New safety DeShon Elliott having a Pleasant experience with Lions
Allen Park — DeShon Elliott didn't sign on the first day of free agency, or even the first week. The former Baltimore Ravens safety patiently waited for the right opportunity before joining the Detroit Lions nearly a month into the process.
So far, it's been everything he could have hoped.
In making a sales pitch prior to Elliott's initial visit, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn told the young veteran his unit is led by the safeties. That appealed to the former sixth-round pick, eager to prove he had much more to offer after four injury-plagued seasons in Baltimore.
Elliott was also drawn to Glenn and position coach Aubrey Pleasant's experience working with several top safeties over the years, including Marcus Williams, Malcolm Jenkins and John Johnson. Yet a couple months into his time with the Lions, Elliott had no idea how much he'd be learning, particularly from Pleasant.
"He's helped me grow, already, in this short period of time," Elliott said. "Not schematically but technique-wise and understanding ball from the ground up. He says it's like reading a book on the field and that's made a big difference in my game already.
"I honestly can't wait for the upcoming weeks to come to see how much I improve defensively, just off what he's been teaching me. After my first week here, I was like, 'Dang, that's a lot you taught me in a week that I didn't know about ball and I've been in the league for four years.'"
Elliott acknowledged he's still getting acclimated to his responsibilities within Detroit's defense, particularly the coaching staff's emphasis on discipline in everything they do, but he noted fellow safety Tracy Walker has been a tremendous resource when it comes to learning the nuances and expectations.
In fact, Elliott said he's been overwhelmed by how welcome he's been made to feel, not just by Walker, but all his new teammates.
"I feel like these are my brothers already," Elliott said. "And the more time that we spend together, the more chemistry we build, the greater we're going to be on the field."
As for his previous issues staying healthy, Elliott feels it has largely been a string of bad luck. Still, he's been looking for ways to reduce the chances of injury, continuing to invest his money into personal training as well as his newest home treatment option, a hyperbaric chamber.
The sealed pod allows an individual to breathe 100% pure oxygen, facilitating the healing process. A teammate in Baltimore turned him on to the device and Elliott has been spending 2½ hours per day, five days each week using it.
The Lions' staff seemingly has an unending supply of colorful nicknames for the roster. On Saturday, coach Dan Campbell unveiled monikers for a couple more players, including a trio for wide receiver Josh Reynolds.
"He’s a different athlete. He’s slippery, man," Campbell said. "I call him the praying mantis. He’s a spider of death. There’s something about him, (he's a) freaking serpent. So, I love where he’s at right now. I really do. I’m glad we got him."
The Lions claimed Reynolds off waivers in the middle of last season, reconnecting him with quarterback Jared Goff. The two played together for four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, and Detroit's offense, particularly the passing game, improved following the receiver's arrival.
After catching 19 balls for 306 yards and two scores in seven games with the Lions last season, Campbell is expecting even better production this year.
"He came into this spring and caught my eye again," Campbell said. "I felt like he even took a step forward from there. I like this guy, I’m kind of buying stock on him. I think he could have a big year. He’s a smooth athlete and he’s a grinder. He’s smart and Jared trusts him."
In addition to Reynolds, Campbell said undrafted rookie Demetrius Taylor is known around the building as "Sawed Off," which is likely referencing the defensive lineman's stocky 6-foot-1, 295-pound frame and explosive first step.
"Man, he can run the hoop, he plays with leverage. He’s just one of those guys that just — we could be sitting here at the end of camp and he just won’t go away, and I mean that in a great way, man," Campbell said. "He just won’t go away because he just keeps getting better, better and better.
"I know this, he’s been one of those guys that I’d be willing to bet that (defensive line coach Todd) Wash would tell you since spring, he’s had some of the best improvement, most improvement of any of those guys. He really has, he’s come on."
Campbell still isn't able to provide a timetable for two of the team's key injury situations; defensive end Romeo Okwara (Achilles) and rookie receiver Jameson Williams (ACL).
"Until we really get (Okwara) out there on the grass moving, that would be hard for me to say, if I’m being honest with you," Campbell said. "I would kind of put (Williams) in the same boat. Until we really get him out there and doing some serious cuts and moving and seeing how he reacts to it. It’ll be hard for me to say that right now."