Lions: Give Cory Undlin a chance before overreacting

Yesterday the Detroit Lions hired a defensive coordinator, and in all likelihood, it’s someone you’ve never heard of until the announcement was made.  Was it the correct choice?

Well, you’ve guessed it. The Detroit Lions hired their newly appointed defensive coordinator from the New England Patriots coaching tree.  Sure, he joins Detroit via the Philadelphia Eagles, but he cut his teeth under Bill Belichick’s wing.

Cory Undlin served as an assistant last season to former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz who was the Eagles defensive coordinator.  Undlin worked directly with Schwartz as the Eagles defensive backs coach.

Matt Patricia and Cory Undlin broke into the NFL together with the New England Patriots in 2004. Unlike Patricia, Undlin has been well-traveled.  He’s been on many different coaching staffs since their time together in New England, which isn’t exactly a great sign depending on how you look at it.

Look on the bright side; apparently, coaches want to hire him as an assistant, the downside he’s on plenty of coaching staff that seemingly struggle to stay in-tact.   Undlin spent time with the Broncos, Browns, Jaguars before being a holdover from Chip Kelly’s staff with the Eagles by Doug Peterson.

Here’s another issue I have with the hire; Cory Undlin’s defensive backs haven’t ranked as a top-ten unit in either of the last four seasons.  Jim Schwartz’s defense is predicated on dominating the line of scrimmage and getting pressure with his defensive front, limiting his corner’s opportunities to be torched in man coverage.

Last season the Eagles ranked 19th in the NFL defending the pass allowing 241.6 yards through the air/game. That being said, the Eagles’ secondary was severely thin throughout the first half of the season.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles top cover guys in their secondary were Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins, who are both safeties, which is less than ideal. The top corner ranked was Sidney Jones, who only played in 11 games.  He only drew an average rating in coverage.  So in Undlin’s defense, he didn’t have a Darius Slay to work with; let’s hope he has Slay on his defense next season.

I wanted the Detroit Lions to hire Wade Phillips despite being 72-years old.  I felt he could stabilize the defense and help the first time head coach in multiple areas, including game management.  Phillips also runs a base 3-4 defense but is much more aggressive than Patricia.

I have a feeling Matt decided to go with Undlin, who’s never called plays in his career because he’s someone that will have minimal push-back towards Patricia during the week. A veteran DC may pipe up much more often, perhaps questioning Patricia.

I also feel that Patricia will be the defensive play-caller next season for the Lions.  Maybe he allows his new hire free rein of the secondary, allowing himself to focus on Detroit’s front seven, which struggled mightily last season.

Only time will tell if this is the right or wrong hire for the Detroit Lions.  Until we see the product on the field, it’s not a hire to be overly excited about, but we shouldn’t be very cynical about it either because we have no idea what we have in Cory Undlin.