Lions Working Through ‘Major Problems’ Amid Coaching Speculation

Dan Campbell

Getty Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell.

Heavy’s football mailbag series continues on Friday, October 14 — hosted by Heavy NFL insider Matt Lombardo — to answer questions about your favorite team(s).

As the NFL’s November 1 trade deadline approaches, and injuries take their grip on contenders around the league, things are about to heat up off the field as much as the action has intensified on it in recent weeks.

As the 2000 NFL Executive of the Year Randy Mueller points out, several teams could be on the cusp of becoming sellers.

Detroit Lions

Q: Is anyone currently in any trouble with the Lions for their 1-4 start, possibly defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn or even Dan Campbell?

After Matt Rhule was relieved of his duties as the Carolina Panthers head coach on Monday, October 10, there is a strong case to be made that Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell could be the next head coach to receive an in-season pink slip.

However, that feeling isn’t necessarily shared inside the league, despite Campbell’s 4-17-1 mark thus far in the Motor City.

“I haven’t heard anything about any coaching changes being close,” a league source with ties to the Lions told Heavy. “It’s still way early for a team that picked second in the draft this year. But, there are definitely some major problems with that defense, though.”

The Lions currently sit 31st in total defense, 26th in passing defense, and are allowing a league-high 34 points per game, nearly four points higher than the Seattle Seahawks’ 31st-place total.

There has been plenty of speculation in recent days that defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn could be on the hot seat, and there probably isn’t anyone in Detroit who would bat an eye if Campbell made a change there.

If Glenn is let go, Campbell’s big hurdle would likely be finding an interim replacement with any coordinator-level experience, after assembling a relatively inexperienced and unproven coaching staff.

Defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant would seemingly be the first in line to replace Glenn, after having a decade of NFL coaching experience, including four years coaching the Los Angeles Rams’ cornerbacks prior to arriving in Detroit.

It still may be early for significant changes in Detroit, but, with games against the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers over the next three weeks after the bye, turning this season around becomes far less realistic.

San Francisco 49ers

Q: With Emmanuel Moseley out, do you see a scenario where the 49ers pivot to free agency or trade to add an extra CB? Who’s a name worth watching there?

The San Francisco 49ers are in a really difficult spot, because after winning two consecutive games and three of the past four, San Francisco finds itself potentially in a position to control its own destiny in the NFC West, but doesn’t have a first-round pick in the 2023 draft that could be flipped for a marquee addition.

Likewise, injuries have taken a significant toll with cornerbacks Jimmie Ward, out after undergoing hand surgery, and Emmanuel Moseley lost for the season after tearing his ACL in Week 5.

William Jackson III is a name to watch for the Washington Commanders, following an NFL Network report that the 29-year-old would prefer a new destination.

Jackson’s production has dipped this season, but appears to be miscast in Jack Del Rio’s scheme, and is one year removed from holding opposing quarterbacks to a 95.1 passer rating when targeted, and intercepting 2 passes. In San Francisco, Jackson would immediately arrive as the top cornerback to bring some stability to the secondary.

Meanwhile, two veterans currently on practice squads would be ideal fits for DeMeco Ryans’ scheme and could be easily poached in the coming days.

Corn Elder, currently on the Washington Commanders’ practice squad, 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, produced a 63.1 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus in 2021, and could be a plug-and-play starter in San Francisco.

Likewise, Jimmy Moreland, on the New York Jets‘ practice squad, still has plenty of upside to contribute to San Francisco’s secondary.

When it comes to free agency, David Vereen has 4.4 40-yard dash speed, is a legit cover corner, and the versatility to play on special teams, as well.

Whether it is a blockbuster trade for someone like Jackson, or a practice squad poaching, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see San Francisco add a cornerback in the near future.

Chicago Bears

Q: Have you heard anything about a possible extension for wide receiver Darnell Mooney?

Despite the one-dimensional nature of the Chicago Bears‘ offense, Darnell Mooney has been Chicago’s most prolific playmaker, when given the opportunity, and it sounds like Mooney could be on the cusp of calling the Windy City home for years to come.

Multiple league sources told Heavy that the Bears and Mooney have significant mutual interest in getting an extension done. However, Chicago is not permitted to actually sign Mooney to a new deal until the conclusion of his third season, which is this year.

However, as Mooney, 24, enters the final years of his current contract, the wide receiver has been a lone bright spot in the Bears’ receiving corps. Through six games this season, Mooney has caught 17 passes for 241 yards — including a season-high 7 receptions and a near game-winning touchdown in Thursday night’s Week 6 loss to Washington — in one of the most run-oriented and one-dimensional schemes in the NFL.

The three-year veteran has caught 162 passes for 259 yards and 8 touchdowns through the first two-plus seasons of his career.

Mooney’s production has been limited in 2022 by playing in such a low-volume offense. But his ability to stretch the field makes it easy to see that in a functional offense, he has the ability to emerge as one of the top-flight players at the position, and could seemingly earn a contract extension comparable to the likes of Terry McLaurin and Chris Godwin, according to Spotrac’s calculated market value.

Read More