Older article but....
The New England Patriots' offense has Arrington to deal with in two days. Last week against the Giants, he had five tackles, a sack, two pass deflections and two forced fumbles.
According to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, this is the quandary a player such as Arrington puts an offense in. It's a long explanation, but well worth digesting.
"Say you assign an offensive lineman to him (in pass protection), and he drops into coverage . . . then you have an offensive lineman blocking air. That means somebody else is coming somewhere else, which forces one of your backs to stay in or they'll penetrate the pocket because your line is working in (Arrington's) direction and is softer somewhere else.
"The advantage (of dropping him) is to draw protection one way and hit it somewhere else," Belichick continued. "If you don't slide protection that way and they bring him, then you're mismatched there. You're in a guessing game."
The advent of the supremely versatile linebacker (and defensive end), probably first spawned by Lawrence Taylor in the 1980s, is now at full bloom. Most teams have one -- not in Arrington's class, but one like him. The Patriots had Rosevelt Colvin to do the same types of things -- sometimes rush, sometimes cover. Draw attention and create mismatches.
"Defensively, that's the one big transition that we've seen in professional football over the last 10 years," Belichick explained. "There was a point in time where most teams played 4-3. The four linemen who rushed always rushed. The seven coverage people always covered. If one of them rushed, it was a blitz. Now you have defensive linemen and 3-4 schemes and 2-5 schemes and multiple people dropping into coverage. Now, instead of the quarterback having to read just seven guys, there may nine or sometimes 10 who can go into coverage. That's a whole different thing for quarterbacks. Some of that has led to spread offense in pro or college which forces the people in coverage to get out there and cover. That way, you can identify who they are and read it from there. It's a lot different reading eight or nine guys than seven, believe it or not."
What the 'Skins do with Arrington and how well the Patriots anticipate that is the game within the game that will help decide who goes to 3-1 Sunday and who falls to 2-2.
"I'm not sure what they tell Lavar, but they do put him in a lot of different places," said Belichick. "He's not always in the same spot. You don't know where he'll be. He's got all the skills you want a linebacker to have -- big, fast, plays well in space, plays well against bigger people, pursues well, seldom is on the ground, has a lot of power and explosion. Whatever you want him to do, he can do. He can do pretty much what he wants to do. How much of that's freelance and how much is their scheme I'm not sure."
Patriots left tackle Matt Light will inevitably lock horns with Arrington at some point Sunday.
"We'll see plenty of him," Light acknowledged. "He's a guy they want to get involved with a lot of things. With him, you have a guy who can make plays like that all over the field and goes 100 miles an hour. I saw him in college (when Light was at Purdue and Arrington was with Penn State). I think he's a little bit bigger now."
Which is not great news.
"He's very, very athletic," said Light. "You try to cut him, he'll go over you. You try to blow him up in his face, he'll avoid you."
In short, even when you know where Arrington is, handling him is another issue entirely. You can stop a player like Arrington. As Belichick often says, every player can be stopped if you send enough players at him. But that creates mismatches, and with players such as the venerable Bruce Smith to be accounted for, it's not what you're looking for. A player such as Arrington is the fully evolved defensive player of today. He can make an offense look downright primitive.