Jim Caldwell made his first move as head coach of the Detroit Lions late on Wednesday night, reportedly agreeing with former Baltimore Ravens' secondary coach Teryl Austin to take over as Detroit's next defensive coordinator.
Austin has long been a secondary coach in the league, working with the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and most recently, the Ravens in that capacity. Austin also has plenty of experience in the college game, working at Wake Forest, Syracuse, Michigan and as a defensive coordinator at Florida.
Under his watch, some fine professionals have been developed. In Seattle, Austin worked with Marcus Trufant, Ken Hamlin and Ken Lucas. In Arizona, Austin tutored Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a rookie appearance in the Pro Bowl , and in Baltimore, he's been impressive working with youngsters like Jimmy Smith, Matt Elam and Lardarius Webb.
Typically, secondaries under Austin have been tough covering and ball hungry as well as able to rush the passer and tackle well. Putting that in statistical perspective, the 2004 Seahawks had four sacks, 21 interceptions, five forced fumbles and 250 tackles. In Baltimore's 2011 season, the secondary had 11 interceptions, seven forced fumbles and six sacks. Those are numbers that the Lions haven't even come close to amassing lately.
Certainly, Austin has never called plays himself in the NFL, which is a major question mark. Despite that, he does have an ability to help young players develop and has worked in the game long enough to be given a chance. For the Lions, who have young secondary players like Darius Slay, Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green, the work Austin has done is good news. Chances are, Austin can help them along as well as veteran Chris Houston.
Austin's biggest challenge will be putting a much-maligned secondary in a position to help the defense. Detroit's defensive line and linebackers are already capable of getting after the quarterback and defending the pass. The second level has been the spot seeing the most breakdowns, and Detroit rarely gets pressure or big plays from that group. If Austin can inspire them while dialing up the right plays, the hire will pay immediate dividends.
Many Lions' fans have longed for any type of defensive connection to the Ravens, who have maintained one of the most successful and intimidating defenses over the last decade. With the hire of Austin as Detroit's new defensive leader, finally, some of their prayers have been answered.
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