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I recently joined another site, FootballsFuture and this Patriot fan wrote a bit on our defense. One was a few weeks ago while he did some today about the SB. It really explains a lot
this is the secondary breakdown from a few weeks ago, it explains our coverage scheme and such
First off, i don't claim to be an expert on our secondary. It's somewhere i've never played before, or somewhere i've never studied. All these evaluations come from other people on FF and general observations.
The system: It's a cover three that sends to CB's 10 yards off the LOS and 10 yards away from the WR. It relies on reading the QB's and routes, and then jumping passes and picking them off. Because of the pass rush in the 3-4, the CB's jobs rarely involve a one-on-one in deep ball situations. It's more likely that the CB will hardly have to move any further back than 15-20 yards away from the LOS. The cover 3 looks a lot like the cover 1 before the snap, but we rarely ever play a cover 1. The thing that is different from our cover 3 to others is that the CB's don't have to backpedal a lot to get into their zones. The FS will make the third deep man (for the '3 in coverage'), and this is currently James Sanders. By doing this, it also allows Rodney Harrison to walk up to the LOS and, in essence, freelance a lot more than usual because the protection against the deep ball is already there. By setting up a 'blanket' against the deep ball, Harrison has a much easier time covering short passes over the middle and pass-rushing. This coverage shell is almost perfect to utilize Harrison. Disadvantages include the pressure it puts on OLB's to get a pass rush, and it also relies on the ILB's to cover the short middle, otherwise we're screwed. If you noticed in he Eagles game, they were getting easy completions over the middle, mainly because it was the worst i've ever seen Harrison, Bruschi and Seau play in zone coverage. Because of the 2-gap, the ILB's shouldn't have to enage blockers much (maybe the strongside ILB does), meaning you can theoretically play a cover weakside ILB and enhance the secondary (Jame Laurinaitis). Cover 4 is used in long yardage situations, and a 'pressed' cover 2 in shorter yardage. The beauty about the cover 3 is that it can mask a CB's natural skills by making sure they can jump routes and read the QB (i.e. you don't have to be a freak of nature to play in our secondary like Cromartie. Samuel ran something like a 4.5 and benched 225lbs 9 times, but was seen as a nice fit for our secondary). In all reality, the system makes our players, and our secondary has been suspect over the past few years, heavily relying on the OLB's and Harrison. (sources for this: spush, wikipedia's definition on cover shells)
The cornerbacks: It is described in the above paragraph about their stance before the snap. 10 yards off the LOS, looking at the QB and angling their bodies towards him (pre-snap). They backpedal slowly, always keeping an eye on both the QB and WR, and making sure they are not beat deep. If they are, it ruins the whole premise of our defense. They either try to bait the QB into throwing against them on shorter routes, or completely blanket the deep ball. What usually happens is that if the QB can get enough time in the pocket, he sends his WR's on deep posts and tries to get infront of Sanders and behind Bruschi, Seau and Harrison. It's not that hard because the linebacker are so slow, and it puts one hell of a strain Sanders to cover short and deep. If the CB makes a wrong read on the QB, you might as well walk off the field and admit a TD. That's why rookies will never start in our secondary, and also why BB doesn't draft early CB's, mental skills are appreciated on par with zone coverage skills. (Sources for this: new england patriots strategy breakdowns, general observation)
The safeties: The FS and SS have very different roles. FS is the deep cover guy, allowing the SS to come forwards make plays, be it pass rush or TE press coverage, without a gap left in the secondary. Sanders, the FS, should be playing Harrison's role, which makes his play this year more impressive than first thought. But i do wonder how well Sanders could play SS compared to Harrison. Sanders can play in the box against the run well, but i've never really seen him pass rush enough or press cover TE's enough to comment on how well he would do it. BTW, Meriweather screams FS to me. A deep cover guy who has the speed to not get beaten behind him, and who can 'lay the wood' on guys coming over the middle. Eugene Wilson should've been a superstar, but his injuries hampered his deep coverage skills, and eventually made him damaged goods. He won't be back next year. (Sources: General observation, Spush)
The Stats: Here are some interesting breakdowns on how we have faired against other secondaries (note; all stats used are from Football Outsiders). The DVOA (defensive value over adjustment) ranking basically means what a player/team has done compared to the average player at that position in the league. It also weights accomplishments, i.e. 5 yards on 3rd and 2 is worth more than 5 yards on 3rd and 12. Red-zone defense is highly prioritized, and defensive players would expect a negative percentage to be above the average. To learn more about what the DVOA means, click here to get the full definition. Here they are;
Asante Samuel (i.e. the number 1 CB against the number 1 WR): A DVOA rating of -1.6%, ranking 16th in the league. This shows Samuel to be an average first string CB. Note - Samuel did not match up against Wayne in the indy game, Hobbs did. But Samuel has for every other game (to my knowledge). League leader = Nnamdi Asomugha, a DVOA ranking of -43.6%.
Ellis Hobbs (i.e. the number 2 CB against the number 2 WR): A DVOA rank of -11.2%, 10th in the league. This shows Hobbs to be playing better than the average number 2 CB, a boarderline 'good' number 2 CB.
Rodney Harrison (going up against elite TE's, namely Gates, Winslow, Witten, Cooley and Clark) - an average of 4 catches for 41 yards per game. An average of 10.25 YPC. (note: Cooley's 15 yd TD was stricken because Meriweather was in coverage. I left Gates in there, but i'm pretty sure Harrison wasn't in direct coverage over him.)
Deep coverage - only 5 big passes against our secondary (couresty of CHFF). A league low 28 total big plays (what you would expect in a cover 3)
I think this shows how average our secondary is. It's nothing special and relies on the pass rush from the front 7. Some of the stats may be skewed (Samuel did not play the indy #1 WR as he apparently has in the stats), but they give you a rough guideline to as how we've played. I also want to point out i'll flip if anyone says anything about 'garbage time'. In garbage time, the opposition is trying to go deep, and playing into the cover 3's strengths. Plus, BB would murder any players not trying in garbage time.
(NOTE: I'm still stats-searching for James Sanders and how we rank against the deep ball. Any help would be appreciated)
General: I get really annoyed with our secondary. The deep ball hyas been played against excellent all year, but shorter range plays leave something to be desired. I also think we've been far more effective when we press our cover 3 forwards towards to LOS. this gives it more of a 'man coverage' feel and allows the pass-rush to be enhanced. When this happens, you'll see Bruschi, Seau and Harrison (a combo) blitz, because Sanders is coming forwards and taking the short middle. It is risky against the deep passes, but to me it's a sacrifice worth taking.
For Draft Usage: When doing mock drafts for the pats, consider the points below. All of them are usually required, but a combination is also viable. Note: For the proper and real list you'll have to ask BB:
1. Zone coverage skills - any potential prospect has to be able to play zone, more deep zone than short zone. Anything like bump-and-run or tight man coverage is not needed at all. I should also point out that even if the player does not excel at this in college, as long as he is 'coachable' enough to learn zone, he should be fine. (Positions that should require this: CB, FS)
2. Football IQ - I hate the saying, but it's true in this case. A guy that will play in our secondary needs to be able to grasp not just the playbook, but the gameplans and "codes of conduct" for a cover 3 CB/FS/SS. They need to be able to diagnose WR routes and read the QB. It is much more beneficary to not play a rookie DB and let them learn all these aspects - DB's who are ready for our sysem from the get go are few and far between. (Positions that require this: CB, FS, SS)
3. Intense LOS play, TE coverage, Playmaking - I might as well have just named this section ' The SS position'. All of these are specifically for the SS position. Because of the help over the top, the SS presses to the line and is asked to do all of the above. Our cover 3 shell is really designed to take advantage of the SS, so the SS needs to tick the football IQ box as well, and needs to be a physical, in-the-box player and be a factor in run support. He's more of a tampa 2 linebacker than anything else - i.e. a strong cover guy who can play the run just as well. Rodney Harrison is the ideal player to look at for this. Speed is not a nessecity, toughness, smarts and physicality are. (Positions that require this: SS)
Look at the guys drafted in the secondary over the past few years. now look at the guys still around. Asante Samuel, James Sanders, Ellis Hobbs, Brandon Meriweather tick all the boxes. Dexter Reid, Eugene Wilson (no longer anyway), Gus Scott etc do not.
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The secondary: The secondary takes away the deep ball and the CB's line up 10 yards off the WR most of the time. This is bloody useless in close games. How the hell are we supposed to stop the underneath stuff if our CB's are 10 yards away? That defense is designed to work when we have big leads, meaning in the postseason it is not the best defense to run. Simply put, it puts too much strain on the offense to score continual TD's. Rodney Harrison looked very old and slow in the Giants game, and because he was not the playmaker we need, we suffered (injury not, idk). He couldn't pass-rush, cover TE's or be much of a factor in run support. He looked exposed and tired, and this is not something you want out of the player who the whole coverage shell is designed around. Asante Samuel played even worse, this guy is continually getting beaten by mediocre WR's throwing half-heated fakes, and Samuel doesn't look interested half the time. I can't blame Ellis Hobbs that much, i've thought about it all day and putting someone his size in single coverage on a 6'5 top 15 WR is a joke. He didn't stand a chance, and i'm amazed Burress didn't do even better. If anything, minus the slip then Hobbs had a great game. But there is no way in hell i want Samuel back next year, his crazy demands are laughable. Another thing - BB's refusal to switch sides with the CB's is crazy. If you are going to leave Burress single covered, let Asante do it if he's actually any good. Asante never leaves the left side, something i whole heartedly disagree with. Teams will stick their number 1 WR on the other side, and cause a mismatch. That confuses me beyond all belief. James Sanders was pretty quiet, but as ever he was a pretty solid tackler and didn't really get beat in coverage. I really want to see him at SS next year, where we can take advantage of all of his talents (take Harrison out when he's getting tired). If you want a minor consolation - here it is - Brandon Meriweather is getting his most playing times all year in the biggest game of the franchise's history. That shows BB trusts him, and he did nothing wrong out there. If he carries on making progress like has since the bye week, he'll be a full time starter this time next year. What i want to see from the secondary: Press the coverage forwards a bit more. Sure, you don't have that extra protection against the deep ball, but you don't have to rely on the linebackers to cover short inside zones, and it serves you much better in close games. It also helps in blitzing (leaving less pressure on the OLB's to get pressure), and would be a great advantage in tight games. Keep the zone, but push it forwards.
The front 7: Don't bother changing a thing from the d-line (when they're in the 3-4). My problems are with the linebacker and system. The cover 3 means the ILB's in particular have to cover the short middle in zone, but because they're so old and slow (well Bruschi anyway) they can't. If you press the cover 3 forwards, you don't have to deal with this problem. Then you take off all strain of the linebackers. Let's face it, they're probably the weak spot on D, so don't put so much pressure on them to succeed. Another thing - between Hollywood14 and me researching the 3-4 properly, the whole point of a 2-gap 3-4 is so YOUR ILB'S DONT HAVE TO SHED BLOCKS. I'll admit i was the biggest supporter of this, but it's really not true. As long as you can shoot gaps in the run defense and go sideline to sideline you should be fine. Seau does this to an effect, but not Bruschi. We need an ILB who can do both these things, and Maualuga could've. Now, if we are going to stick with this silly deep cover 3 look, Laurinaitis would have been great. He can cover, be a force in run support and make plays sideline to sideline. Dan Connor does none of them for me. Now onto the pass rush - it was great all season. But (i can't believe i'm going to say this) Roosevelt Colvin does loads for us in pass rush. He's not that fast or that strong, but he can get pressure on the QB and it helps Vrabel draw less double teams. Vrabel had 9.5 sacks in 11 games with Colvin, and only 3 sacks in the 8 games without Colvin. I expect BB to resign Colvin to less money for more years, and i think Colvin wants another ring (one he could actually earn lol). Thomas is a beast, stick him at ILB and pair him with Seau/draft pick/FA/Lua. I don't need to say anything more on AD - he's great in run support, coverage and pass rush. No problems with him at all. What i want to see from the front 7: A hybrid look. Yes that's right, our linebackers may be old and slow etc etc, but i want to see more 4-3. (i.e. DE - Green/Thomas, Warren. DT - Wilfork, Seymour. MLB - Thomas/Seau. OLB - Vrabel, Colvin). Thats not a perfect team (it's pretty slow), but it adds another dimension to the front 7 and a new look we can give the opposition. If we draft a 4-3 MLB (who would also play 3-4 ILB), our hybrid look would be great. Green and Thomas could rotate at DE, and the 3 linebackers could be helped out by some substitutions in the form of Seau and Lua. Also, by sinking the cover 3 forward you eliminate the need for the ILB's to cover.
its a great read imo written by a fan who took some time to explain it.
Great read and very well thought out. It doesn't hurt that it supports my side that Assante is over rated and played like crap the last quarter of the season and the playoff. Also that Hobbs is a good #2.
"When Peyton Manning was a kid he used to go to bed at night and dream about throwing the winning touchdown for the Saints in the Superbowl. And on Sunday he did."
There's only two conclusions for Patriots fans on rookies. They are either a bust or being fitted for their bust in Canton.
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