Cunningham ready to take on tough Lions defensive job

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Gunther Cunningham ran the NFL's second-worst defense last season. Now he's in charge of overhauling the worst one.

The Detroit Lions' new defensive coordinator comes from Kansas City, where the youthful Chiefs finished 31st in total defense and registered only 10 sacks.

Cunningham's new Lions team was even worse, allowing 517 points while picking off just four passes. Both were league lows.

Cunningham, a defensive coordinator in the NFL for 10 seasons and the Chiefs' head coach from 1999 to 2000, was hired last week by new Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. Cunningham was linebackers coach for the Tennessee Titans under Schwartz from 2001 to 2003.

Cunningham, 62, didn't promise quick fixes for the league's first 0-16 team. He did say he hopes the Lions can get after opposing quarterbacks.

"We want to be aggressive and put pressure on the quarterback," he said Tuesday at the team's training facility. "You certainly want to put that mark on the Lions. You can have players as good as you want at the back end, but the front makes them play better."

Detroit's best hopes for that goal are defensive ends Dewayne White and Cliff Avril. White had six sacks and an interception last season, and Avril, a third-round draft pick out of Purdue, ended his rookie season with five sacks.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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