Matt Patricia will have several familiar faces on his coaching staff with the Detroit Lions, including at least two former New England Patriots assistants and one coach he worked with during his time at Syracuse.
Patrica plans to hire Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart as defensive backs coach and Jeff Davidson as offensive line coach, and promote George Godsey from defensive special projects assistant to quarterbacks coach, according to the Sporting News.
Stewart worked alongside Patricia at Syracuse in 2001, when Patricia was in his first season as a graduate assistant on Paul Pasqualoni’s staff.
Pasqualoni, now the defensive coordinator at Boston College, also is expected to join the Lions in a to-be-determined role.
Davidson, who was fired by the Denver Broncos after the season, coached a combination of tight ends and offensive line for the Patriots from 1997-2004. Patricia joined the Patriots as an offensive assistant in 2004, when he helped coach the offensive line.
When Davidson’s name first emerged as a possibility for the position last week, a team source told the Free Press that no hire had been made and interviews for the position were still ongoing.
The Broncos ranked 12th in the NFL in rushing at 115.8 yards per game this season, but finished a disappointing 5-11.
Davidson also served as Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator from 2007-10. Under Davidson, the Panthers finished in the bottom half of the NFL in total offense in three of his four seasons as play caller. In 2010, his last season as coordinator, Carolina ranked last in the league in total offense and scoring offense while starting Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore at quarterback, but produced two Pro Bowlers on the offensive line (center Ryan Kalil and left tackle Jordan Gross).
Godsey, a Patriots assistant from 2011-13, spent two seasons as offensive coordinator with the Houston Texans and one as quarterbacks coach before joining the Lions in a defensive capacity last season.
He will replace Brian Callahan, who was released from his contract and was hired last week as quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders.
The Detroit Lions defense started fairly strong in 2017. For much of the season, this unit was near the top of the league in takeaways, ending the year with 32, third most in the NFL. But as the season wore on, injuries, inexperience and inconsistent play plagued this defense.
With the expected hire of Matt Patricia, the New England Patroits longtime defensive coordinator, the Lions defense can expect to see a complete scheme change. Which is evidenced by the fact the majority of Detroit’s defensive coaching staff is missing right now, with their replacements expected to be found and/or named following Patricia’s Super Bowl commitments.
Patricia is often referred to as being a “mad scientist”. Meaning someone who is willing to change his defensive schemes wildly from game to game to better defend that week’s opponents. Patricia is also known for being a player’s coach and someone who can field an effective defense without the assistance of superstar players on the field.
But what can Motor City fans expect to see from their defense in 2018? According to one writer, prepare yourself for anything. This unit should be dynamic.
“The Patriots’ squads under Patricia are hard to define because they change so much from game to game, featuring three-man fronts at times and four-man looks at others,” wrote Danny Kelly for The Ringer.” … Patricia’s earned a reputation for the ability to build a scheme around his players—and we can expect Detroit’s defense to feature a nimble, hybrid system in 2018.”
In Detroit, Patricia has plenty of defensive talent to work with. First and foremost, the Lions’ new head coach along with Detroit general manager Bob Quinn must decide if they are willing to re-sign free agent defensive end Ziggy Ansah or not. If the choice is the latter, than pass rusher becomes a top priority in the upcoming draft.
Beyond Ansah, the Detroit Lions defense has plenty of up-and-coming players. Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, linebacker Jarrad Davis, safety Glover Quin and defensive end Anthony Zettel make up a nice foundation for Matt Patricia to build upon. Now the question is how long will it take Patricia to insert his scheme and for the Lion players to learn it. We’ll find out soon enough.