Mark DeLeone

Lions Notes: Okwara, Onwuzurike, Tavai

The Lions have a new regime in place, led by head coach Dan Campbell. Often times, coaching changes put incumbent players on the chopping block, but that’s not necessarily the case for 2019 second-round pick Jahlani Tavai.

I tell you what, I’ve been really impressed with Jahlani,” linebackers coach Mark DeLeone said (via Justin Rogers of The Detroit News). “He’s been here (and) he’s been doing a great job. He’s in really good shape right now. I’m excited to work with him. I’m excited for us to get to OTAs and be able to continue with him because I’m really excited about him.”

I can just tell you when he came out when he was out on the field this week, he’s been doing well and I’ve really enjoyed working with him so far. He has a really good understanding of the game. I think he’s gonna be a nice piece for us to work within this scheme.”

The Lions are exploring their options at LB, including newcomer Alex Anzalone, who has history with Campbell. Tavai, meanwhile, has failed to impress in his two pro seasons. After notching two tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception as a rookie, Tavai didn’t make much of an impact last year. He appeared in all 16 games and made ten starts, but earned poor marks from Pro Football Focus across the board, including a dismal 35.7 score for his coverage. Still, the Lions seem to think that this can be a turning point for the young ‘backer.

More from Detroit:

  • The Lions’ new scheme will push Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara to outside linebacker, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes.”He’s got a great skill set for what we’re trying to do,” defensive line coach Todd Wash said of Flowers, who inked a $90MM deal to play DE. “Every one of the players that we have on our defensive roster have a skill set. It’s going to be our job obviously as coaches to put them in that position to be successful, and I think Trey has that skill set as a defensive end in base and also in sub.” Flowers won’t be alone — there will be adjustments across the front seven as Detroit commits to a base 3-4 set under Campbell.
  • New second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike will be slotted in as a defensive end that moves inside on clear passing downs, defensive line coach Todd Wash says (Twitter link via Rogers).
  • Before the Lions signed Dan Campbell, they also explored Iowa State coach Matt Campbell as a candidate. But, despite a report to the contrary, it sounds like they never made a formal offer.

Lions Add Dave Fipp, Aubrey Pleasant To Staff

Dan Campbell‘s first Lions staff is taking shape. They hired the third of their 2021 coordinators this week, announcing longtime Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp will take the same position in Detroit.

The Lions are also hiring Rams cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant as secondary coach, according to NFL.com’s Steve Wyche (on Twitter), and ESPN.com’s Field Yates tweets new Lions linebackers coach Mark DeLeone will come over from the Bears.

Fipp coached the Eagles’ special teams units throughout Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson‘s tenures, beginning that run in 2013. In that time, Philly’s 12 return touchdowns ranked second in the league. Fipp has been an NFL assistant since the 2008 season. This includes time with Campbell in Miami. The two coached together with the Dolphins from 2011-12.

Pleasant represents an interesting get for the Lions. Washington attempted to promote Pleasant ahead of the 2017 season, but he left for Los Angeles. During that time, he interviewed for the Bengals’ DC job — one Lou Anarumo landed — in 2019 and oversaw the development of Rams corners Troy Hill and Darious Williams. The Jalen Ramsey sidekicks each ranked as top-30 corners, per Pro Football Focus, alongside Ramsey this past season. Pleasant will join ex-Rams staffers Brad Holmes and Ray Agnew — the Lions’ new GM and assistant GM, respectively — in trekking from southern California to Michigan.

DeLeone spent the past two seasons as Chicago’s inside linebackers coach under Chuck Pagano, overseeing the development of Roquan Smith, and was with the Chiefs from 2013-18 under then-Kansas City DC Bob Sutton. Additionally, the Lions are expected to retain tight ends coach Ben Johnson, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter).

North Rumors: Ryan, Lions, Newman, Bears

The coaching carousel brought plenty of rumors Tuesday. Here is the latest from the North divisions on that front:

  • Sean Ryan was connected to multiple North-division offensive coordinator openings last year, but both the Browns and Vikings went in different directions. A year later, though, the Lions will bring the Texans’ quarterbacks coach north. Ryan will replace George Godsey as Detroit’s QBs coach, the team announced. Godsey will join Brian Flores‘ staff in Miami. This will be Ryan’s third gig instructing QBs. He first held that post with the Giants from 2012-13. The past two years, he worked with Deshaun Watson in Houston.
  • Following changes at OC and quarterbacks coach, more turnover will occur in Detroit. Lions running backs coach David Walker will step away from coaching. He coached the Lions’ running backs for the past three seasons. Walker coached at the college and pro levels for 22 years. This will be another place Patricia makes a hire. Only wide receivers coach Robert Prince remains as an offensive position coach from the Jim Caldwell era.
  • Terence Newman transitioned from the NFL’s oldest active defensive player to a Vikings coach at this season’s outset. The Vikings want him back for another year, but Newman is not certain to keep coaching, according to Darren Wolfson of KSTP.com (via Twitter). The 40-year-old coach is no longer listed among Minnesota’s coaches on the team website.
  • One of Bob Sutton‘s Chiefs staffers will migrate to Chicago. Matt Nagy will hire Mark DeLeone to coach the Bears‘ inside linebackers, per Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. DeLeone and Nagy worked together in Kansas City from 2013-17, and DeLeone stayed on with the Chiefs this season. Sutton’s firing, though, figures to force relocations from some of his position coaches. Vic Fangio‘s departure is having the same effect in Chicago, with only defensive line coach Jay Rodgers expected to return under Chuck Pagano.
  • Deuce Schwartz will be part of Freddie KitchensBrowns staff as a defensive quality control coach, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Schwartz spent two seasons as an assistant in New Orleans, primarily working with the Saints’ specialty units.

Extra Points: 49ers, Chiefs, Suggs, Pats

We learned in late February that 49ers offensive tackle Anthony Davis was set to apply for reinstatement after taking a hiatus from football last season. That still hasn’t happened yet, but Davis tweeted Friday that he’ll file for reinstatement “later this year.” Interestingly, Davis added that “[d]ealing with Trent is giving me a headache.” That’s likely a reference to 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders if Davis is trying to goad the Baalke-led Niners into releasing him. The 26-year-old is under 49ers control through 2019.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Chiefs announced a slew of changes to their coaching staff Friday, Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star reports. One of the moves was to promote Britt Reid, head coach Andy Reid‘s son, to defensive line coach. Britt Reid was the Chiefs’ assistant D-line coach last season and will take over for Tommy Brasher, whom the team shifted to special projects. The Chiefs also elevated Al Harris from assistant defensive backs coach to secondary coach. He’ll mostly work with cornerbacks, per Paylor. Further, assistant quarterbacks coach Corey Matthaei will add offensive line assistant to his title and assistant linebackers coach Mark DeLeone will take on a greater defensive role. The club also hired Joe Bleymaier (offensive quality control), Taylor Embree (defensive assistant), Mike Smith (assistant defensive line coach), and Devin Woodhouse and Ryan Reynolds (strength and conditioning).
  • Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs pleaded not guilty Friday to a pair of misdemeanor charges stemming from a one-car accident last month, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. Suggs was arrested by Arizona police and charged with driving on a suspended license and failure to notify after striking a fixture. He could face up to six months in jail if found guilty, though Zrebiec notes that this type of violation is usually handled with fines. Some form of punishment from the league is also a possibility for Suggs.
  • One of Suggs’ ex-teammates, free agent receiver Tandon Doss, ran routes and caught passes at Indiana’s pro day on Friday and is hoping to sign with a team, Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com writes. Doss caught 26 passes in 29 games with Baltimore from 2012-13. He hasn’t suited up for a game since. Doss’ previous club, Jacksonville, cut him last summer.
  • In draft news, the Patriots observed two offensive linemen – tackle Clay DeBord and guard Aaron Neary – at Eastern Washington’s pro day, according to Phil Perry of CSNNE.com. Both figure to be Day 3 picks or undrafted free agents.