Detroit Lions: Jim Caldwell’s staff is taking shape

Detroit Lions

Teryl Austin (Photo credit: Scott Boehm/AP)

The Detroit Lions have reached terms on a contract to make Teryl Austin the team’s next defensive coordinator. Austin had been the Baltimore Ravens’ secondary coach from 2011-13.

Jim Caldwell has worked alongside Austin twice at the collegiate level prior to working together in Baltimore. The two first worked together in the early 90’s as members of Joe Paterno’s staff at Penn State, then when Caldwell got his first chance as a head coach at Wake Forrest in 1993 he brought Austin along.

Prior to his move to the NFL in 2003, Austin also spent time as a defensive assistant at Syracuse and Michigan. After coaching the secondary for the Seattle Seahawks (2003-06) and Arizona Cardinals (2007-09), Austin coordinated a 4-3 defense at the University of Florida in 2010.

Detroit will continue to run a 4-3 defense, which best suits their existing personnel. Lions’ president Tom Lewand expressed that he expects the overall defensive scheme to resemble that of the previous regime but that there will be some minor adjustments, such as wrinkles in their blitz packages.

Austin’s success as a secondary coach will greatly benefit the Lions defensively. In 2011, the Ravens ranked fourth best against the pass then finished 17th and 12th the following seasons. Detroit gave up 14 pass plays of at least 40 yards last season, which was tied for the fifth most in the league. The defense allowed the tenth-most passing yards per game in Gunther Cunningham’s last season as the defensive coordinator.

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The Lions also announced that they will retain seven members of the previous coaching staff, including; John Bonamego (special teams coordinator), Jeremiah Washburn (offensive line coach), defensive line coaches Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek, Curtis Modkins (running backs coach and run coordinator), Terry Heffernan (offensive line assistant), and Bobby Johnson (tight ends coach). To this point, it is unclear what their exact positions moving forward will be.

Those from the Jim Schwartz regime who will not be returning next year include; Scott Linehan (offensive coordinator), Gunther Cunningham (defensive coordinator), Matt Burke (linebackers coach), Bradford Banta (linebackers assistant), Todd Downing (quarterbacks coach), Tim Lappano (wide receivers coach), Marcus Robertson (defensive backs coach), Steven Jackson (defensive backs assistant), and Kyle Valero (quality control coach).

Bill Sheridan has been named to Caldwell’s staff to replace Burke as the linebackers coach. As the team went through coaching changes, Sheridan was relieved of his duties as defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; a position he held for the past two seasons. He also coordinated the defense of the New York Giants in 2009 and has coached the linebacker position in the NFL for the Giants (2005-08) and Miami Dolphins (2010-11).

Born a Michigan man, Sheridan began his coaching career in 1981 as an assistant at Shrine Catholic High School in Royal Oak. The Detroit native jumped to the collegiate level in 1985 as a graduate assistant for Michigan and has been an assistant for seven different institutions in the 21 years he coached at that level.

Read more Lions news, rumors, and opinion as the coaching changes continue on our Detroit Lions team page