Austin: NFL-high 246 defensive combinations keep Lions ‘engaged’

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Teryl Austin (rear center) has used 246 different defensive combinations this season.

Allen Park – 246.

That’s how many different lineup combinations the Detroit Lions have used on defense this season, the most in the NFL. The unit, under coordinator Teryl Austin, has always utilized a variety of specialized packages, but the volume has been steadily on the rise.

Each season, since Austin became coordinator in 2014, the team has used more combinations. In 2014, it was 319, in 2015 they used 428 and last year it was 475. This year, they’re on pace to top that.

There are plenty of factors that go into those numbers, including injuries and youth. Austin did his best to put a positive spin on the trend.

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“I think what it does is it keeps our players engaged,” Austin said. “There’s not a guy that’s going to be out there playing tired and, ‘I got to take this play off because I’m tired.’ Our guys are engaged, and I think everybody knows they have a role in helping our team, and I think that’s important.

“I told our guys when we first got here I think that if our guys deserve to play, let’s find a role for them. Let’s get them on the field because that keeps everybody engaged in our defense, in our team, in our success. So, I don’t worry about that combination stuff.”

Through seven games, the Lions rank 22nd in total defense and 17th in defensive points allowed, but actually check in at seventh on Football Outsiders DVOA, which evaluates a unit’s efficiency based on the result of every play, factoring in situation and opponent.

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