The firing of Lions special-teams coordinator Joe Marciano on Monday night will result in a heavier workload for coaches across the staff as many try to shore up glaring problems in their own units after two decisive losses.
Coach Matt Patricia said assistant special-teams coach Devin Fitzsimmons will handle more responsibility, but will get help across the staff.
“Right now, we’ll handle everything in house here,” Patricia said Tuesday. “Obviously Fitz will take the majority of that role, but we have coaches on staff that have coached special teams in the past and it will be a collective effort to make sure everything is handled and covered from that aspect and assist in whatever areas are necessary.”
Patricia said many of the team’s coaches have handled special teams early in their careers or in the college ranks, especially ones like veteran defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who spent nearly three decades of his career in college before bouncing back from the NFL to the NCAA for the last 13 years.
Pasqualoni said it won’t be a strain on coaches who are trying to get their own houses in order halfway through a tumultuous 3-5 season.
“I don’t see (problems),” Pasqualoni said. “I would say this that there’s probably not a coach on our staff who at one point or another hasn’t been involved in coaching special teams or helping reasons for any change.”
Fitzsimmons has been with the Lions since 2014, previously spending time with seven college programs out of his eight previous positions.
In-house candidates for bigger roles include defensive quality-control coach Steven Williams, who helped coach South Carolina special teams as a graduate assistant in 2011; defensive assistant Steve Gregory, who was on special teams quality control at Syracuse in 2015 after playing under Pasqualoni for the Orange before an eight-year profressional career; and Evan Rothstein, the head coach assistant for research and analysis, who was Detroit’s special-teams quality-control coach for two seasons before Patricia became head coach.
Marciano was hired by then-coach Jim Caldwell in 2015 with the special teams thriving in his first three years. The Lions have struggled this season in kickoff and punt coverage, penalties and in the return game.
Pasqualoni: Tabor ‘getting better’
Pasqualoni said he’s noticed improvements from second-year cornerback Teez Tabor as the former second-round pick continues to struggle on Sundays.
“I think he’s getting better,” Pasqualoni said. “He goes out there every day and he’s working hard on what we’re asking him to do.”
Tabor played 14 defensive snaps in Sunday’s 24-9 loss at Minnesota, his lowest snap count since Sept. 30. Among the lowlights, the Florida product got beat on a fourth down by undrafted rookie Chad Beebe, who was making his first pro appearance after the injury to Stefon Diggs. Tabor also was flagged for two penalties.
“We’ve been in a stretch where we playing a lot of good teams,” Pasqualoni said. “Teams have very, very good wide receivers and that’s going to continue to be the case this week.”
Tabor also allowed a career day for the unheralded David Moore in the 28-14 loss to Seattle. Moore caught all four of his targets for 97 yards and a touchdown against the Tabor, more than doubling his career high in yardage.
Pasqualoni said it’s back to work for Tabor this week in preparation for Chicago, which has been without No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson (groin) for two weeks. In addition, the oft-injured Kevin White was benched last week.
“We’re excited to have him here,” Pasqualoni said of Tabor. “He’s a very talented, very athletic, long corner, which are hard to find. We’ll just keep working and keep getting better like everyone else on this team.”'
Lions coach Matt Patricia talks about the need for his team to improve its fundamentals. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Golden Tate had another bye week, his second of the season, as he settled into his new life with the Philadelphia Eagles. They play Dallas this Sunday night.
His new quarterback Carson Wentz reportedly invited Tate and his wife to church on Sunday, but only Tate’s wife went as the veteran receiver continued to study the playbook.
Meanwhile, the playbook likely got smaller in Allen Park with the trade last week of the “YAC King.”
On Sunday, running back Theo Riddick spent time in Tate’s slot receiver position, as did T.J. Jones. Riddick had seven receptions for 36 yards on eight targets for just a 5.1-yard average, while Jones had two catches for 13 yards on two targets.
The Lions went 4-for-15 on third down, a conversion rate of 26.7 percent, the third-worst for Detroit this season and down from the season average of 42.4 percent entering the game.
“We’re really evaluating all of our skill talent,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “I’m kind of looking around our offensive meeting room and seeing who might want to get a few more snaps on the field and maybe get them in position to do things they do well.”
Matt Schoch is a freelancer writer.