MOBILE, Ala. – Matt Patricia and Cory Undlin cut their teeth in the NFL as young assistant coaches with New England in 2004. Those were long hours and nights put in as assistants trying to become better coaches.
"I think it's important certainly in the way I was raised in the coaching system to start at the bottom and work your way up," Patricia said of that time coaching with Undlin in New England. "The little jobs, how that affects the big jobs and how that all puts together and certainly that's where we both started in that aspect and it gives us both the same perspective."
Patricia stayed in New England and worked his way up the ranks before signing on to be Detroit's head coach in 2018.
Undlin went on to coach in Cleveland, Jacksonville, Denver and most recently Philadelphia as their defensive backs coach. He's coached under a lot of different head coaches and in a number of different schemes. That's one thing Patricia really liked about Undlin when deciding to hire him to be his new defensive coordinator this offseason.
"I think he's a guy if you talk to enough people in the league and get to know him a bit there's a lot of respect for what he's been able to do," Patricia said of Undlin. "He does have much different experience than I do from a defensive (perspective), which is going to help everybody and give us different ideas, different opinions, different philosophies, different techniques. Things that will help us."
Detroit's defense took a step back in 2019, finishing 31st overall and last against the pass.
Undlin said he's been in the Allen Park practice facility about four hours and all he's worried about this week is coaching and evaluating the players at the Senior Bowl, especially the North Team, but he plans to quickly get into the Lions roster next week and the evaluation that comes with that.
Undlin coached in a 3-4 scheme in Cleveland. Jacksonville was more of a 4-3, Denver was a 4-3 defense playing some under, and in Philadelphia they were a base 4-3 team.
"My overall philosophy would be whatever the players and whoever is on the roster and what's the makeup of the defensive side of the ball, let's do what best that fits them," Undlin said Tuesday when speaking to local reporters at the Senior Bowl. "How are they going to be successful? Let's do that. I can't wait to get my hands on them and start working with them."
Undlin can't wait to get back to Detroit and start going through the defense with Patricia and the rest of the defensive coaches. From there, they'll decide what kind of defense they want to run in 2020. Play-calling duties, and whether Undlin or Patricia will call the defense, will be part of those discussions as well.
As for what to expect from an Undlin-coached defense in 2020, he was clear about his expectations.
"It's going to be full of guys that play with their hair on fire," he said. "That love to be out there on every snap and the guys that know what to do. That's it, without getting into the scheme-aspect of it, and we'll figure out the scheme when we get back (to Allen Park), but they're going to like what they see when they go out there."