Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia spoke to the media Monday following a busy weekend in which the team pared its roster down to 53 players and established a 10-man practice squad.
Patricia and his coaching staff are now in full preparation mode for Sunday’s regular season opener in Arizona against the Cardinals.
Patricia both reflected back on the weekend and looked forward to Arizona in Monday’s press conference. Here are the key questions to come from that session:
What did Patricia and the Lions like about quarterback David Blough and running back J.D. McKissic, who were added to the roster this weekend – Blough via trade and McKissic via waiver claim?
Patricia said Blough was actually a player the Lions did a lot of scouting on coming out of Purdue ahead of the draft. Lions quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan even worked Blough out before the draft.
“Someone that we really liked. Very good player, captain, extremely strong arm,” Patricia said. “Very smart, very good in the pocket, very quick with his progressions and reads from what we saw out of college.”
Patricia said this weekend is interesting in a way for teams because it gives them an opportunity to reconnect or take a second look at some of the players they talked to late in the draft or after the draft. When they become available again at the end of roster cutdown, it’s worth taking a second look to see if the fit is still there.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has some history with McKissic from when they were in Seattle together. Patricia said that allowed them to have a good idea of his skill set.
What was it that Josh Johnson did to impress coaches and keep him on as the backup quarterback to start the season?
“I think Josh did a great job of coming in, what we talked about when he got here, of just acclimating to the new offense and learning it as fast as possible to be able to put himself out on the field right away,” Patricia said.
Johnson had to go out and play in a preseason game just a couple days after signing in training camp. Patricia liked the way Johnson was able to handle that pressure, and produce at the same time.
“Certainly that helped him in his evaluation as we went through camp,” Patricia said.
Patricia said Lacy was the most consistent of the bunch, not just on offense, but on special teams too. Playing on special teams is an important role for the backup receivers.
In Fulgham, Detroit has a young talent they want to continue to develop. Patricia thought he flashed a good skill set. He likes Fulgham's bigger frame (6-2, 215) and speed.
“He has good long speed,” Patricia said. “It’s kind of like deceptive speed with those guys, those long striders. All of the sudden he’s just building that speed vertically down the field.”
Detroit kept three undrafted rookie free agents on the roster. What does Patricia like about all three?
On defensive tackle Kevin Strong: “Kevin, I think he just really, at one point during training camp, when we got the pads on really showed his quickness, his short area space quickness that he could utilize in a lot of the pass rush stuff showed up first and foremost. I think that we built upon that and that gave him more repetitions which allowed then to show us that he was able to improve in the run game – play with good leverage, play with good technique.”
On guard Beau Benzschawel: “I think Beau is the same way, from an offensive line standpoint. His flexibility inside actually gives us some good versatility in there, which increases his value from that standpoint, which is great."
On safety C.J. Moore: “Was just very fast, good skill set, tough, disciplined, just loves the game – comes in, grinds every day. He’s a great kid. He’s just everything you want to be around and coach every single day. He’s got a long way to go, when this thing gets going. It will be different for him from that standpoint, but there is a skill set there that we really enjoyed through camp.”
What is unique about the offense Kliff Kingsbury has brought to Arizona?
The first game of the season is always difficult because teams aren’t sure what their opponent has worked on in the spring. Playing a team like the Cardinals Week 1 is particularly difficult because of the new offense they’re expected to run that features a rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray.
“One of the things about Kliff and his offense in particular is just you’re trying to get a gauge based on what he did in college, what Kyler Murray did in college and then on top of that the third element is what they have skillset-wise at Arizona,” Patricia said.
Arizona was pretty vanilla in the preseason, according to Patricia, so there’s not a lot to go on from that game tape.
“We know there’s a whole other element to the offense,” he said.
There was a lot of different elements and personnel groupings to Kingsbury’s Texas Tech offense. Patricia and his staff have spent a lot of time watching college tape of Kingsbury’s offense at Texas Tech and Oklahoma tape on Murray.
Patricia said in-game adjustments will be big this week.
What jumps out about Murray on tape?
“His athleticism and his arm strength,” Patricia said. “He makes quick decisions and gets the ball out fast, and if a play breaks down then you have a bigger problem. I think the flat-out speed that he has that he can create big plays is a major problem.”
The lack of pro tape on the Cardinals' offense, and Murray in particular, will be the tough part about this week for coaches who love to watch tape and prepare for opponents that way.