The Vikings have elite WRs and RBs, Lions are ready to see how they fare.

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The Detroit Lions’ defense may not be looking all that improved. The unit has dropped 65 points in two games, the third-most of any NFL team.

But second-year defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn sees a group that has made adjustments, increased in both understanding and confidence and has had just one of their best halves under his supervision in 19 games.

“That was a fun way to play defense because that’s the vision of who we want to be,” Glenn said of the first half against the Washington Commanders when his unit allowed just 56 yards, two first downs and one safety. “Our head coach said it best, we are on our way to improve and when you have so many young players it is a true statement.”

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That race continues this week when the Lions travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings.

Both the Philadelphia Eagles and Commanders have presented unique challenges in their first two weeks. Philly beat Minnesota around the clock Monday night and has one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league in Jalen Hurts. He gave the lions defensive fits.

The Commanders had half a dozen dynamic playmakers – Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson, Antonio Gibson, JD McKissic and Logan Thomas.

Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn speaks to reporters prior to OTAs Thursday, May 26, 2022 at the team's practice facility in Allen Park.

The Vikings have a number of playmakers, but there are two that are circled, marked, underlined, highlighted and labeled in every way imaginable: running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

“There’s no doubt he’s one of the top five in this league and he’s steadily rising,” Glenn said of Jefferson. “They’ve put him in a lot of different positions where they can get him the ball, which I think is a credit to that staff.

“I think they’re really complimenting about (Cook) and (Adam) Thielen, and the other guys that they’ve got…if we’ve got Jefferson locked up, we have to make sure we’re good with the other guys too, because.” they can hurt you.”

Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye breaks a pass intended for Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson in the first half on Sunday, October 10, 2021 in Minneapolis.

Glenn watched the tape of what the Eagles were doing to slow Jefferson down. They held him on six catches for 48 yards in Week 2 after he blew off for 11 catches, 184 yards and two points in the opener against Green Bay.

The Eagles had Darius Slay on board, one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. But they also often overdid a belay because they didn’t want to be hit deep.

Allocating more resources to one point leaves you vulnerable at another, Glenn says it becomes a delicate balance. Things get harder when Kevin O’Connell, the Vikings’ new head coach, and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips move Jefferson to either side of the ball, setting him up both in the slot and on the outside.

“To make sure you don’t create a bad matchup, that’s the hard part,” Glenn said of his job keeping up with Jefferson’s different alignments. “Make sure you create a defense where you’re trying to put Dexterity on Dexterity.

“You want to try and build a defense where you can take care of running back because you don’t always want to have two guys (Jefferson) because that creates an extra space, an extra gap for (Cook) to break free .”

Glenn is familiar with O’Connell; The two teamed together in Cleveland in 2015 when O’Connell was quarterbacks coach and Glenn was assistant defensive backs coach, where the chess game begins.

The other part of the game within the game is how the defense continues to form.

These are players like Jeff Okudah who not only watch more movies, but “trust” what they show them and the coaches’ feedback. It’s the big men front center who create multiple gaps for edge rushers to fire into the backfield and drop quarterback and ball carriers for a loss.

Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah (1) gives teammates high-fives during player introductions before the Washington Commanders game at Ford Field September 18, 2022.

And the development of rookies Aidan Hutchinson and Malcolm Rodriguez. Sunday marks another step in this process.

“I think we did some things really, really well,” said Glenn. “Obviously there are things we need to work on. But you look at our young people and you look at the things that happened from Game 1 to Game 2 and you see growth there… it kind of fits with what our head coach is expecting – it’s a race to find yourself to enhance.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s another benchmark for us against a good attack. But our boys will be ready to play.”

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