If Matt Patricia walked into the Detroit Lions’ Allen Park auditorium, closed his eyes, took the pencil tucked behind his right ear and flung it into the 103 seats before him, there’s a good chance he’d hit a fellow former New England Patriot.
That’d be quite a sight, at least.
Detroit’s rookie head coach stands with five on the active roster and another five on the practice squad entering Sunday’s 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff at Ford Field.
And that’s before general manager Bob Quinn, vice president of player personnel Kyle O’Brien, quarterbacks coach George Godsey, strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash, assistants Steve Gregory and Billy Yates, and area scout Roman Phifer are taken into the roll call.
As for the current players with Patriots ties?
“I think those guys that were able to come in that know me, I obviously brought in because those are guys I think can help us win and play for us and do a good job of contributing,” Patricia said on his conference call with New England media on Wednesday. “But there’s a great group of guys that were already here, great group of guys that have come in as rookies, free agents in the offseason and then guys that I’m also familiar with with the Patriots.”
There’s no shortage. There’s no pencil throw needed, either.
Here’s a glance through the list of familiarity between the rosters of Detroit and New England leading up to the Week 3 reunion.
Matt Cassel, quarterback – Patricia was an assistant offensive line coach for New England went Cassel arrived at pick No. 230 overall in the 2005 draft. Cassel, the backup to two Heisman Trophy winners at USC, would go on to appear in 40 games for New England, starting his final 15 in the absence of Tom Brady. Patricia had been promoted to Patriots linebackers coach by the time Cassel, now 36, was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs along with captain Mike Vrabel in exchange for a second-round pick. The Lions are Cassel’s fifth team since then. The veteran QB was released by the Tennessee Titans, now with Vrabel at head coach, in March.
LeGarrette Blount, running back – Blount’s two tours of duty with New England included two Super Bowl rings, 677 carries, 2,917 rushing yards, 34 regular-season touchdowns and even a franchise-leading 18 scores during the 2016 campaign. Not a bad tenure for a 250-pound back who’d been acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for sprinter Jeff Demps and a seventh-rounder in the spring of 2013. Blount earned his third Super Bowl ring against New England as a Philadalphia Eagle in February before signing a one-year deal with the Lions.
Chris Lacy, wide receiver – Lacy was a member of New England’s 2018 undrafted class, but was waived only one week after the team made his signing official. The 22-year-old Oklahoma State product would be claimed off waivers by Quinn and Patricia’s cabinet the next day. Lacy caught a touchdown pass in the Lions’ preseason finale and was retained on the 10-man practice squad as the calendar turned to September.
Ricky Jean Francois, defensive tackle – The owner of 30 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises fit right in during his couple cups of coffee with the Patriots last season. Jean Francois signed with New England in November and was re-signed after a brief exit in December. The well-traveled 31-year-old defensive lineman appeared in a total of nine contests for New England, including playoffs, and posted one start, 16 tackles and sack. Jean Francois reconvened with Patricia in Detroit as Lions training camp got underway this July.
John Atkins, defensive tackle – The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Georgia Bulldog was signed by New England as an undrafted free agent in May, and went on to appear in four preseason games while logging five tackles. The Patriots waived Atkins during roster cutdowns on Labor Day weekend. He joined the Lions’ practice squad on Sept. 3.
Eric Lee, defensive end – The Patriots signed Lee off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad November, but it would have been hard to have foreseen what followed. The 2016 UDFA out of South Florida would go on to notch 3.5 sacks, a safety, an interception and a pass deflection over the course of New England’s final six games of the regular season. And for Lee, they were the first six games of his NFL career – and he started five of them. The 24-year-old was waived by New England despite an 11-tackle, two-sack preseason audition. He signed to the Lions’ scout team after clearing waivers one day later.
Marquis Flowers, linebacker – Flowers was released 368 days after New England traded pick No. 249 overall in the 2018 draft to the Cincinnati Bengals for his services. But Flowers left having played in all 16 games, starting two, while recording 32 tackles, the first 3.5 sacks of his career and a forced fumble. The linebacker finished 2017 with 289 snaps on defense despite seeing just 32 through the midway point. He tacked on 209 snaps in the kicking game, as well. The Patriots re-signed Flowers on a one-year deal that included a $200,000 signing bonus and $50,000 workout bonus this offseason, though he found himself on the Lions’ 53-man roster by Sept. 3.
Trevor Bates, linebacker – Flowers’ arrival in Detroit meant another linebacker’s departure – at least temporarily. The Lions waived Bates only to sign him to the practice squad shortly thereafter. The Maine Black Bear originally entered the league as an Indianapolis Colts seventh-rounder in 2016, yet finished his rookie year with a trip to Super Bowl LI as part of New England’s practice squad. Bates earned practice player of the week honors four times while with the Patriots that season. He agreed to a reserve-futures contract ahead of 2017, yet was released from the practice squad after a two-day stint. Bates joined the Lions in May after stop with the New York Giants.
Cre’von LeBlanc, cornerback – LeBlanc, undrafted by way of Florida Atlantic in 2016, made a case during his first NFL preseason. He even made a one-handed interception down in the end zone. But the Patriots waived LeBlanc as part of the roster whittling that summer, and the Chicago Bears claimed him. LeBlanc proceeded to play in 28 games for Chicago and start 10. He accrued 61 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, 13 deflections, two interceptions and one touchdown over that span. The Bears cut LeBlanc earlier this month, and he headed east en route to the Lions’ practice squad.
Tavon Wilson, safety – Wilson, a Patriots second-rounder in 2012, appeared in 54 games through the end of his rookie contract in Foxborough. The safety and core special-teamer via Illinois tallied 79 tackles, 10 passes defended, five interceptions with a touchdown along the way, before penning his pact with the Lions in March 2016. Wilson, 28, has started 24 of his 27 games since then with the Lions. He re-upped on a two-year deal this offseason.
Jace Billingsley, wide receiver – Billingsley is in his second stint on New England’s practice squad since Sept. 4. Prior to then, the rusher-slash-receiver-slash-teamer spent 2016 and 2017 between the Lions’ practice squad and 53-man roster. The Eastern Oregon alum appeared in two contests for Detroit last year, notching two tackles.
LaAdrian Waddle, offensive tackle – The Patriots claimed Waddle off waivers from the Lions in December 2015. The Texas Tech Red Raider had started 24 games for Detroit since embarking as an undrafted rookie, and he has since started five for New England while serving as the primary swing tackle. The 27-year-old Waddle got the nod as recently as last Sunday due right tackle Marcus Cannon’s calf injury. He re-signed on a one-year deal in March.
Kyle Van Noy, linebacker – The second of six trades made between Quinn and Bill Belichick hit on Oct. 25, 2016. It saw Detroit gather a 2017 sixth-round pick, at No. 215 overall, from the New England. And it saw the Patriots gather a seventh-rounder just 24 slots later – as well as Van Noy. It’s aged well for New England. Van Noy, a 2014 second-round draft choice out of BYU, has since played in 22 regular-season games for New England and started 16. He’s registered 111 tackles, 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble and his first two NFL interceptions, too. Van Noy signed a two-year, $11.75 million extension with the Patriots to begin 2017.