Matt Patricia was a man on the move in the Detroit Lions’ OTA practice last week that was open to the media. Patricia did not stay anchored to the defense, which might have been expected from a veteran defensive coordinator in his first season as a head coach.
It was the first time the media saw Patricia in action on the field with his team as head coach of the Detroit Lions. In looking for clues on how Patricia will operate, one of the things we learned is that Patricia looks like he’ll be hands-on in a lot of areas.
Making final judgments from a first look is risky, but other things we learned involve first-round draft pick Frank Ragnow, how Patricia’s coaching style might be influenced by his 14-season relationship with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, the reaction to LeGarrette Blount on social media; and why Matt Cassel is still in demand as an insurance policy at quarterback.
Roving coach: There isn’t enough evidence to define Patricia’s coaching style, but for one day he didn’t look like he’ll ease into his job by remaining in familiar territory, something that’s common among first-year head coaches.
Patricia spent 12 seasons with the Patriots as a defensive assistant, and the last six as coordinator of the unit.
He spent a lot of time Thursday with the offense, and in a position drill to improve ball security he handled the padded stick used to poke ball carriers after they get possession of the ball.
Based on what I’ve been told by a close media follower of the Patriots, that is not unlike how Bill Belichick operates in practice. He moves from unit to unit, and at times will take over a drill and run it like he’s the position coach.
Matthew Stafford also talked about the regular dialogue he has with Patricia. That’s also part of how Belichick operates. He meets with the quarterbacks on Tuesdays, and his detailed knowledge of defenses has helped them develop.
There’s only one Bill Belichick, just like there’s only one Tony Dungy, and there was only one Vince Lombardi. Assistants will succeed or fail based on how they perform on their own, no matter who they’ve worked under.
But using Belichick as a model cannot be a bad choice as Patricia begins to chart his path as a head coach.
Ragnow, on guard: The Lions’ first-round draft pick was at left guard exclusively in Thursday’s practice, with Graham Glasgow at center. It was no surprise, given the scraps of evidence available from previous practice sessions that were not open to the media – and also based on how GM Bob Quinn referred to Ragnow’s position as “interior offensive line” after the draft.
In other words, the coaching staff is putting players in the best position to strengthen the offensive line. In this case, it’s Ragnow at left guard and Glasgow at center, where Glasgow has performed the best in his first two seasons.
Ragnow played center his last two seasons at Arkansas after one season at guard.
What we’ve learned – and relearned, and reviewed – from past drafts is that position switches are common in the NFL. It’s not unusual for offensive linemen to be moved from where they played in college. A prime recent example of that is Brandon Scherff, who was drafted fifth overall in 2015 by Washington.
Scherff was the starting left tackle his last three seasons at Iowa, but most NFL teams viewed him as a guard – which is where Washington has played him. Scherff has started 46 of 48 games at right guard and made the Pro Bowl the last two years.
Welcome Matt, vet QB: Matt Cassel, who turned 36 earlier this month, looked comfortable throwing the ball, and he should be as he competes for the job as Matthew Stafford’s backup.
Changing teams, and adjusting to new systems and teammates is something he’s done for 13 seasons. He had two stable tours in his first eight seasons – four with the Patriots, then four with the Chiefs, where he made his only Pro Bowl in 2010 by throwing 27 TD passes against seven picks.
Since then he’s been on the QB merry-go-round – two years with the Vikings, a divided 2015 season with the Cowboys and Bills, and the last two years with the Titans. In 106 games and 81 starts, Cassel had 10-5 won-loss seasons with the Patriots (2008) and Chiefs (2010).
It all adds up to a lot of experience – an asset for a quarterback.
Welcome mat, vet RB: There’s a hopeful buzz among Lions fans that Blount will do for the Lions to some degree what he’s done for other teams. That’s provide a power runner who can score touchdowns and move the chains in short-yardage situations.
As one of my followers on Twitter wrote in reaction to a column on Blount: “weakness to strength!”