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Lions coach Patricia, Cardinals’ Kingsbury blindly feel each other out

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia instructs players during a joint NFL training camp football practice with the Houston Texans in Houston. Patricia is starting his second season as coach of the Lions. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Relief found its way into the Arizona Cardinals locker room this week, and not only because those 53 players survived roster cuts.

For the first time since Kliff Kingsbury joined the organization in January for his first NFL coaching experience, it became time to dial in how the offense and defense will deploy their respective personnel offerings.

“I can’t tell you how it’s going to look … you’ll see Sunday. It’s going to be electrifying for sure,” running back David Johnson said Monday.

“Preseason was rough just because we couldn’t do much and you know, (Kingsbury has) already started doing a little bit (of gameplanning). It looks really good.”

Detroit can’t do much in terms of film prep, so the ways they’ll go about scheming against Arizona has been creative, to say the least.

Lions head coach Matt Patricia began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his alma mater where he earned a degree in aeronautical engineering. His first NFL job came in 2004 as an offensive assistant with the New England Patriots, who that September cut Kingsbury, a quarterback, after his rookie season.

So the two know each other and have remained friends since. Maybe Patricia knows Kingsbury’s personality to guess how he’ll attack him.

Patricia and Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni can also go back through game tape of Houston, Texas A&M and Texas Tech over the past decade to get an idea of what Kingsbury might do.

“Not that’s this is what it’s going to look like or not, but … it’s not like it’s my first year calling plays in football,” the Cardinals head coach said.

“It’s an ever-evolving game and that’s what makes it fun, the strategy of it all. There’s no telling what coverages will be thrown at you, especially with this first one when you have a little bit more time to look at things.”

Time certainly was used by the Lions. Pasqualoni has college head coaching experience with Syracuse, UConn and Boston College dating back to 1991. He’s seen the very diverse range of college spread offenses.

He’s also had recent stints in the NFL with the Cowboys (2010), Bears (2014) and Texans (2015) as a defensive line coach.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the 70-year-old coordinator spent part of the summer rummaging through stacks of notebooks in his garage that could help him prepare for the Week 1 matchup. His readings, apparently, included some pretty aged material.

“I would say that there is quite a bit of the unknown as you go into this game,” Pasqualoni told reporters this week, per the newspaper. “It’s very, very hard to get a gauge exactly what you’re going to see.”

Kingsbury made sure to mention there’s uncertainty going the other way as well. Patricia and Pasqualoni are entering their second seasons on the job and could have made wholesale changes.

Throw in the fact that they’ll face a rookie quarterback in Arizona’s Kyler Murray, maybe they’ll go well off their usual script.

“I’m not sure what they’re going to do,” Kingsbury said. “Traditionally (aggressive blitzing is) not (Patricia’s) style of play, but young quarterback, first start, I could see that changing.”


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