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Austin eager to take over talented Detroit defense

Sunday - 2/9/2014, 9:10pm  ET

NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin says he's already had a chance to chat with Ndamukong Suh.

"We didn't talk about scheme, we didn't talk about anything. We just talked, you know, what he liked here, what he does in the offseason -- and we'll have plenty of time to talk about football," Austin said. "The one thing I can tell, talking to the guy, is he really wants to win."

Austin was hired to join the staff of new Lions coach Jim Caldwell, and the defensive coordinator met with reporters Friday. Naturally, he was asked about Suh, the powerful defensive tackle who is a force at the line of scrimmage for the Lions but has faced questions throughout his career about his discipline and leadership.

"I think that he really and truly wants to be part of a winner. So, that's good," Austin said. "You want your best players to be for the team and to be able to say, 'Hey, listen. The most important thing for me is winning and not how many awards I get or anything like that.' So, that was really good. I kind of felt that from him."

Suh has 27.5 sacks in four seasons with the Lions, and he's teamed up with tackle Nick Fairley to form an imposing middle of Detroit's defensive line. Rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah also showed promise last season.

The linebacking corps includes the steady Stephen Tulloch, as well as DeAndre Levy, who had six interceptions last season. Cornerback Chris Houston is a veteran presence in the secondary, although the Lions are hoping for more development from younger cornerbacks like Darius Slay and Bill Bentley.

"My feeling is this. In the NFL, you can't have enough corners," Austin said. "I think we have some good young pieces. You know, as we watched the tape, one of the young guys, Slay, I looked at him and you go, 'Boy, he had his ups and downs.' You know, he had some things, he had some growing pains. There were some times he didn't look very good and there were some times he looked outstanding. Our goal is to try to get him to be consistent."

Consistency was an issue for Detroit on both sides of the ball, of course. The Lions collapsed down the stretch, finishing 7-9, and the perception is that this is a talented team that was too mistake prone under coach Jim Schwartz, who was fired after the season.

How can Austin limit those costly but avoidable errors? Taking away playing time is an option.

"If you tolerate them, then they'll keep making them," he said. "If a guy continues to make the same mistake, then what we do is we say, 'Hey, listen. You obviously aren't doing the things we need you to do for the team. You can come stand by me for a while until you figure out how to do this right.'"

It won't be clear until the season starts how much of an effect Austin and the new staff are having, but for now he's looking forward to taking over a defense with plenty of established players -- and plenty of room to grow.

"I think we have some good personnel on defense," Austin said. "I think, obviously, you have some difference makers in certain positions and then there are some other positions where we want to try to shore up, to try to make them stronger. Maybe we can do that with what we're doing scheme-wise or something of that nature. But I think personnel-wise, like all teams, we have good personnel."


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