New Lions DB Coach Puts Dan Campbell’s Secondary on Notice

Deshea Townsend will become the third defensive backs coach for Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions in the last three years. But despite that turnover, Townsend isn’t shying away from sharing his mind.

Dan Campbell fulfilled promise has Lions on the doorstep of first Super  Bowl appearance

In his first media appearance as a Lions defensive assistant, Townsend made it very clear that he wants Lions defensive backs to be physical next season.

“If you won’t tackle, you won’t play,” said Townsend to the media. “If I turn on the tape and you won’t tackle you can’t play.

“I’m just looking for guys that don’t shy away from contact.”

The Lions have been a physical team since Campbell became head coach in 2021. But according to Pro Football Focus, the Lions could use more of an emphasis on tackling next fall.

PFF ranked Detroit’s defense fifth-worst in tackling (with a 41.2 grade out of 100) during the 2023 season.

Deshea Townsend Bringing Physical Mindset to Lions Secondary

It’s not super shocking that Townsend stresses physicality in his coaching. As a player, Townsend spent a dozen seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite being undersized at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, he averaged 41.5 combined tackles per season when he was a full-time contributor from 2002-07.

During that six-year stretch, Townsend started 69 contests for the Steelers. But in 2008, Townsend lost his outside cornerback role to younger defensive backs.

The Steelers were all the better for it, though, as Townsend excelled in the slot that season. Furthermore, behind the move, Pittsburgh featured the No. 1 pass defense in 2008.

So, in addition to physicality, it’s no surprise Townsend will also prioritize competition.

“When I get in the room, I tell the young guys it’s your job to take the starters’ job, and the starters, it’s your job to hold them off,” Townsend told reporters, via The Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “And that’s the same way in coaching. You got to make sure you’re doing your best at every opportunity, you have to prove yourself daily and I wouldn’t expect anything different from myself that I expect from them.”

With the Lions, Townsend will be entering his 11th season as an NFL secondary or defensive backs coach.

He began his coaching career as an assistant defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals in 2011. The past two seasons, he served as cornerbacks coach and defensive pass game coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Townsend has also coached for the Tennessee Titans, New York Giants and Chicago Bears.

In 2024, Townsend will be Detroit’s defensive backs coach and defensive pass game coordinator.

Dan Campbell Receives Elite Grade in NFLPA Survey

Although Campbell may have yet to find the perfect defensive backs coach for the Lions,  he still fared very well in the recent NFLPA survey results.

The NFLPA released the results of its yearly survey on February 28. The Lions received improved scores in workplace condition categories. But Campbell led the way as one of three head coaches who received an A-plus.

“The guys love him,” NFLPA president JC Tretter said, via The Detroit Free Press. “There was plenty of guys that wrote open-ended responses just talking about how much he means to them and how much he leads them, how much they enjoy playing for that guy.

“So that’s always kind of interesting to see the relationship between guys, how much their experience matters. I think being a former player for Dan probably helps him there cause he understands what guys are going through and can motivate them and is very collaborative, too.”

Campbell spent 10 years in the NFL as a tight end. He played for the Lions during his final three seasons.

As Lions head coach, Campbell has accumulated a 24-26-1 record in three seasons. But the Lions have posted back-to-back winning campaigns and advanced to the NFC championship during 2023-24 for the first time since 1992.

Campbell also posted a 5-7 record as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2015.

The other two head coaches to receive an A-plus with Campbell were Andy Reid and Kevin O’Connell.

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