Thursday, March 29, 2018

Could Patriots’ Unheralded, Undrafted Lineman Compete For Left Tackle Job?


by Doug Kyed on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 8:00AM

Photo via Philip G. Pavely/USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s widely assumed the New England Patriots will select an offensive tackle in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, whether they stay at No. 31 overall or trade up.

But what if they can’t swing a deal and the right player isn’t available at No. 31 to replace Nate Solder? Then what?

Would the Patriots reach for a player? Would they trust starting a second- or third-round pick as a rookie? Would they start LaAdrian Waddle at left tackle until the presumed rookie or Tony Garcia, New England’s 2017 third-round pick who missed all of last season with blood clots in his lungs, is ready to go?

There could be another option on the Patriots’ roster: second-year pro Cole Croston, whom New England signed as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa last spring.

He impressed enough in training camp and preseason that the Patriots carried him as an extra offensive lineman for the entire season. They didn’t want to expose Croston to waivers out of fear another team would claim him before he could hit their practice squad.

The Patriots liked Croston more than Conor McDermott, their sixth-round pick out of UCLA, who was waived in September and claimed by the Buffalo Bills.

A former NFL scout told after the Patriots’ first preseason game last summer that Croston was a player the Patriots couldn’t risk losing. Croston surrendered just five quarterback pressures in 140 preseason pass-block snaps.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday “don’t sleep on (Croston) … making a legitimate push for the top spot” at left tackle.

Croston also fits what the Patriots typically look for in a left tackle from a size and athletic perspective. At 6-foot-5 1/2, 307 pounds with 34 5/8-inch arms, Croston ran a 5.29-second 40-yard had with a 1.72-second 10-yard split at his pro day last spring. He was particularly impressive in the 3-cone drill (7.61 seconds) and short shuttle (4.68 seconds). He also recorded a 32.5-inch vertical leap and 8-foot, 7-inch broad jump.

To put those numbers in perspective, recently signed Patriots running back Jeremy Hill ran a 7.64-second 3-cone and 4.59-second short shuttle at his pro day in 2014.

Croston started at left and right tackle at Iowa, and he played guard for the Patriots during the preseason and regular season. So, even if Croston can’t earn a starting spot, he could be a versatile player capable of filling in at multiple positions off the Patriots’ bench.

“He’s a developmental prospect,” Belichick said about Croston on Tuesday. “He has some position versatility. He’s been in a good program. He’s worked hard, improved. Obviously didn’t get any playing time during the season, very little, but we’ll see how it goes this year. He did enough in training camp to make the roster.”
Regardless of what the Patriots do in the draft, Croston could at the very least enter training camp in competition for a starting role. A rookie, even a first-round pick, might not be ready to start from Day 1. Garcia lost 30 pounds on the non-football illness list last season and didn’t play a single preseason or regular-season snap. Andrew Jelks, another 2017 undrafted free agent, practiced briefly last season while on the non-football injury list but didn’t play in any preseason or regular season games. Matt Tobin was a backup offensive tackle on the Seattle Seahawks, who had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, last season. And Waddle was good as a fill-in last season, but he’s primarily played right tackle during his NFL career, isn’t a tremendous athlete and came into the league undrafted himself. He also missed stretches of last season with ankle and knee injuries.

Croston is a name to keep in mind as the Patriots get ready to ramp up their offseason activity next month.

Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyed.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Quenton Nelson credits Harry Hiestand for his development

Quenton Nelson knows how important the Chicago Bears offensive line coach has been to his development.

·         Matt Eurich - March 23, 2018
247 Sports
(Photo: Dylan Buell, Getty)

Quenton Nelson is not only viewed as the best offensive lineman in the 2018 NFL Draft, some believe he may be the most talented prospect in the entire country. Nelson developed rapidly at the University of Notre Dame after joining the team in 2014 and admits he had a lot of help along the way. Harry Hiestand was his offensive line coach throughout his time at the university and he credits the veteran coach for making him into the player he is today.

"He's the one that made me into the player I am," Nelson said at Notre Dame's pro day on Thursday, via the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs.

Hiestand left Notre Dame this offseason and rejoined the Chicago Bears as their offensive line coach under head coach Matt Nagy, a position Hiestand previously held in Chicago. The veteran offensive line coach followed former offensive coordinator Ron Turner to the Bears in 2005 and held the offensive line coach position until the 2009 season. During that stretch he helped the offensive line become one of the team's strengths, backed by the play of Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown on the interior of the line.

After his five-year stint in Chicago he coached at the University of Tennessee before joining Notre Dame's coaching staff in 2012. During his time as an offensive line coach he has seen a long list of his collegiate players make major impacts in the NFL. Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley and Zack Martin and Tennessee's Ja'Waun James were all first-round picks after working with Hiestand. Kreutz went to five straight Pro Bowls and Brown went to one Pro Bowl while playing for Hiestand in Chicago. David Diehl, who played under Hiestand at Illinois, was also a Pro Bowler in the NFL.

Nelson could be an option for the Bears in the first round with the eighth overall pick, assuming he lasts that long. Recruited out of Red Bank, New Jersey as part of the Class of 2014, 247Sports listed Nelson as a four-star recruit with a 0.9707 composite score. He ranked 61st nationally, fifth at the offensive tackle position and second in the state of New Jersey. He received 30 offers from the likes of Alabama, Michigan State, Miami and Ohio State before formally committing to Notre Dame. Throughout the courting process he was recruited by Hiestand.

Nelson capped off his impressive final season at Notre Dame by being named a Unanimous All-American. He has drawn comparisons to Larry Allen by and it is hard to find a lot of negatives in his game. An absolute mauler at the guard position, Nelson is also extremely athletic and is more than capable of getting to the second-level. He has the size and frame (6'5" and 329 pounds) to play tackle at the NFL level but he is the most polished at guard.

"Quenton Nelson hasn't had any meetings with the Bears," tweeted The Athletic's Kevin Fishbain. "Joked that Harry Hiestand has known him since he was an "immature" freshman."

If Nelson is still available when the Bears make their selection with the eighth overall pick, it would not come as a surprise if he is the guy for the Bears considering their needs along the offensive line.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Iowa's Marshal Yanda deserving of Pro Football Hall of Fame inclusion

Scott Dochterman
Land of 10
8:00 a.m. Wednesday, March 21, 2018

ANSWER: Iowa has three former players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They are: NFL all-time interceptions leader Paul Krause (81), Emlen Tunnell (79 interceptions, ranking second) and linebacker Andre Tippett (100 sacks). But there’s no doubt several former Iowa players should be on the short list for future honorees.

Here are the five most deserving former Hawkeyes for the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

Duke Slater, offensive/defensive line

Duke Slater was the NFL’s most dominant lineman throughout his 10-year career, which ended in 1931. At the time he retired, Slater had earned seven All-Pro selections, the second-most at that time in NFL history, according to Neal Rozendaal’s biography of Slater. He started 99 games and played 60 minutes in 90 of them. Slater, who played primarily f or the Chicago Cardinals, posted a dominant performance against the Chicago Bears in a 40-6 win in 1929.
For multiple years, including 1927 and 1929, Slater was the only African-American allowed to play in the NFL. After Slater announced his retirement, Lew Byrer of the New York Telegram wrote, “As long as I’ve played and watched football, the greatest tackle I ever saw was Duke Slater of Iowa. He was colored and received little credit.” Slater already has a jersey and shoulder pads in Canton. It’s a shame his bronze bust wasn’t immortalized when the Hall of Fame opened in 1963, even more of a shame that it’s still not there 50-plus years later.

Alex Karras, defensive tackle

As a four-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro, Alex Karras was one of the NFL’s best defensive linemen in the 1960s. He was named one of three defensive tackles on the NFL’s Team of the Decade in the 1960s alongside Dallas’ Bob Lilly and the Los Angeles Rams’ Merlin Olsen, both of whom are inducted in the Hall of Fame. Of the six defensive linemen on the 1960s all-decade team, Karras is the only one not inducted.
Karras started for 12 years in Detroit as part of the original Fearsome Foursome defense. He played in 161 games from 1958 through 1970, although he joined Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung on the sidelines in 1963 for a gambling suspension. Karras was a defensive force and deserves inclusion.

Jay Hilgenberg, center

Perhaps no former Hawkeyes player is more overlooked by Hall of Fame voters than former Chicago Bears center Jay Hilgenberg. After landing with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 1981, Hilgenberg moved into the starting lineup in 1983 and became a permanent fixture for a decade. Hilgenberg was a seven-time Pro Bowl player from 1985 through 1991 and started each season for the NFC squad. He was named All-Pro in 1988 and 1989.
In 1985, Hilgenberg guided the NFL’s top rushing attack and second-ranked scoring offense to a 15-1 regular-season record and a Super Bowl victory. His 12 postseason starts are tied for the most in Bears history. Only six other Bears have more Pro Bowl appearances than Hilgenberg and all of them are in the Hall of Fame. Only four other centers in NFL history have more Pro Bowl appearances than Hilgenberg, and all of them also are in Canton except recently retired Kevin Mawae.

John Niland, guard

In the Dallas Cowboys’ first great era under coach Tom Landry, John Niland was a vital component. Niland remains the highest-drafted offensive lineman in Dallas history after he was selected fifth overall in 1966. Niland moved into the starting lineup late in his rookie season and played for the Cowboys through 1974. He won a Super Bowl, played in another and started in legendary playoffs games such as the 1966 NFL title game against Green Bay and the 1967 Ice Bowl loss to the Packers. Niland started 14 playoff games in Dallas, including six NFL/NFC championship games.
Only seven Cowboys have more Pro Bowl appearances than Niland’s six. That’s just as many as quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Five times Niland was named a Pro Bowl starter, and four times he was nominated as the NFL’s Man of the Year. He deserves to be discussed by Hall of Fame selectors.

Marshal Yanda, guard

Marshal Yanda’s NFL career is far from over, but the Baltimore Ravens’ guard has built a Hall of Fame résumé. Yanda has six Pro Bowl selections (2011-2016), and he twice has been named All-Pro and twice named second-team All-Pro. Yanda nearly earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2010 when he moved to right tackle because of a teammate’s injury.
According to Pro Football Focus, Yanda has not given up a sack since Week 7 of the 2015 season and has surrendered only 5 sacks since 2012. In 2016, Yanda shifted from right guard to left guard after a shoulder injury and still was PFF’s top-graded guard for the entire season. Yanda was PFF’s top-ranked guard in 2015 and top-rated offensive lineman in 2016. Yanda has started in 12 playoff games and won one Super Bowl. From 2014-17, Yanda was the highest ranked guard in NFL Network’s top 100 list.
Yanda will need to wait five years after his retirement to be nominated for the Hall of Fame, and his position might preclude him from immediate induction. But he is every bit as Hall of Fame-worthy as any guard the last 20 years.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Burkhead bringing three-sport fundraiser back home

Plano Senior alum Rex Burkhead will return to his hometown of Plano on March 24 to host the second annual Team Jack Trifecta, a fundraiser to help raise money for research on pediatric brain cancer.

By Matt Welch
March 9, 2018

On March 24, Plano Senior alum and New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead will return to Plano to host the second annual Team Jack Trifecta, a multi-sport fundraiser for pediatric brain cancer research.

The event will consist of a 5K fun run and youth football camp at Clark Stadium, plus and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament at Plano Sports Authority (PSA 2).

The fun run begins at 8 a.m. March 24, and costs $35 for adult and $15 for children 10 years and under.

At 10 a.m., Burkhead will be joined by numerous NFL veterans and former teammates for a football skills camp. The camp is open to kids ages six through 14 and costs $50.

Festivities will continue at 1:30 p.m. with a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. The registration fee is $200 per four-person team.

All proceeds from the event will support pediatric brain cancer research. Last year’s event raised approximately $35,000.

To register for any of the three events at the Team Jack Trifecta, go to

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The offseason’s underrated hire

From Albert Breer's "Four Downs"
March 8, 2018

2. The offseason’s underrated hire. We don’t talk much about position coaches here. But I’m going to give you one that I believe has a chance to be a big-time difference-maker for his first-time head coach: new Bears line coach Harry Hiestand. Matt Nagy did incredibly well to poach Hiestand, who’d been a target for a number of guys interviewing for jobs in January, from Notre Dame. And his star guard of last year, Quenton Nelson, reminded me of that last week at the combine.

I asked Nelson how, as an elite offensive line talent, he wound up playing guard and not tackle. Nelson answered, “Left tackle, we had Ronnie Stanley. Right tackle, we had Mike McGlinchey. Center, Nick Martin. Right guard, Steve Elmer, who was a very good player. And there was a hole in the left guard spot that I competed for and I ended up playing there.” Think about that. Stanley was the sixth pick in the 2016 draft, and is now Baltimore’s left tackle. Martin was the 50th pick that year, and is the Texans’ center. McGlinchey is likely to join Nelson in the first round of this year’s draft. And Elmer actually decided to forgo his final year of eligibility at Notre Dame, after starting for two years, to pursue a career in politics. Of the five, only Nelson was a Top 100 recruit coming out of high school.

That’s a staggering record of development,
and doesn’t account for Zack Martin (Nick’s older brother), who left Notre Dame the year that Nelson arrived, and has grown into the NFL’s best guard. We’ve seen the importance of line coaches the last few years, of course. Jeff Stoutland’s work last year in Philly—remember the Eagles lost Jason Peters for the year—helped the Eagles win it all and earned the ex-Alabama assistant a promotion to run-game coordinator. The difference Dante Scarnecchia makes in New England is well-documented, and Tony Sparano was huge in helping the Vikings meld new piece to fix their front last fall. Likewise, it looks like the Bears got a good one.

In fact, I hit up Nagy on this on Wednesday. He and Hiestand didn’t know each other before Nagy assembled his staff, and as first impressions have gone, the new Chicago boss put it like this: “He impresses me more and more every day.”

Harry Hiestand named most underrated NFL hire

By Matt Eurich
March 8, 2018

Lost in the shuffle of new Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy bringing back Vic Fangio and hiring Mark Helfrich to be his offensive coordinator was the fact that the organization brought in one of the most well-respected offensive line coaches in the game in Harry Hiestand. He's been credited for his outstanding work with offensive linemen at Notre Dame between 2012 and 2017 and adds a wealth of experience to Nagy's offensive coaching staff.

In Albert Breer's latest piece for The MMQB he listed Hiestand as the offseason's most underrated hiring, writing:
We don’t talk much about position coaches here. But I’m going to give you one that I believe has a chance to be a big-time difference-maker for his first-time head coach: new Bears line coach Harry Hiestand. Matt Nagy did incredibly well to poach Hiestand, who’d been a target for a number of guys interviewing for jobs in January, from Notre Dame.

Breer noted Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson and fellow teammate Mike McGlinchey are set to be first-round picks come April and players like Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin and Zack Martin have all become NFL stalwarts under the tutelage of Hiestand in the past. Breer was told by Nagy that the young coach did not know Hiestand before the staff was assembled and Nagy is blown away by him on a daily basis.

"He impresses me more and more every day," Nagy said.

Hiestand is no stranger to Bears fans. The veteran offensive line coach followed offensive coordinator Ron Turner to the Bears in 2005 and held the offensive line coach position until the 2009 season. During that stretch he helped the offensive line become one of the team's strengths, backed by the play of Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown on the interior of the line. After his five-year stint in Chicago he coached at the University of Tennessee before joining Notre Dame's coaching staff in 2012. During his time as an offensive line coach he has seen a long list of his collegiate players make major impacts in the NFL.

The veteran coach will have his work cut out for him this year as the Bears try to get better along the line of scrimmage after moving on from former Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton. If Hiestand can work wonders with Chicago's offensive line like he did in the past then good things could be on the horizon for the organization.

The enduring legacy of Jack Hoffman's inspiring Nebraska run

March 6, 2018
By Mitch Sherman

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Late last October at Gillette Stadium, 12-year-old Jack Hoffman and his parents, Andy and Brianna, found themselves as guests on the New England Patriots' sideline before kickoff against the Los Angeles Chargers.

It was any kid's dream, mingling among some of the biggest stars in sports. So for whom did Jack first look, Brady or Gronk?

"We're pretty big Rex Burkhead fans," Brianna said. "We were there to see Rex."

For good reason. Five years ago this spring, a friendship between Burkhead, then a Nebraska running back, and Jack led to a moment at the Cornhuskers' Red-White game that made the youngster an overnight celebrity. His 69-yard touchdown run electrified Memorial Stadium and brought awareness nationally to pediatric brain cancer, with which Jack was diagnosed in May 2011 at age 5.

Jack Hoffman's touchdown run in the 2013 Nebraska spring game immediately became a viral sensation, as the 7-year-old battling brain cancer became a national inspiration. Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Media Relations

The run won an ESPY, earned Jack a meeting with President Barack Obama and landed him as the grand marshal in the 2013 Nebraska homecoming parade. It also launched a fundraising effort, boosted by the Hoffmans' continued relationship with Burkhead and the Nebraska football program, that has enabled the Team Jack Foundation to raise more than $5 million for pediatric brain cancer research and treatment.

Last month, the foundation hosted its fifth annual gala for a crowd of 750 donors that featured more than two dozen current and former Nebraska players, including Burkhead, who recently completed his fifth NFL season and first with the Patriots.

In addition to its financial impact, the Team Jack Foundation provides support to dozens of families affected by pediatric brain cancer.

"I don't think we ever envisioned this," Burkhead said.

Jack, after enduring two surgeries in 2011 and two regimens of chemotherapy before his participation in a 13-month clinical trial when the tumor showed growth in August 2014, has remained off treatment since late in 2015.
"I'm doing good," Jack said in February. "Haven't felt cruddy lately."

He takes 14 pills a day to battle seizures caused by epilepsy, a secondary condition of the present-but-stable brain tumor. His next scan is scheduled for April at Boston Children's Hospital, the site of Jack's operations and previous treatment.

Jack attends sixth grade at West Holt Elementary in Atkinson, Nebraska. He plays basketball and baseball, though he's currently sidelined by a fractured right tibia and fibula courtesy of a faulty playground swing. The cast comes off in May.

Five years after his unforgettable run at Nebraska, Jack Hoffman is thriving and raising money for pediatric cancer. Mitch Sherman/

But you won't hear any hint of a complaint from the Hoffmans about such normal, pre-teen mishaps.

"You live day to day when you have a kid with cancer," Brianna said. "We have a lot of friends with kids who have brain tumors. And a lot of them aren't doing as well as Jack. So we're fortunate to be where we're at right now. You're thankful for every day that you've been given. We're thankful for today.

"And we're thankful for the opportunity to get the word out. There are a lot of kids with cancer. It's technically a rare disease, but it's not really rare -- once you're in it and you see how many people are affected by it."

More than 4,600 children in the United States are diagnosed annually with brain cancer. It is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among children. Still, Jack's father said, funding lags for research and treatment.
That's where Team Jack has accomplished its most meaningful work.

"There's been too much attention brought to our family and to Jack," Andy said. "Because it was never about Jack. It was never about our family. What Team Jack is really about is a disease."

The foundation has given nearly $4 million to research, investing in six projects nationally. In 2015, Team Jack committed $1.5 million to create a dedicated program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The Nebraska Legislature matched the pledge. And this summer, Dr. Jonathan Schwartz arrives from Michigan to begin work as the state's first pediatric neuro-oncologist.

The Team Jack Foundation this year announced a donation of $500,000 in seed money to UNMC for the POWER5 initiative, a $5 million program to fund research, pain management and education for this cause.

And at the Team Jack Gala last month, Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos said the school would again in 2018 stage special events for pediatric brain cancer patients around a football game -- the Sept. 28 visit to Lincoln from Purdue.

Jack Hoffman's run resulted in a meeting with President Barack Obama and an ESPY. Rich Arden/ESPN Images

"Our goal was to take those blessings that we have in life and use that platform to raise awareness to a crisis in this country," Andy said.

With Burkhead, the Hoffmans truly found a match made in heaven. He came to Nebraska in 2009 as a schoolboy legend out of Plano, Texas, the son of an FBI agent and a fourth-grade teacher. Burkhead left as a beloved figure and the fifth-leading rusher in school history.

"Growing up, my parents always preached to me to use my platform," he said. "Giving back was a big thing."

Teammates, coaches, even casual acquaintances gained a sense that Rex was destined for something larger than football. For former Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell, now with the Denver Broncos, that relationship with Jack crystallized the importance of Burkhead's generous spirit.

"I think I can speak on a lot of guys' behalf when you talk about what that meant to us," Bell said. "It showed us as Rex's teammates how to grow individually. We were all able to build on that moment and do things in our personal lives because of what Rex did for Jack."

The Hoffmans found special significance in the timing of their first encounter with Burkhead in 2011 during a visit arranged by Nebraska. It came just days before Jack's second brain surgery.

And when Burkhead signed last March with New England, it again marked a moment of deep meaning for the Hoffmans.

"We attribute Boston to saving our son's life," Andy said.

Burkhead plans his own fundraiser in Texas this year -- he did it last year for the first time -- to support Team Jack. When the Hoffmans attended in 2017, they stayed at the home of Burkhead's parents, Rick and Robin.

"I think Jack says it best," Brianna said. "If you ask him who his best friend is, he'll say Rex. From the beginning, it's almost like he was an angel."

It's no surprise, you see, that Jack and his parents, in that visit to Foxborough last season, looked right past the Patriots' more famous names in search of Burkhead. In a season shortened to 10 games because of a knee injury, he scored eight touchdowns, doubling his career output.

You could say his focus shifts in the offseason, but that wouldn't be exactly right. Team Jack and its mission never stray from the top of Burkhead's priority list.

"The way the foundation has grown, how the awareness has grown, it's unbelievable," Burkhead said. "As for Jack, when we met, I just didn't know how much longer he would have. So to see him now, getting tall and enjoying life and experiencing things, playing sports and being able to go to school, it's very heartwarming."

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Inside the NFL Scouting Combine

From Adam Rossow's "Rossow's Rants: Inside the NFL Scouting Combine"
March 6, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS - As most of you know, I had the pleasure of covering the NFL Scouting Combine over the past week. You can check out all of my stories over at Hawkeye Headquarters, as well as some web extras on Twitter and Facebook.

But I wanted to give an inside look at some other happenings in Indianapolis, including some behind the scenes conversations. Here goes it.

• I had multiple NFL people (scouts, former players, etc) that Kirk Ferentz is a top-10 college football coach and has been for years. He’s held in very high regard around the league – both for the way he runs the Iowa program and with his relationships with NFL organizations.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Lions banking on Jeff Davidson to boost feeble run game

By John Niyo
March 4, 2018

Indianapolis – Matt Patricia used to be an offensive lineman. But he made a name for himself coaching defense in the NFL.

And now that he’s a head coach, one of his most important hires shortly after accepting the Lions’ top job was to bring in veteran offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. The two worked briefly together in New England when Patricia joined the Patriots’ staff in 2004.

But at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Patricia spoke highly of Davidson, a 24-year NFL coaching veteran who most recently served as the Denver Broncos’ offensive line coach.

“He knows me, and he knows what I want,” Patricia said. “I have a great relationship with him. Jeff and I worked together a long time ago. I think he’s a phenomenal coach. He’s very smart, Jeff is very analytical about the game. Really an outstanding coach in relating to the players.”

That’s a necessity after the past few seasons in Detroit, when the Lions rushing attack ranked as arguably the NFL’s worst with Ron Prince coaching the line while also holding a dual title as assistant head coach.

The expectation is that Davidson, a former All-Big Ten lineman at Ohio State in the late 1980s, will do more than just revamp the Lions’ blocking scheme. He’ll also develop a better rapport with his offensive line group.

“He understands when he needs to be hard on ’em, and he understands when he needs to love ’em up,” Patricia said. “And he can just relate on a whole different level than I can, because I never played at this level, and Jeff has.”

Friday, March 02, 2018

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia on Iowa’s Brian Ferentz: ‘The sky’s the limit for him’

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia praises former colleague Brian Ferentz, who is the offensive coordinator at Iowa.

By Scott Dochterman
March 2, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS — Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and new Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia were on the same coaching staff in New England when the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl following the 2011 season.

Ferentz coached the Patriots’ tight ends while Patricia led the team’s safeties that year. In 2012, Patricia became New England’s defensive coordinator, while Ferentz left to join Iowa’s coaching staff as offensive line coach. Ferentz became the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator last season.

Patricia, who became the Lions coach earlier this month, praised Ferentz for both what he brought to the Patriots as a leader and as a teammate.

“Just in general with Brian, I think he’s phenomenal,” Patricia said Wednesday morning at the NFL combine. “He’s a really smart guy. He works extremely hard. He studies the game. Tries to understand the problems that are involved in it. His overall organization is phenomenal. He was a young guy with us and very detail-oriented from that standpoint.

“I just think the world of him as a coach, as a person. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

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