Kyle Van Noy spent two-and-a-half seasons with the Detroit Lions, but he never quite found his footing after the team drafted him 40th overall in 2014. Head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin tried to use him in a traditional 4-3 role not suited for his diverse skill set, which in turn led to him appearing timid and insecure when on the field — further adding to the lack of trust he enjoyed from the coaching staff.
In 2016, despite being in the middle of his most successful season to that point, the team had enough: Detroit traded Van Noy and a seventh-round draft choice the following year to the New England Patriots for a sixth-round selection. The Lions, as it would later turn out, moved up a mere 24 spots to get rid of the linebacker — one that is now a mainstay on a Patriots defense that has won two Super Bowls since he joined the club.
New England again sits on top of the pro football mountain this offseason, and for Van Noy the return to Detroit as part of the current joint practices with his former team is therefore a positive one. “It feels good,” said the 28-year-old after yesterday’s session. “It feels good to come back a winner and say hi to people I haven’t seen in a while. [...] I’m happy to get to work, to hang out with my teammates, and then to see old faces.”
For Van Noy, the return to the organization that drafted him five years ago is a trip down memory lane even though Caldwell was replaced by ex-Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in 2018. “There’s so many people I could just name — the behind-the-scenes people that have been so good to me and my family that I’ve got to show them love when I come back. They’ve been amazing to me, and always have and always will be.”
Of course, memories of past years are not the only thing that comes to mind when reconnecting Van Noy and the Lions: the trip to Detroit is also a reminder how the Patriots were able to turn the former second-round draft pick from a bust with his former team into a two-time world champion and integral player on one of the NFL’s best defensive units — one that just delivered a game for the ages in Super Bowl 53.
“Kyle’s done a good job for us,” said Patriots head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick when speaking about the former Lion on Monday. “He fits well into our scheme. The scheme that he was in before I think was maybe not as good of a fit for him, similar to when we got [Rosevelt] Colvin from the Bears. Sometimes, some players just fit into one situation and one scheme better than another.”
“Kyle’s done a great job for us,” continued Belichick when speaking about the fourth-year Patriot. “He’s smart, he’s very instinctive, he does a good job with communication, he can call signals. We have multiple signal-callers on our defense, and that’s a good thing that helps us with communication and adjustments. He’s made a lot of big plays for us since we got him. I’m glad we have him. He’s done a great job.”
Van Noy, meanwhile, did not want to offer any comment on Belichick’s talk about his scheme fit in New England when he met the media on Monday. He did, however, offer praise for the organization and the Patriots’ defensive coaching staff for putting him into a position to be successful — something Caldwell’s Lions were unable to do with their comparatively conservative usage of the versatile defender.
“Bill, and when Matty P was there, and Flo [Brian Flores] and [Jerod] Mayo, and all of these coaches that I’ve played with in New England have put me in a spot to play to my strengths, and put me in a position to succeed,” he said. “I respect that and I’m happy to be a part of it, and I would just leave it at that. I just don’t want to take away from my talent, my skill, and my capabilities if I said that was the reason — if that makes sense.”
Entering his third full year with the Patriots, Van Noy remains a core member of the Patriots’ defense due to his intriguing combination of skills: he is experienced as a communicator and on-field leader, and also has the versatile skill set perfectly suited for New England’s multiple-front defense. As such, he also remains one of the biggest trade steals of Bill Belichick’s tenure as the team’s head honcho.