Lions Hint at 6 Coaching Staff Exits, Add New Defensive Assistant

Dan Campbell

Getty Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions revealed several changes to the coaching staff on February 21.

Significant changes to the coaching staff are coming for Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions, particularly on defense.

The Lions announced on February 21 the addition of three new defensive assistants — Terrell Williams, Deshea Townsend and Jim O’Neil. Williams and Townsend were previously reported to be heading to Detroit, but O’Neil had not.

O’Neil will serve as a defensive assistant.

Furthermore, The Detroit News’ Justin Rogers reported that the Lions removed six coaches from the team’s website on February 21. Those removed included defensive backs coach Brian Duker, cornerbacks coach Dré Bly, defensive line coach John Scott, senior defensive assistant John Fox, senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler and defensive quality control coach Wayne Blair.

Duker is the only one of those coaches who another team has reportedly hired. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on February 10 that Duker was joining the Miami Dolphins.

Lions Add Jim O’Neil to Coaching Staff for Dan Campbell

Detroit fans following the offseason news cycle already saw the Lions “unofficially” add Williams and Townsend to the staff. Those hires became official on February 21.

Williams will coach the Lions defensive line and be the team’s run game coordinator. He has more than a decade of experience in the NFL. Last season, he coached the defensive line and served as an assistant head coach for the Tennessee Titans.

Townsend is joining the Lions staff from the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was defensive passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach. He will have the same two titles with the Lions.

Townsend has coached 10 seasons in the NFL. He won two Super Bowls as a cornerback with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

O’Neil has also spent a decade-plus in the league as a coach. Most recently, though, he served as defensive coordinator at Northwestern from 2021-22. His most recent NFL job was as defensive backs coach for the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders from 2019-20.

Six Coaches Appear to Exit for Lions

On top of the hires, the Lions seem to be departing with six assistants from the 2023 coaching staff.

Bly and Fox are the most notable exits. Bly played four seasons as a cornerback for the Lions from 2003-06. He made the Pro Bowl in 2003 and 2004, which were the only two Pro Bowls of his career.

In those four seasons with the Lions, Bly posted 19 interceptions, 12 pass defenses and 6 tackles for loss in 55 games.

Fox has more than 30 years of NFL coaching experience. His first NFL job was defensive backs coach under 4-time Super Bowl winning head coach Chuck Noll.

Fox’s experience includes 16 years as a head coach for the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears. He led both the Panthers and Broncos to conference championships.

Both Bly and Fox were in their first seasons on the Lions coaching staff in 2023.

Hostler and Scott were also in their first seasons with the Lions last year. Blair and Duker had coached in Detroit since Campbell arrived prior to the 2021 season.

The Lions are making several changes to their defensive staff after finishing last year 19th in yards allowed and 23rd in points allowed.

Detroit featured a top run defense in 2023, ending the season ranked second in rushing yards allowed and third in yards yielded per carry. But the Lions were 27th in passing yards allowed and 29th in net passing yards yielded.

The Lions also gave up 934 passing yards in three playoff games.

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