Detroit Lions’ defense must step up to have chance on Sunday at San Francisco 49ers

Detroit Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye, left, breaks up a pass intended for Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney, right, in the second half in Chicago on Dec. 6. (AP file photo)

ALLEN PARK (AP) — The Detroit Lions have one of the youngest defenses in the NFL, and they’ll have their hands full in Week 1 against a San Francisco offense that promises to be unpredictable.

One of the biggest challenges facing first-time head coach Dan Campbell is preparing for San Francisco’s possible quarterback rotation Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to start but rookie Trey Lance could have his own package of plays if his broken finger recovers in time. Campbell is leaving all options on the table.

“I think you’ve got to prepare for both,” Campbell said Monday. “You have to assume that they may try to mix (Lance) in there and use him a little bit. We’ll make sure that we’ve taken care of some of that.”

Detroit will try to counter with youth. The Lions are especially young at cornerback, where third-year pro Amani Oruwariye is the oldest of the group at 25. He’s projected to start opposite Jeff Okudah, the NFLs third overall pick in last year’s draft. Okudah struggled during his rookie season, but he has improved in camp and is entering the season with a renewed confidence thanks to new leadership in the coaching staff.

“Just being around the whole energy in Detroit has been really great for me,” Okudah said. “I’m excited for Year 2, whatever it has to offer.”

A significant portion of that energy has come from Lions defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant. After serving as cornerbacks coach for the Rams for the past four years, Pleasant, a Flint native, returned home to Detroit and gained the trust of general manager Brad Holmes, who worked with him in Los Angeles.

“I’ve always said that (Pleasant) is one of, if not the, best DB coaches that I’ve been around,” Holmes said. “He’s extremely impressive in the way that he teaches it in a very digestible manner that allows players to learn quickly and learn fast.”