DETROIT -- Matt Patricia is reaching back to his New England Patriots roots for the Detroit Lions' new defensive coordinator.
The Lions hired Philadelphia Eagles defensive backs coach Cory Undlin on Monday to run their defense. ESPN first reported the hiring.
Undlin spent the past five years with the Eagles, but got his start in the NFL as a defensive assistant with the Patriots in 2004, the same year Patricia entered the league as a coaching assistant in New England.
He initially will not call plays for the Lions, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Lions beat the Eagles for one of their three wins this season, and before the game Patricia referenced his friendship with Undlin and the mix of coverages they use in the secondary.
"They've had a couple moving parts back there, and I think those guys are just trying to understand the techniques that they're teaching," Patricia said. "Cory Undlin, who actually coaches the secondary, is a good friend of mine and I know he's got those guys working really hard."
Undlin, 48, replaces Paul Pasqualoni as defensive coordinator, though Patricia ran much of the defense this season when the Lions were in the bottom third of the league in most categories.
They finished 31st in total defense, allowing their most yards (400.4 per game) since their winless season of 2008; were 26th in points allowed (26.4 ppg); were last against the pass (284.4 ypg); and blew second-half leads in seven of their 16 games.
The Eagles, who won the NFC East this season and lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs, finished 19th in the NFL against the pass (241.6 ypg) despite having significant injuries in their secondary.
The Lions struggled defensively even though they invested heavily in the offseason.
They signed defensive end Trey Flowers to a five-year, $90 million contract at the start of free agency, made Justin Coleman the highest-paid slot cornerback in the NFL, and added one year and $11 million to Damon Harrison's contract this summer.
Flowers, coming off February shoulder surgery, finished with seven sacks. Coleman had an up-and-down season in coverage, but did force three fumbles. And Harrison said after a Week 17 loss to the Green Bay Packers that he's considering retirement.
The Lions could make big changes to the unit again this year, with starters A'Shawn Robinson, Tavon Wilson and Rashaan Melvin all ticketed for free agency in March, and a decision pending on whether to trade, keep or extend cornerback Darius Slay.
Should the Lions want to add secondary help in free agency, Eagles starters Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod are unrestricted free agents.
The Lions have parted ways with eight coaches since the end of the regular season, including Pasqualoni, special teams coordinator John Bonamego and strength coach Harold Nash.
They hired 33-year-old Brayden Coombs to replace Bonamego on Saturday, and are still looking for assistants to run their linebacking corps, secondary, tight ends and strength program.
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told the Free Press over the weekend that the Lions told the NFL they planned to have a full staff in place before next week, when they travel to Mobile, Alabama, to coach the North team in the Jan. 25 college all-star game.
"I did follow up with the league office after Detroit was approved and I was like, 'Didn't I just see them let go of eight coaches?' " Nagy said. "And they're like, 'They have given us every assurance that they will have a full staff in place.' "
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