This past week contained a swirl of coaching candidates for the Detroit Lions with over three potential coaches rumored to land the job. After it all, it appears Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, has locked up the job. Patricia has never held a head coaching position in his professional career, being an assistant coach from 2004 until 2012 when he took over as defensive coordinator for the Patriots.
With any new coach in an organization comes change. Change in culture, change in practice, and change in schemes. Patricia will undoubtedly overhaul the defense, which was truly one of the Lions’ weaknesses in 2017 as they ranked 26th in total defense. It will be a welcomed sight to see the defense getting some major attention, especially up front with the linebacker and interior defensive line positions needing a lot of change.
Matthew Stafford and the offense were hardly the roots of the problem throughout Jim Caldwell’s career, but with the entrance of a new coach, will the offense change? Stafford seemed to develop a great connection with both Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. last season and the scheme they worked in may not need tweaking. Messing up a good thing is the last thing the Lions need to do right now.
I think the biggest fear most fans have is that Patricia, a defensive-minded coach, may hinder the offense and limit Stafford. Obviously, Patricia worked with Tom Brady in New England, so his quarterback knowledge is certainly above par, but he has never been in charge of it all, and that’s the limp in the horse that we won’t know anything about until next season starts.
The biggest change we will see will be penalties. Jim Caldwell brought an incredibly professional demeanor to Detroit that resonated within the locker room. Before Caldwell, the Lions were one of the most penalized teams in the league and had constant on-the-field attitude problems. After his first year, Caldwell’s Lions did not have more than 1,000 penalty yards and the team started showing up with more poise each game. Matt Patricia has surely learned a thing or two about discipline and poise working under the tinman himself Bill Belichick, but it is all to common for new head coaches to accumulate mass amounts of penalties in his first seasons. Players need time to adapt to the new culture and with new playbooks come new mistakes.
That is my biggest concern. Hopefully, Patricia will earn his player’s respect early on but it could become a slippery slope if he isn’t careful.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter will probably be given his final chance this season to utilize Stafford and his prolific ability. It was not that the offense didn’t work this past season, it’s that is always started working too late. I think Patricia needs to leave it alone and let Cooter and Stafford continue to work on what they have been doing. If you are a defensive coach, you need to stick to what you know.
The biggest change, regardless of who is going to be the head coach, is the run game. It has been pitiful ever since Reggie Bush left and yes, they still have not had not had a 100-yard rusher since 2013. I am not sure whether Patricia will keep Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick and the rest of the backfield. It is hard to determine whether it was more the offensive line or the running backs, but change is coming. I expect the team to be aggressive in the draft in this department and I would not be shocked if general manager Bob Quinn and his staff go for a big name running back with the 20th overall pick.
Again, Patricia has had plenty of experience with no-name running backs making a big impact under Belichick. I am essentially depending on Patricia to have picked up on all of Belichick’s coaching nuances throughout their time together. That would be ideal.
At the end of the day, I think Detroit’s roster is pretty solid throughout and Patricia should try and work with what he already has. I expect the biggest changes to come to the running back, tight end, and defensive line positions. He will also have some big decisions to make in free agency, with over three starting defenders set to become free agents.
It will be a new-look for Detroit in 2018, which will either spell success or disaster. We will just have to see what the pencil-chewing mastermind comes up with in his new role as head coach.
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