Aaron Glenn, Lions take positives from defending high-flying Ravens
Allen Park — Following last weekend’s crushing, last-second defeat, the only thing on Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn’s mind was how the team let a win slip through its fingers.
But that train of thought was interrupted when Glenn received five calls from people around the NFL commending him for his defensive game plan against the Baltimore Ravens.
“You know, it’s crazy, after the game … I started getting calls from a number of people around the league just talking about, ‘Man, how do we defend these guys?’ And how good of a job we did,” Glenn said Thursday.
“I’m not into moral victories and I wasn’t even thinking on the level of, ‘Man, these coaches are giving me kudos, I guess, because of the way we defended them.’”
The Ravens, led by quarterback Lamar Jackson, have boasted one of the NFL’s top offenses the past few seasons. They led the league in scoring in 2019 and were one of seven teams to average at least 29 points per game in 2020. Baltimore also ranked first in rushing each of the past two seasons, averaging 206 yards in 2019 and 191.9 yards in 2020, and had racked up 440 yards on the ground over the first two weeks of this season.
The Lions, though, kept the Ravens in check. Detroit limited Baltimore to 116 yards rushing — its lowest output since its 115-yard outing in Week 10 last season — and 1-for-10 on third downs, while holding the Ravens under 20 points, something that has happened just twice over the past two regular seasons.
“That’s not an easy feat against that team, especially with the quarterback that they have,” Glenn said.
“I’m appreciative of all of the calls … but that (effort) does give me, gives our players, gives our coaches, confidence that we can go in there and we can put a game plan in that’s going to help give us a chance to win.”
In addition to the run defense, another positive development from Sunday’s performance was the steady pressure the pass rush put on Jackson, who was sacked four times and hit five times.
Glenn noted he wanted to be “calculated” against somebody of Jackson’s caliber and had to pick and choose his spots when to dial up the pressure. But Glenn added he feels the team has the personnel to continue the pass rush success this Sunday against the Chicago Bears, rattling off edge players like Charles Harris, Austin Bryant, Julian Okwara and Romeo Okwara.
"Every day we challenge those guys to play at a level we need them to play at,” Glenn said. “And each week, they're starting to see the type of mentality we need, the type of plays that they can make, if they go out there and just execute the way we want them to execute. And they're starting to really feel it now.
“We have a number of guys we expect a lot of, right? And we're going to continue to expect that."
When it comes to Julian Okwara, Glenn said he has shown a knack for beating guards one-on-one and he wants to utilize him in passing situations as much as possible, while eventually working the second-year pro into more spots to help stop the run game.
“It's a growth process for all those guys,” Glenn said. “We try to make sure each week, I mean, how do we take a step? How do we keep chopping wood? Third down? First- and second-down efficiency? Run game? Which I think we did a really good job of, and we're going to keep going that way.”
When receiver Kalif Raymond joined the Lions this offseason, his resume included 19 receptions and 369 receiving yards in 35 games played over his first four seasons.
Needless to say, Raymond is on pace to double his career production and shatter every one of his single-season career marks.
Through three games, he has already set a career high with 11 receptions, besting his previous high of nine catches he tallied each of the past two seasons with the Tennessee Titans. He is also 52 receiving yards away from topping the 187 yards he recorded last year, a total that took him 15 games to reach.
“Man, I sure hope so,” offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said, when asked if Raymond has more to offer, “because when teams do get creative and try to take away T.J. (Hockenson), we need other people to step up. Right now, we're still trying to figure out who that is. I like what Kalif did last week.”
Against the Ravens, Raymond hauled in a career-high six catches for 68 yards. He was also targeted a team-high 10 times, something he attributes to the trust he has built with his teammates and coaching staff in practice.
That trust was apparent on Detroit’s final drive against Baltimore, when quarterback Jared Goff went to Raymond twice, completing passes 19 and 22 yards that helped put the Lions in position to kick a go-ahead field goal.
"I think (my confidence) still continuing to grow,” Raymond said. “I'm going to work short, intermediate, deep, whatever you guys think for me, I'm going to work at it. It's a lot more plays, it's a lot more reps than I've been getting. I'm glad I finally get to put the tools that I've been training to put it out there on the field and see how it works out. It's growing. Every game, it's just like this team, we're growing. We're just getting better and better and better on the uphill battle. When it clicks, it's going to snowball.”
Ryan Santoso is in line to receive his second consecutive start at kicker. According to special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, Austin Seibert, who was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list last week, wasn’t with the team on Thursday.
Santoso was promoted off the practice squad last week and made his lone field goal, a 35-yarder, against the Ravens in a pressure-packed moment late in the game.
“He did a great job,” Fipp said. “He's poised, cool, levelheaded, just flatline like you'd like in a kicker.”
… Linebacker Trey Flowers was the only Lions player not at Thursday’s practice. Flowers has yet to practice this week after missing all of last week’s practices and Sunday’s contest due to knee and shoulder injuries.