Detroit Lions: The top 5 things to look for during the MNF opener

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Image
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Image /
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Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images /

Hybrid defensive looks

Matt Patricia is a defensive guru. He has experience coaching on the offensive side of the ball but coaching on defense is where he made his money.

He deftly used his defensive players for the New England Patriots and parlayed his management of them to the head coaching gig in Detroit.

Prior to his arrival, there was much speculation that Coach Patricia could bring his use of rotating defensive looks from the Patriots over to the Lions and it was finally confirmed during a press conference that that would indeed be the case.

Patriot opponents had such a difficult time trying to scheme for them by watching game film because what they saw on tape would be so drastically different from what they saw on the field.

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At any given point they could hit you with three or four down linemen or a dizzying array of linebacker shifts and techniques.

The Patriots adjusted their schemes based off of their weekly opponents and in a copycat league such as the NFL, I am surprised that more teams haven’t tried to do the same thing.

Locking yourself into the same base defense (4-3, 3-4, etc.) without the right personnel and having multiple players who are potentially ill-suited for your overall scheme seems (to me) to be the epitome of backwards hustling. That’s taking your team in the wrong direction.

Being locked in like that limits the types of players that you can sign and it handcuffs the playcalling.

The flexibility of Coach Patricia’s scheme allows players to realize their full potential and in my eyes, that is part of what made the defenses in New England so scary. Players who were overlooked/discarded from their previous teams came to New England motivated, raised their level of play and had the opportunity to become champions (see the curious case of Kyle Van Noy for one example).

The other scary part of the Patriot defense was that they took away what your team did best and then they proceeded to beat you in a variety of ways.

If the same hybrid defensive sets can be successfully implemented and managed in Detroit to even a moderate degree of success, then look for the Lions’ defensive numbers to improve towards the upper half of the league.

Instead of being solely dependent on the production from one defensive player like Detroit was during the Ndamukong Suh era, Patricia’s ever-changing schemes will be able to confuse their opponents and allow big plays to occur at all three levels of the defense.

Opponents cannot scheme to neutralize a single player because they’d never be able to predict where the defensive pressure would come from one snap to the next.