INDIANAPOLIS – Matt Patricia cut his teeth on the defensive side of the ball in New England coaching the linebackers from 2006-10.
Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Junior Seau, Willie McGinest and Rosevelt Colvin were some of the guys in that room when a young Patricia took over.
Patricia knows the value of good linebacker play, and told beat reporters at the NFL scouting Combine Wednesday that the position was going to be a good starting point in building his new defense in Detroit.
One good thing for Patricia is that he has a good young linebacker in Jarrad Davis that got plenty of experience as a rookie, and is still young enough to mold. Detroit's first-round draft pick last year, Davis started at the MIKE from Day 1, and led all rookies and first-year players with 96 tackles in 14 games played.
"Jarrad, going through last year's film, obviously was thrown into the fire pretty quick," Patricia said. "Had a lot of snaps out there as a young guy, which I've been through that before with a couple players, especially at the linebacker position in my history.
"That's an extremely difficult thing to do. When you're in the middle of the defense and you're trying to control and tie together both the front end and the back end, there's a lot of pressure in that situation. For him to go out obviously and do it at a high level like he did last year is a great sign."
The experience last year for Davis was obviously invaluable, but he's going to have to learn his second defense in as many years with Patricia and new defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni now running the show.
"We're just going to have to see what it looks like moving forward into the next year," Patricia said. "There's always a little bit of a change and obviously there's going to be a big change now with the coaching staff and the scheme and all the rest of it, so we'll see how that goes."
Davis was a Top 15 inside linebacker against the run last year, based on Pro Football Focus grading. He was also a plus rusher. However, his coverage skills were among the worst for the position, according the website, but that's not uncommon for young linebackers, according to one veteran player.
Still, Davis' struggles in that spot limited his role in passing situations for a time in the middle of his rookie season. To his credit, he improved in practice and earned more of a role in those situations to end the year.
With a new head coach that values the linebacker position the way Patricia does, Davis will no-doubt be a key component in the building efforts on defense this spring.
"J.D.'s a player that obviously we liked well enough to take in the first round and to start from day one," general manager Bob Quinn said. "We have a great deal of faith in his future."