Following Lions' Matt Patricia during first Senior Bowl practice
Mobile, Ala. — Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia closed his first practice at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday surrounded by the mass of bodies that made up the game's North squad. Patricia's voice could be heard booming as he delivered the final point of his speech: "Do everything right. You never know who is watching."
The words carried a bit of irony, since we decided to track Patricia's every move during that day's practice, to give you a sense of how much ground he had to cover, literally and figuratively, with a roster of unknown talent and multiple new members on his coaching staff.
Even before arriving at the 3 p.m. practice at Mobile's Ladd-Peeble stadium, Patricia had already had a full day, meeting with his staff in the morning and conducting a two-hour team meeting that ran directly into Senior Bowl media day.
Before media day, Patricia met briefly with local reporters, before conducting a 15-minute press conference. He broke the ice with the hoard of press by toying with the over-sized Reese's Peanut Butter Cups stationed at each podium, product placement from the Senior Bowl's biggest sponsor. And after he wrapped up with the questions, he unwrapped the candy and took a bite from the massive half-pound cup, to laughter.
Three hours later, at 2:55 p.m., Patricia marched into Ladd-Peebles wearing his signature attire, a black wind-breaker, black athletic shorts, a black hat and pencil tucked behind his ear. Probably not ideal for the windy stadium, where temperatures dipped below 40 degrees, but certainly on brand.
The ATV, which Patricia coached practices atop this season while recovering from an Achilles injury, didn't make the trip to Mobile. He also has ditched the walking boot he wore throughout the season.
At 3:01, Patricia stopped to chat with Jeff Davidson, the offensive-line coach who stepped down from his role at the end of the season. After practice, Patricia explained he asked Davidson, a close friend, to come help for the game.
From there, Patricia's focus shifted to some early special-teams work being run by rookie coordinator Brayden Coombs.
Throughout the practice, Patricia floated around the entire field, often followed closely by Joey Jaroshewich, one of the team's equipment managers. Patricia monitored an 11-on-11 segment from midfield, splitting his attention between the two groups running simultaneously, briefly halting one rep to talk to an offensive group led by former Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson.
At 3:14, the North team transitioned into a stretching period. During that time, Patricia took a moment to chat with new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin.
Patricia continued to quietly observe until his first outburst of the day at 3:30, when he cursed at a player trying to sneak a drink of water, pointing out the team had only been working for 20 minutes.
From there, Patricia cycled through his third coordinator, Darrell Bevell, while watching the wide receivers running through a drill. Patricia didn't linger long, moving on to observe the defensive tackles, then the defensive backs before the individual drill segment ended.
The team moved to head-to-head drills at 3:45 and Patricia set up shop next to the trench players working against each other near the end zone, but his attention continued to drift toward midfield, where the linebackers and tight ends squared up first in blitz pickup then one-on-one receiving matchups.
At 3:55, the team moved on to work in the ground game. With the foot traffic on the field, it was difficult to see whether it was seven-on-seven or nine-on-seven, but Patricia lined up like a deep safety to get a better view of how the snaps were developing.
After a few uneventful reps, a running back burst through a hole and a frustrated Patricia muttered, 'Dammit," before pulling in all the defenders on the field and working through why they had failed to execute.
As practice rolled on, Patricia continued to talk with different assistants, stopping for a quick conversation with quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan before touching base with Coombs, who was overseeing a drill focusing on open-field pursuit angles relevant to kick coverage.
The team continued to work on special teams as the clock ticked past 4 p.m. When Texas A&M punter Braden Mann dropped the first snap, Patricia stared incredulously at at the 2018 Ray Guy award winner for several seconds before critiquing the miscue.
Patricia briefly conversed with general manager Bob Quinn before the team switched drills again and the coach barked for the players to hustle to their next station.
The coach walked to the opposite end of the field to take in one-on-one pass-rush drills. There, he had his most hands-on segment, pulling aside multiple players after reps to offer coaching tips, often with acted out examples of what he expected. One defender even managed to earn a high-five and some praise for getting the edge.
The team closed out the practice with 15 minutes of situational 11-on-11 work before a handful of field-goal attempts.
After practice, Patricia gave his speech, asking for maximum effort the rest of the week and imploring the players to do everything right, both on and off the field. From there, more media, more meetings, and the all important evaluation of prospects that is the true value of the Senior Bowl.