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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Is ex-Lion Kyle Van Noy fool’s gold or the real deal?

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Logan Lamorandier
Born and raised just outside of Kalamazoo as a die-hard Detroit sports fan. Attended Western Michigan University and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona not too long after graduation. Currently a medical sales rep and unapologetic Lions addict.

Who are you and what have you done with LB Kyle Van Noy?

It was not long ago that the Detroit Lions and former GM Martin Mayhew traded up to the 40th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft to select BYU‘s Kyle Van Noy. After almost two and a half miserable years in Detroit, new GM Bob Quinn traded Van Noy to his former employer and the one organization that always seems to take one team’s trash and turn them into a treasure– the New England Patriots.

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Van Noy appears to be continuing the trend and Lions fans are miffed.

Before I go any further, let me say I am very happy for a class act like Van Noy to be on a Super Bowl caliber team. This is in no way an attack on him personally, but more so validation that Quinn made the proper call regarding the backer’s exit. Ex-Lions OT LaAdrian Waddle and OG Chase Farris (practice squad) also found their way to the perennial Super Bowl contender and it brings me pure delight. This has nothing to do with sour grapes.

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Van Noy started seven games for the Lions in 2016. He totaled 23 tackles (3.3 per game) with one pass deflection, no forced fumbles, and no interceptions. Subjectively, he appeared to be on opposite end of many big pass plays and often was found making arm tackles five yards down the field.

It could just be coincidence, but the Lions early tight end coverage struggles seemed to be greatly mitigated by the departure of Van Noy as well. Long story short, Van Noy was bad for Detroit–or just a bad fit–more on that later.

The return of a healthy Josh Bynes was a considerable upgrade over Van Noy and made him dispensable.

Now, I know the rebuttal to this argument and I plan to examine it to the fullest. Due to a nationally televised playoff game with many viewers, Van Noy forced a fumble against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week which immediately had Lions fanatics jumping to conclusions.

“Look what he has done in New England,” seemingly every Lions fan said.

The opposition to my “same ol’ Van Noy” argument will state that he was just always in the wrong system and the Lions coaches had no clue how to use him.

There is definitely a lot of truth to that. Van Noy, in DC Teryl Austin‘s own words, was drafted to be the “flamethrower” on the defense. That title never came to fruition on the field. Austin appeared to plug him in at the standard SAM backer spot.

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Now in New England, Van Noy has found somewhat of a niche.

Contrary to popular belief, Van Noy is NOT considered a starter for the Patriots. Although, Patriots DC Matt Patricia does utilize him frequently in favorable packages– a luxury the Lions could not afford due to injuries. Van Noy has only started two of his 11 games with his new team and ZERO have come in the playoffs.

With four more games played with the Patriots, he has accumulated 35 total tackles (3.2 per game–same as with the Lions), only one sack (despite rushing the passer a considerable amount more), three passes defended with two forced fumbles.

Those last two statistics are eye-popping, but after further review, I came away rather unimpressed. Every splash play that he makes does not mean it was a skillful action. There is a fine line between luck and skill and I will let you decide by the GIFs below.

I tend to think that was a poor angle with the classic Van Noy drag down tackle that accidentally hit the ball. Here is his other forced fumble on the year:

As much as I diminish these accomplishments, he does deserve credit where credit is due, he made the plays. But this looks like the same Van Noy the Lions had only with that magic Patriot’s dust sprinkled on him. Take away the “lucky” fumbles and these plays would be graded negatively on Van Noy.

I understand the better you are, usually, the luckier you get, but I can’t help but think that the luck is going to eventually run out.

Watching Van Noy’s Patriots film made me cringe a little bit at times as it gave me flashbacks of the Lions first seven weeks of the season. His biggest weakness is still very apparent, he was soft in college and he still is on the Patriots. You just never see this 250-pound linebacker put a shoulder into anybody or use his athleticism in coverage.

The one thing that is nice about being on a great team is that big plays given up by certain individuals can often be overcome and overlooked in the grand scheme of things. A touchdown allowed in a close game is much more remembered than a touchdown allowed in a blowout. Van Noy still had his fair share of plays given up in New England.

Maybe as Lions fans, we just really want to point out reasons why we are consistently the laughing stock of the NFL and the Van Noy trade is just another pretext. There are a few that want to act like Van Noy was the missing piece to the Patriot’s defense. Trust me, they would be just fine without Van Noy. He has elevated his game to “roster-worthy” with a specific protective scheme to cover weaknesses. After all, he does have some ability, hence the second round grade.

As great teams do, they elevate the perceived value of a player by simply winning, and that is the case with the Lions former second round pick. Like many Patriots before him, he will be just another cog in their machine and spit out anywhere else.

As much as I wish Van Noy could have been a success story in Detroit, it was not happening. It may or may not happen in New England either, but as long as they are winning, their methods will never be second guessed.

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