Lions will stay 'highly multiple' with 4-3 base defense

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
“Jim was very involved, and I would frequently use him as a resource, particularly with quarterbacks even when he was the quarterback coach before he became the head coach,” ESPN analyst and former Colts general manager Bill Polian said.

Phoenix — Lions coach Jim Caldwell put an end to the debate over whether the team planned to change from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 on Wednesday.

"It's not going to look any different than it did last year," Caldwell said during the NFC coaches breakfast at the NFL annual meetings at the Arizona Biltmore resort. "We were extremely multiple. We did a little bit of everything, and I think you'll see the same thing happen this fall."

Under defensive coordinator Teryl Austin last year, the Lions maintained their 4-3 base last year, but did have some 3-4 looks when rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy, a second-round pick, was healthy. Austin's defense also featured defensive linemen standing at times or linebackers starting plays at the line of scrimmage on his defense as a means to keep offenses guessing.

The Lions lost the centerpieces of their 4-3 defense when tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley left in free agency this offseason. The team traded for Haloti Ngata from the Ravens to be their top interior lineman, and because most of his experience is in a 3-4 and Austin has coached a 3-4 before, speculation began that the team could make a change.

Lions safety James Ihedigbo, who played under Austin and with Ngata in Baltimore, said recently he thought the team would make the switch.

"Nothing's going to change," Caldwell said. "I'm not certain where all that came from, but nevertheless — just in terms of what we do — we're a highly multiple team. We did a little bit of everything. If you take a look at our film, I think you'll see that. That won't change."

Caldwell said he wasn't surprised that Suh left to sign with the Dolphins because there aren't any guarantees in the NFL. He also said he thinks the team couldn't have found a better replacement than Ngata.

"When you look at he and also Tyrunn Walker, those two guys I think are going to give us a real unusual combination," Caldwell said, explaining both players are highly versatile.