Mobile, Ala. — There was this perception the Detroit Lions would come to the Senior Bowl with a full coaching staff in place, but that hasn't been the case.
The team has yet to fill three positional coaching vacancies, as well as restock its strength and conditioning staff following offseason changes.
Lions coach Matt Patricia explained he didn't want to rush the process of making hires, just because his staff was leading the North squad at the Senior Bowl.
"To just kind of throw a staff together because we have to coach the Senior Bowl, I don't think that was really a smart or wise move," Patricia said. "I think it was more appropriate for us to know the coaches we have. Some guys will have opportunities to coach this week, which will be great for them to get better as coaches, especially young coaches we want to develop. Then, continue our process to continue to build the staff with the best possible coaches we have."
The Lions brought more than 50 employees to Alabama for the event, with Patricia indicating between 18-20 are members of the coaching staff.
"We have a big enough staff we can absorb some of the different missing pieces right now," Patricia said. "We're talking about a week where we're working on fundamentals, we're working on techniques. It's not a scheme week. You can do the playbook. It's done already. We're not talking about coaching strategies, we're not talking about game plan stuff, which is some of the things when you interview coaches for your full staff are important."
The group of lower-level assistants includes defensive assistant and former NFL safety Steve Gregory, who many view as a strong candidate to fill the team's defensive back coaching role.
"We'll see how it all it all shakes out," Patricia said. "Steve is obviously a young guy who played for me who is a smart guy who has continually developed and grown in his very young coaching career. We'll see how that goes. I think he's done a good job in his own personal growth in the last couple years as a football coach. It's like any job, the better you do the more you get. We'll keep piling on and see how it goes."
Gregory handled the North team's defensive backs for the first practice on Tuesday, while quality control coach Ben Johnson led the tight end group and director of football research, David Corrao, was in charge of the linebackers. He has experience working with the position, having coached linebackers for the Miami Dolphins from 2011-15.
The Lions likely will round out their staff in the coming weeks. It's still unclear if Gregory, Johnson or Corrao are part of that plan. The team underwent significant changes following a 3-12-1 season. Patricia fired six coaches shortly after the season ended, while defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni and offensive line coach Jeff Davidson stepped down days later.
The team already has hired three replacements. Patricia brought on Philadelphia defensive backs coach Cory Undlin to take Pasqualoni's old job, Brayden Coombs will run Detroit's special teams and Hank Fraley was promoted from assistant offensive line coach to fill Davidson's former role.
Davidson is actually in Mobile, helping out the Lions staff as they transition.
"It's awesome. Obviously, Jeff and I go way back," Patricia said. "I just asked him to be around and help out."