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What to make of the Detroit Lions’ coaching changes

Posted by ttwentyman on January 14, 2013 – 4:57 pm

The Detroit Lions announced Monday the hiring of two coaches, the movement of two others and the choice to not to retain special teams coordinator Danny Crossman.

The team hired former Bills offensive coordinator/running backs coach Curtis Modkins to serve as the team’s new running backs coach/run game coordinator. I’ve never heard the title of “run game coordinator” before, but if Modkins can bring Lions fans the same results the Bills have seen from their run game over the last three years, it doesn’t matter what title he’s given – he’ll be loved.

Modkins has done a terrific job developing C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in Buffalo over the last three seasons. The Lions are trying to develop a thunder and lightning combo to their backfield next season and it helps to have someone setting it up who’s be successful orchestrating a two-back system like that.

Johnson is known among NFL circles as an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. He’ll be tasked with getting more out of tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. Pettigrew has been a solid tight end over the last four seasons, but Lions fans are still waiting for him to take the next step. Hopefully Johnson can help.

Tim Lappano moves over from the tight ends to coach the receivers. Lappano is a fiery personality on the practice field, and it’ll be interesting to see how he and mild-mannered receivers Calvin Johnson and Ryan Broyles interact. The receivers room has good leadership with Nate Burleson and Calvin Johnson, and Lappano will have to win over a unit that seemed to really like former receivers coach Shawn Jefferson.

The Lions are giving Jeremiah Washburn his first shot to be an NFL position coach by naming him the new offensive line coach. It’s a good move by the Lions to promote a coach from within who has paid his dues for four years. Washburn is smart, but very soft spoken. I can’t actually say that I’ve ever heard him yell in my time covering the Lions.

Washburn might be the most important of all the assistant hires. The Lions could see some major changes along the offensive line next season and it’ll be up to Washburn to help organize those changes and keep the franchise (quarterback Matthew Stafford) safe.

Tough task for a first-time position coach.

It’s unclear if the decision to not retain special teams coordinator Danny Crossman was a mutual decision or a Detroit Lions decision. Either way, that’s the last assistant/coordinator job still open on the staff.

Crossman took a lot of criticism for what happened in Weeks 3 and 4, but it wasn’t all his fault. It was probably time for a change, though.

There are some veteran candidates out there (Alan Lowry) and the Lions need to get more from their return game.

With an offense like theirs, the ability to play with a shorter field – or to flip field position completely – can be a real weapon. It was probably due time for a few fresh perspective on special teams.


Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 18 Comments »

DE Kyle Vanden Bosch recipient of the Joe Schmidt Leadership Award

Posted by ttwentyman on January 14, 2013 – 2:38 pm

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz flew to Tennessee on the first day of free agency in 2010 to make an in-person pitch to defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch to join the Lions. Not only did the Schwartz need some veteran talent along his defensive line, but he needed some veteran leadership in the locker room, too.

Vanden Bosch has provided both over the course of the last three seasons and was given the Joe Schmidt Leadership Award for a second consecutive year by his teammates.

The Joe Schmidt Award is presented to the player who has displayed outstanding leadership, drive and achievement on the field and in the locker room. This award is given in honor of former linebacker Joe Schmidt who was named All-Pro in eight of his 13 seasons (1953-65), earning 10 consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. He served as captain of the Lions for nine seasons. From 1967-72, Schmidt compiled a 43-35-7 record as Detroit’s head coach. Schmidt was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1973.

Vanden Bosch has been a mentor to players like Cliff Avril and Willie Young over the last three seasons, and is also one of the most respected veterans in the game.

On the field, Vanden Bosch has recorded 120 tackles, 15.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles since signing a four-year deal before the 2010 season.

Before he arrived in Detroit, it was rare to see defensive lineman chasing running backs 40-yards down the field in practice. A week after Vanden Bosch arrived, it was rare not to see one. That’s just some of what he’s meant to the Lions over the last three seasons.


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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 6 Comments »

Report: Danny Crossman asking to get out of contract

Posted by ttwentyman on January 14, 2013 – 12:45 pm

Reports are surfacing that Lions special teams coordinator Danny Crossman wants out of his contract with the Detroit Lions so he can join longtime friend and former London Monarchs teammate Doug Marrone in Buffalo, who was recently hired as their new head coach.

The Lions became the first team in the modern era to give up a kickoff return and punt return touchdown in the same game in back-to-back weeks in losses to the Titans and Vikings during the first month of the season and help contribute to their 1-3 start to the season.

The coverage units were much better the rest of the way, allowing an average of 6.2 yards per punt return and 20.5 yards per kickoff return during the final 12 games. The return game never really found traction, though.

The Lions were one of six teams denied permission to talk to Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, according to ESPN.

The Lions have not announced any new additions or subtractions to their coaching staff.

If Crossman does indeed leave, a potential replacement could be veteran special teams coach Alan Lowry, who was recently let go by the Tennessee Titans. Lowry finished his 17th season with the franchise, the last 14 coaching special teams. He and head coach Jim Schwartz worked together when Schwartz was the defensive coordinator with the Titans.


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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 5 Comments »

Report: Detroit Lions add offensive assistant to staff

Posted by ttwentyman on January 14, 2013 – 11:29 am

The Lions have filled one of their three offensive coaching staff vacancies by hiring former Jaguars assistant Bobby Johnson, according to the website coachingsearch.com.

Johnson coached tight ends with the Jaguars last season and was an assistant offensive line coach the previous two seasons with the Bills. He also coached the offensive line at Indiana University from 2005-09.

The Lions have not announced the hire.

The team retained tight ends coach Tim Lappano after the season, but could shift either Lappano or Johnson to another position.

The Lions did not retain receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, offensive line coach George Yarno and running backs coach Sam Gash after their contracts expired.

Also, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Lions were recently denied permission to speak to Browns special team coordinator Chris Tabor.


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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 11 Comments »