New Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has big shoes to fill, replacing 32-year NFL veteran Gunther Cunningham. Austin, 21 years Cunningham’s junior, just landed his first coordinating job at the pro level, and is expected to employ a more blitz-heavy defense than his predecessor, according to Justin Rogers of MLive.com. “We’re going to probably stay more in a 4-3, in terms of what we have personnel-wise,” said Austin. “Our pressures with our linebackers will be coming from different angles, different things that way, instead of a per se ‘rush linebacker’ that I’m used to dealing with.” Rogers said the odds do not favor the team pursuing an aforementioned rush linebacker in the draft or free agency, noting all three of the team’s starting linebackers from last season are under contract for 2014.
Other notes from the Motor City:
- Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi touched on his tight end philosophy in a story relayed by ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein, important given the free-agent status of Brandon Pettigrew. “It’s important to have a guy that can block the point of attack,” said Lombardi. “That’s important. A lot of teams are going to back-or-forth these days and you need a tight end that can hold up against those guys. And then, you want a guy who can be a pass receiver so you’re always looking for those well-rounded guys.”
- Pettigrew played 925 out of 1,158 snaps for the Lions offense last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Rothstein notes that the Lions emphasized Pettigrew’s run-blocking ability to spearhead a running game led by Reggie Bush and Joique Bell that finished No. 17 in rushing yards last season.
- If North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron or Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins were available in the second round, Rothstein said either two would be a sound investment. However, Ebron is widely regarded as the best tight end in the 2014 class and highly unlikely to make it out of the top-32.
- Rothstein cites Dennis Pitta and Dallas Clark, who each played for head coach Jim Caldwell at some point, as potential replacements if Pettigrew is not retained, as well as former Jet and current Dolphin Dustin Keller .