
“The system’s already in place,” Tapp said. “Last year we were still learning the scheme. This year we understand the scheme so we’re focused on the little things that will make us that much better.”
Casual fans may not know names like Tapp, Caraun Reid, Tyrunn Walker and Gabe Wright, but they probably hadn’t heard of George Johnson last year. Johnson had 29 tackles and six sacks last season and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason.
Tapp said he and his fellow defensive linemen carry a chip on their shoulders.
“It’s proving that last year wasn’t a fluke. It’s proving that we’re still a top five defense, year in and year out. It’s proving that we have a group of guys that even though you don’t know them, other than Haloti (Ngata) and Ziggy (Ansah), hopefully this year being his breakout year, but for the rest of us, you can’t really point us out … so guys carry that chip, gotta get better and work.”
NOTES: LB DeAndre Levy did not participate in drills Thursday, one day after signing a four-year contract extension. “He just got a little bit of a tweak so we just backed off a little bit,” Caldwell said. “We don’t think it’s serious.” … TE Joe Fauria left practice and returned with a wrap around his left knee. Caldwell said Fauria also had a tweak and could take a couple of days to return to practice.
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