The perfect Detroit Lions for Matt Patricia’s defense
By Robert Jones
Matt Patricia likes his secondary to have length to go with the overall theme of versatility. They also have to be able to stop opposing runners in their tracks and occasionally will be used in different roles like a nickle-coverage-linebacker.
But I think we have everything covered, so to speak. Here’s the Lions all-time Matt Patricia secondary.
Right corner back, Dick ‘Night train’ Lane. Night Train is possibly the most feared defensive back ever, with all due respect to Ronnie Lott. Lane could run with any receiver in the league, cover them like a blanket and knock you goofy when he hit you. Night Train was simply one of the best corners in NFL history and his athleticism and physicality would allow him to do anything Matt Patricia asked of him.
Left corner back will be Lem Barney. It never hurts to have a pair of Hall of Fame corner backs. Lem was such a gifted athlete that he not only excelled in coverage, but was one of the premiere return men in the league. Which also meant that when he picked off a pass he was a legitimate threat to return it to the house.
Strong safety will be Glover Quin. While Quin has spent the majority of his career at free safety, both safety’s will be expected to do everything. Therefore the designation of strong or free safety doesn’t mean quite as much, but Quin has a nose for the ball and makes plays which is the important thing. This will be an attribute that Patrcia will love. He can bring down running backs or haul in a game changing interception without a second thought. He may be the most underrated defensive back in the NFL today.
Free safety will be Dick LeBeau. He mainly played corner back, but finished his 14 year career with the Lions at safety. He would represent part of that secondary versatility Patricia wants. He is the Lions all-time interception leader with 62 picks, meaning his smart play and great hands would make this secondary flat out air tight while he’s roaming center field.
That leaves us with an assortment of useful pieces to bring off the bench as needed.
Dre Bly would most likely get the nod as the nickel back. In his four years as a Lion Bly twice tied his career high of six interceptions in a season. Man coverage was what he was good at and like Barney, he was also good at returning anything he got his hands on.
Jack Christiansen would give the safety position depth as well as another player who could go get the ball. In eight seasons in Detroit he hauled in eight or more interceptions four times with a career high of 12 in 1953.
Bennie Blades was an enforcer in the secondary. He was never afraid to rock some receiver or tight end with a tooth rattling hit. He could give the Lions more help at safety, but would also excel as an nickel linebacker too. Blades would be nice piece that Patricia would find plenty of uses for.
Darius Slay had a break-out season last year and should only get better under the supervision of Matt Patricia’s staff. His main attribute is his coverage skills, but he continues to get better at finding the ball and making plays.
Yale Lary was a versatile player that could play either safety or corner and was a return man as well. Lary wasn’t the biggest defensive back ever, but he could bring the wood when it comes to knocking down opposing players. His skill set makes him a piece that could contribute in various ways.
Louis Delmas was oft injured during his career, but he played with such passion and heart that his presence alone seemed to make the defense better. He wasn’t the most technically sound player, but he worked hard and never backed down on the field. It would be very interesting to see what Patricia could do with him.
And Dick Jauron to complete things. Jauron was a safety that excelled in coverage. While he was never afraid to help close down the ground game, he was an opportunistic coverage man mainly. He played faster than he ran because he was such a student of the game. Jauron would certainly be an asset on this defense.
This secondary would be able to cover, hit and create turnovers. Especially given the help the front seven would provide them.