Do the Detroit Lions really value talent over scheme on defense?

Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Do the Detroit Lions really value talent over scheme after signing so many ex-Patriots?

One of the most exciting things for fans of the Detroit Lions after the announcement that the team hired former New England Patriots coordinator Matt Patricia as their new head coach back in 2018, is what his addition meant for Motown’s defense.

After all, Patricia was the defensive coordinator for the Pats for six years, helping to led New England to two Super Bowl titles. At the bare minimum, the defensive guru would shore up that side of the ball in Detroit.

Yet, the Lions’ defense is coming off their worst effort in over a decade. Detroit allowed 6,406 yards to opposing offenses in 2019, the second-most in the NFL last year. And that’s the most net total offensive yards the Motor City has allowed since 2008, the season the franchise went a dreaded 0-16.

Yet, both Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn were granted a reprieve this offseason, seemingly being given one more chance to right the ship. And for the third-straight year, the Lions have continued to add several former Patriots to their roster in what has appeared to be an effort to find defenders to fit into Patricia’s scheme.

But according to Patricia himself, that’s the exact opposite of why he runs a multiple scheme defense in the first place. Here’s what the third-year head coach revealed to about his defensive philosophy recently.

"” … you want to find out what are the best guys you have and then we’ll fit the scheme around the best players. We’re just trying to get the best players on the field we can. … I have to find out, ‘what do you do well?’ Then how do I utilize that on the field and put that together.”"

If talent trumps scheme, why do the Detroit Lions have so many ex-Patriots on the roster?

Apparently, Quinn and Patricia both believe that adding former Patriots to the roster is in fact an effort to add the best talent they can to the roster. For instance, last year’s prized free agency addition was ex-Patriot defensive Trey Flowers, who inked a massive five-year, $90 million contract.

This past offseason, the Lions made three key additions whose former residence was in New England. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton, linebacker Jamie Collins, and safety Duron Harmon are all expected to play significant roles in Detroit’s potential defensive resurgence this year.

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Undoubtedly, their previous experience in the Patriots’ system was a key factor in their coming to Detroit. But the Lions have also added several other key pieces like veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant, defensive tackle Nick Williams, and offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai who don’t have New England ties.

Still, the dedication to bring so many former Patriots to Detroit seems to put a much bigger emphasis on scheme rather than pure talent. While Patricia says the actual purpose of his multiple scheme is to get the best possible players on the field. It’s just ironic that the team seems to believe many of the most talented NFL players happen to funnel through New England first.

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Regardless, while the hot seat under both Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn seems to be at a boiling point, the two have seemingly maintained the status quo and kept their course steady and true to their process. Even if that means their time in the Motor City will soon be coming to an end because of it.