Lions notes: With head coaching aspirations, Duce Staley sees opportunity in Detroit

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
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Duce Staley had interest from other teams, but with ambitions to be an NFL head coach, he thought his best path to achieving his goal would be with the Detroit Lions. Here, he's serving as Dan Campbell's assistant head coach, while also managing the team's running backs. 

Staley, a 10-year NFL veteran who has spent the past decade building up his coaching resume in Philadelphia, saw an opportunity to expand his skill set as Campbell's right- hand man. 

Lions assistant head coach Duce Staley

Campbell, who was similarly groomed for his opportunity by Sean Payton in New Orleans, is able to pay that experience forward with Staley, who is being looped into different responsibilities for the first time in his career. 

Some of those changes will be obvious. Campbell intends to put Staley in front of the media weekly, along with the coordinators, to give him increased experience being in front of reporters. That might seem like a small thing to some, but to Staley, there are no small opportunities in this business. 

"Any opportunity that you get to stand in front of you guys and you guys ask questions and we converse and I try to answer the questions, or try to give you the answers you want, I think that's huge," Staley said. "I think that's huge with the preparation of becoming a head coach. You can't get enough of this, in my opinion."

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Behind the scenes, Campbell is also making extra efforts to keep Staley looped into the entirety of the operation. Sometimes that's as simple as being involved in more meetings, or getting debriefed on the meetings he couldn't attend because of a scheduling conflict.

On top of that, Staley is a diligent note-taker, which helps him both retain the information he's gathering and also provides a quick reference if he has a question down the road. 

Additionally, the Lions gave Staley an increased workload ahead of the draft, asking him to evaluate multiple prospects, and not just running backs. 

"Of course I had the running back skills, that's my job, but just other positions, defensively, special teams players," Staley said. "You get a chance to learn, coming from the Saints and how they did things, and I get a chance to continue to learn and build my resume."

Riding the hot hand

Trying to assess Detroit's running back rotation this early in the offseason, logic suggests last year's second-round pick D'Andre Swift will be the lead option, with free-agent acquisition Jamaal Williams primed to see a healthy workload as the top complement. 

As for the potential addition of former All-Pro Todd Gurley, well, we can worry how that puzzle piece fits if and when a contract gets done. 

But offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn made on thing clear this week — whether it's Swift, Williams, Gurley or someone else in the game, if they're running well, they're not getting subbed out. 

"If you go in the game and you're ballin', you're going to stay in there," Lynn said. 

Lynn also discussed volume when talking about distribution. The former Chargers coach understands, as a former running back who also once led the NFL's top rushing attack his lone season as a coordinator, he has a reputation as wanting a ground-and-pound offense. But that's a narrative he rejects, pointing out the different types of attacks he oversaw with the Chargers. 

As for individual workloads, Lynn said it's less about carries and more about touches. 

"I'm about touches and how can I get guys touches, whether it's throwing it to them, quick passes, or handing it off to them," Lynn said. 

That works well for guys like Swift and Williams, who are more than comfortable as pass-catchers. Swift, in particular, could see more time split out wide or in the slot after doing it sparingly during his rookie season. His skill set lends itself to being a matchup problem outside of the backfield. 

"He has natural hands and he's learning coverage and how to read coverages, sit in zones and run through mans, things like that," Lynn said. "He's doing good. We can use him a plethora of ways, in my opinion, from the backfield to empty (sets). I like his skill set so far."

Planning ahead 

No one was quite certain what this offseason program would look like, but for a while, it was trending toward being fully virtual ahead of training camp for a second consecutive year. 

With that in mind, new Lions kicker Randy Bullock didn't want to come into camp cold, without having worked with his snapper Don Muhlbach and holder Jack Fox. So like quarterback Jared Goff, who has organized workouts with several of the team's pass-catching options near his home in California, Bullock brought his fellow specialists together in Texas. 

"Before we actually came up here, we didn't know how the whole offseason program was actually going to last or if it was going to happen," Bullock said. "We actually had Jack (Fox) come down, and Don (Muhlbach) actually ends up living like 15 minutes from me in Houston. So we all got together and worked a little bit on our own before we even got up here, not knowing if we had the opportunity to work together up here."

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That time helped the trio fast track the kicking operation the Lions are expected to open the season with this year. 

Bullock, entering his 10th season, has made 83.2% of his field goal attempts during his career, ranking him 29th in NFL history. That's one spot ahead of former Lions kicker Matt Prater. It's even more impressive when you consider Bullock spent the past four-plus years in the AFC North, where each of the division's outdoor stadiums is prone to challenging weather conditions, particularly in the season's later months. 

Bullock could still see those conditions in Green Bay and Chicago, but isn't upset to be dealing with a climate-controlled setup for his home games. 

"I think a dome helps after coming from the AFC North," Bullock said. "That was very appealing. Trying to get out of some of that weather a little bit. 10 games in a dome, hopefully that continues to carry over on the success rate in field goal percentage."

Lions OK with Rodgers taking his time

Outside of Detroit, one of the biggest lingering offseason stories is the future of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

With the relationship between player and franchise reportedly on the rocks, speculation continues to run rampant about whether the reigning MVP will be traded or if he'll opt for retirement if he's unable to force his way out. 

Williams, who played the past four seasons with Rodgers in Green Bay, didn't have an inside intel on the situation, but was quick to offer support for his former teammate, while also seeing a potential positive now playing for a division rival. 

"I love 12 (Rodgers)," Williams said. "I want him to do whatever makes him happy in life. For my Lions teammates, yeah, go ahead and just stay out for a minute, let us go ahead and get loose, we’ll go get some too, but make it easier for us."

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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