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Aaron Glenn sets lofty goal as Lions defensive coordinator; '22 kicker competition brews

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Prior to accepting the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator job last offseason, Aaron Glenn interviewed for the New York Jets head-coaching vacancy that ultimately went to Robert Saleh. 

And while Glenn's future candidacy for openings could be slowed by Detroit's defensive struggles in 2021, the well-respected former player should be a hot target if his unit has even a modicum of success the next two seasons. 

Aaron Glenn is in his first season as Lions defensive coordinator.

But Glenn isn't thinking about his next job. While Detroit might ultimately end up a stepping stone, his current role has all of his present and future focus. And as long as he's here, he wants to leave an imprint that won't soon be forgotten. 

"I want to be the best coordinator the Lions ever had. That's all I think about," Glenn said. "...Listen, this is a job that I have right now, and I want to be the best I can be at it. And I want to be the best that ever came through Detroit. I want you guys to say that at some point, that he was the best coordinator ever. That's what my goal is."

That might be a tall talk considering Don Shula used a highly successful two-year stint as Detroit's defensive coordinator to launch his legendary head-coaching career in Baltimore and Miami. With Shula as coordinator in 1961 and 1962, the Lions ranked top-three in points allowed both seasons, posting a combined record of 29-8-1. 

In terms of the Super Bowl era, Maxie Baughan had some success in the early 80's before leaving to become Cornell's head coach, while Teryl Austin orchestrated one of the league's top units in 2014, but couldn't come close to repeating that success the next three years.

Offensively, Tom Moore built a juggernaut in mid-90's, but was broomed out with head coach Wayne Fontes after the 1996 season. 

A player worth retaining

Add Tracy Walker to the list of players Glenn would like to see re-signed in the offseason. 

"Absolutely," Glenn said. "We like good players and if you’re a good player, we’re looking to sign you."

A third-round draft pick out of Louisiana in 2018, Walker had the look of a foundational piece after his first two seasons, before taking a clear step back while playing a different role in 2020.

More: Ranking the Lions' impending unrestricted free agents

Walker has rebounded nicely this season and has been one of Glenn's most consistent players in the back end of the defense, tallying a team-high 94 tackles to go with five pass breakups. 

Glenn said Walker's biggest improvements have come with his ability to communicate, on and off the field. 

"We ask a lot of our safeties, we really do," Glenn said. "The one thing he’s done, he’s bought into everything that we’re trying to get done in this defense as far, as a safeties perspective, and he’s grown. He’s growing in that and he’s also become a leader as far as linebackers, as far as getting everybody together and watching some tape.

"That’s what we expect of our safeties," Glenn said. "They are one of the captains of our team because of the communication we ask them to do and he’s going to continue to grow."

Up for grabs

For the second consecutive offseason, the Lions figure to have a competitive battle for the team's kicking job. 

After last year's initial wave of contenders failed to seize the opportunity, Detroit settled on Austin Seibert, who they claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals days before the start of the season. 

Seibert missed his first kick in a Lions uniform, before making 10 straight field goals. He missed another, his final attempt before his season was ended by a hip injury.  

After a couple of weeks, Riley Patterson settled in as the second-half solution. Poached off the Patriots practice squad, he made his first 10 field goals, but badly missed is only attempt from beyond 50 yards this season, last week in Seattle. 

"I think at the end of the season we can kind of sit back and evaluate where we're at," special teams coordinator Dave Fipp said. "But really our goal throughout the course of the year has just been try to get the best player in there that can give us a chance to help us win. 

"Obviously, Riley's had a bunch of success," Fipp said. "We had the one miss in the last game, but he's done a good job with the opportunity that he's been given. ... Kinda like I said a year ago when I got here, it's just a competitive business. And at the end of the day for us, we're trying to find the best players we can get. Whether those are guys in the building or somebody else is out there better on the streets, we're always looking for that. Competition makes everybody better, so I'm sure we'll treat that position just like every other one."

Positive update on Goff

Starting quarterback Jared Goff's status remains up in the air for the season finale after he missed last week's game and being limited during Wednesday's practice with a bone bruise on his knee. 

While not indicative of receiving medical clearing, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn provided an optimistic report on Goff from that practice. 

"I thought he moved around just fine yesterday," Lynn said. "I’m sure he’s not 100%, but who isn’t at this point of the season? He threw the ball well. We’ll see. Like I said, if he can’t go, then we feel like we have a good backup in Tim (Boyle) and we’ll go and play with Tim like we’ve had with the last couple of weeks. But, Jared looked fine yesterday."

Boyle struggled last Sunday against the Seahawks, throwing three second-half interceptions in the 51-29 loss

Goff, prior to missing a game after testing positive for COVID-19, and another because of the knee injury, is coming off an NFC player of the week performance against Arizona on Dec. 19. In his past four appearances, he's completed 69.5% of his throws for 898 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers