Matt Patricia replacing himself: New Detroit Lions DC Cory Undlin 'calling the defense'

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia appears poised to be giving up defensive play-calling duties this fall.

New Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said Sunday he plans to be on the sideline during games this season where he'll be "calling the defense."

Undlin, who has previously declined to say what role he'll have in play calling, dropped the nugget during a video conference when asked if he'll be on the sideline or in the booth this season.

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Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Cory Undlin on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020.

“I’ve got plenty of eyes up top and just personally I like – personally, there is a feel of being on the field and then anytime for me when you’ve got to go through another conduit to get it out there, it’s just it’s more efficient for me," Undlin said. "And if you guys haven’t got to know me, there’s an element of being in front of (players) and looking at them when you’re coaching them and that would be my preference, and Matt completely agrees with that."

Here's why Lions players will take to new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin ]

Patricia, who spent six seasons as New England Patriots defensive coordinator before taking over as Lions coach in 2018, handling the bulk of the play-calling duties late last season, when the Lions went 3-12-1 and gave up the most passing yards in the NFL and ranked 26th in scoring defense.

Patricia fired defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni after the season, and has long explained his role in play-calling as having the authority to call plays whenever he wants as head coach.

No matter how play-calling duties shake out this season, the Lions defense won't look significantly different than the one that has taken the field each of the past two seasons.

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Lions defensive end Trey Flowers sacks Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky during the second half of the Lions' 20-13 loss on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Chicago.

The Lions run a preponderance of man-to-man pass coverages, and Undlin, like Patricia, values versatility in his defensive players.

"That’s what we’re based on in this defense, you know that," he said earlier in August.

The Lions likely will have six new defensive starters in their lineup when they open the season Sept. 13 against the Chicago Bears.

"I’m going to be down there in it, on them, with them, so it’ll be good," Undlin said.

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