The hiring of Teryl Austin as the new defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions will be the biggest storyline to follow if the Lions are to get back in the postseason. Everyone knows what the Lions’ offense is capable of, and despite having a new offensive coordinator, I see no reason to think that the Lions will slip on that side of the football.
Austin comes over from the Baltimore Ravens on the same staff as Caldwell for the past two seasons. Austin was the secondary coach from 2011-13, where he coached players like future hall of famer Ed Reed and good players in Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith and Matt Elam.
Prior to Baltimore, Austin was the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators in 2010 (Urban Meyer’s final season) and was the defensive backs coach for the Seattle Seahawks from 2003-06, and the Arizona Cardinals from 2007-09, with an appearance in Super Bowl 43.
Austin succeeds Gunther Cunningham, who coached a defense that was high in talent, yet found ways to make silly mistakes. The 4-3 scheme is expected to stay, which is coach Caldwell’s staple.
Austin’s work with Baltimore’s secondary hopefully will produce the same results for a struggling unit in Detroit. Baltimore’s pass defense rankings were near the top half of the league in Austin’s three seasons, while the Lions’ pass defense struggled under Cunningham; the Lions’ secondary only recording eight interceptions all year by defensive backs in 2013 and ranked 23rd in pass defense.
Austin’s front seven is solid with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah on the line, DeAndre Levy, who led the team in interceptions with six as an outside linebacker, and middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who is one of the more underrated linebackers in the league.
If the secondary can be top 10 to top 15 in 2014, Austin’s defense will get closer and closer to being a more complete team on both sides of the ball in the Motor City.