'He's dangerous': Lions prepping for Bears' Cordarrelle Patterson on two fronts
Cordarrelle Patterson is one of the greatest return men of all time. The Chicago Bears' kickoff specialist has averaged 29.9 yards on returns during his seven-year career, second all-time to Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers. And Patterson's seven touchdowns in the role put him one shy of matching the most in league history.
While that's an obvious concern for the Lions heading into Sunday's season-opener against the Bears, the team also has to be wary of Patterson in a second facet of Chicago's game plan, the ground game.
Chicago's starting running back David Montgomery has been nursing a groin injury and his status for Sunday's game remains in doubt. That would leave pass-catching specialist Tarik Cohen and Ryan Nall, with his two career carries, as the remaining options on the depth chart.
Enter Patterson, who despite being listed as a receiver by the team has been getting plenty of practice reps in the backfield, according to reports out of Chicago. That fact is not lost on Detroit's defensive coordinator Cory Undlin.
"Yeah, I'm anticipating that we'll see him back there at some point," Undlin said. "We're preparing for that possibility, obviously. If you don't, you can get embarrassed real quick. ...He gets that ball back there and he's downhill. It's like kickoff return for him and it's kickoff coverage for us. We'll definitely take a look at it and hopefully be prepared if it shows up."
Patterson has taken his fair share of handoffs during his career but primarily as a gadget player. He's also been wildly productive, averaging 7.6 yards on his 103 carries. At 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, with the ability to accelerate like a much smaller player, he's able to quickly turn a small lane into a big gain.
As for Patterson's well-established ability at return man, the Lions face the seemingly annual dilemma of whether to kick it out the back of the end zone or challenge him to bring it out against the team's deep and talented coverage units, which were among the league's best a year ago.
"That's been a big topic for us," Lions special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs said. "I say it's tough because our philosophy here is to be aggressive and to try and be tone-setters, so it's hard to ever consider taking our foot off the gas.
"At the same time, you have to take everything into consideration and 'CP' is one of the best returners in this game, one of the best returners in recent history of the NFL. I have a lot of respect for him as a player. He's dangerous. We know that he's got the green light anytime he wants to bring it out and that every time he does bring it out, he's got a chance to take it the distance. We certainly got to be smart with what we want to do."