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So, I was reading the thread in this section today about us drafting a pass rusher, and how the selection of an offensive tackle or a defensive end would send us in the opposite direction and it set me into a bit of a mini-rage fit about some of the stuff being said by Patriots fans recently.
So, rant time:
First and foremost the draft is an inexact science, players combine numbers, physical measurements, college tape only goes so far in determining who is going to excel at the pro level. I've been guilty of this too, trying to pigeon hole a player based on some numbers they put up in shorts. That's simply not how the game works, the game requires someone who's strong in physique and strong mentally to be a great player, and the truth is you can never know a persons mind till they are instructed to do something exact. Despite that, drafting players is still the best method to infuse a team with talent - significantly better than free agency. Which is the exact reason the Patriots trade [down] so frequently. Belichick knows the value of these picks and isn't going to squander them on a player he's not absolutely certain of, which is exactly why all this crap about packaging picks to move up in the draft to select guys that are relative unknowns isn't something to take lightly, yet I've heard claims from fans and members of the media saying that we should just up and trade 17, 28 and anything else necessary to get Robert Quinn (For example). I hate to break it to some of these people, but this team needs elite talent not just at pass rusher but at a variety of positions. Our defensive line has gotten blown off the line of scrimmage the last few years, our interior offensive line has been getting rag dolled by even the most mid level defensive fronts we've faced, and our secondary has been wildly inconsistent at best until McCourty showed up, and heres to hoping that him and Bodden can change that.
To the people saying we need to draft a pass rusher or its complete and utter doom you really need to re-evaluate this team. We have a variety of needs that need attending and the person you blame for not being aggressive enough with picks is the entire reason this motley crew of players [Outside of Brady] has put up the incredible win record they have. Belichick is doing an incredible job with what he has, and he's traded the way he has the last few years to bring in youth that will keep making this team better.
This isn't a "DRINK THE KOOLAID" rant, but more of open your eyes to the fact that this draft thing isn't an exact science; we're working with human beings here not machines.
Last year I was livid they passed on Kindle for McCourty, and I was still pretty irked they got Gronkowski over him again in the second but then I realized something as the season progressed: It's not the position that matters in the draft but the player drafted. If we leave the 2011 draft with a C, WR, and DE in the first rounds I won't bat an eye lash initially, I might wish they had drafted that DE/OLB conversion prospect, but if the WR puts up a productive rookie campaign, the center plays at a high level and the defensive end helps shore up our defense will you complain? I know I won't. This team needs high talent at basically every position but TE. Filling those other less flashy needs is going to be just as important in the long run as the potential of pulling a Ditka and ending up with the next Vernon Gholston or Demarcus Ware. To act like this team has one need is complete denial.
Last edited by Brady2Welker; 03-31-2011 at 10:22 PM..
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I just got back from a quick run to clear my head from school and let me run down some quick X and O's with what's going on with this team to further illustrate my point.
As some of you may know by now, this team has switched concepts of how they play offensively this last year with the injection at youth at the tight end position and the loss of Randy Moss and the takeover at offensive play caller by Bill O'Brien. Historically; 07-09 the Patriots were at the frontline with a few other teams (Colts, Saints) who were running a 'spread offense' which calls for flooding the field with athletic WRs or TE who can both "stretch the field" (a term that maddens me for its general inaccuracy) and aggressively attack zone and man defenses with mismatches across the board. It's a huge part of the reason that the Patriots traded for Randy Moss and Wes Welker to begin with. These two players went together like peanut butter and jelly, the perfect marriage of deep play making speed with quickness and precision over the middle to attack defenses, when combined with Stallworth and Gaffney this offense was largely unstoppable. But like all good things, it came to an end specifically as a result of the defensive changes in the league by teams like the Jets. Teams that will trot out a 3 man front with 2-3 linebackers and the rest being defensive backs. This defense by and large has the capacity to nullify the spread if you have the horses up front to do it. By flooding the back half of the field with a combination of man and zone and sending your 4 best men at the QB you can hope to slow down the spread offense fairly well. Perfect example was the 09' Superbowl with the Saints and Colts. Why Dwight Freeney's Novocain was still at full blast, if memory serves, the Saints were by and large relegated to screens and short passes to move the ball because the patterns that the spread offense runs (especially one like the Saints) take a little bit of time to develop and the pass rush was just too fast. And when you combine some decent zone or good man play with a mean pass rush you can shut down just about any spread (reflect painfully on 07 Superbowl). Now, teams are more or less breaking the bank to bring as many CBs onto their rosters as possible to defend this, now being that Belichick is truly a mastermind of a coach he was one step ahead of the curve (as all things in football are largely cyclical). He asked the question, how do you stop a finesse defense? You play the power run game and use a passing philosophy based on unpredictability. This is the exact offense principle that the Packers run. People often mislabel the Packers as a spread offense which is untrue. The Packers offense is completely predicated on having a group of athletic WRs that can line up at virtually any position and run any route. This keeps defenses on their heals, as defensive players are generally less intelligent than offensive players (Because defenses don't have their entire game go through one player who gets paid 10-20million dollars a year who is paid to use their brain, a la Brady) as in order to attack an amoeba like offense you must have a virtually encyclopedic knowledge of the other team. So what the Patriots did is went out and draft the players Gronkowski who has the potential to attack the seam, the flat, go deep or decleat a LB on any play from the same 3 point stance, or motion out wide to make other mismatches. They brought in another player like that in Hernadez who can do all of the aforementioned Gronkowski can but minus the tenacious blocking.
Now for the present: the modification of this offense is still far from complete, in order to run what I believe Belichick would call his "ideal" offense we still need another outside receiver. Ideally for this offensive scheme we'd need two outside WRs who can run just about any route without being limited by size to a certain role. Where I'm going with this: The WR in question will probably have these traits: around 190-220lbs that's about 6'0-6'3 and runs a ~4.45 40 yard dash and has fluid hips to make every every route on the field. This is something Moss cannot do, so we need to stop acting like we'll just recruit him back and have our WR need covered. He was a one dimensional tool who was powered by unearthly physical tools that have diminished severely. Similarly I see Welker's roll being reduced in the near future so much that we will probably part ways with him after 2011 in favor of Edelman. And it's not something I have against Welker, but you simply cannot expect someone of his skill set to constantly line up outside the numbers. Back to the WR need: we currently have one player on the Roster who can potentially fill the rolls required and that's Deion Branch who's injury history and age makes him only a stopgap in the near future. Our offensive interior offensive line has been mangled by just about every defensive front other than the Steelers recently. We have no known commodity of left tackle with Light currently unsigned, and even if he is brought back there's no knowing how long hell be above average. And we can't simply toss Vollmer over there. Vollmer is probably the third best RT in the league right now, granted he has the makings of an absolutely epic LT there's something to be said about allowing him some stability to develop. I'm not an expert but from the collegiate football players I've talked to, they've told me it can be difficult to transition from left to right side after you've been there a certain amount of time.
In Summary, I believe our offensive needs can be tiered in 3 categories:
High Need: LT or RT, OG/C, WR
Medium Need: RB, QB for the future
Low Need: TE
The Belichick defensive scheme of preference: the Fairbanks 3-4, pattern matching, whatever you want to call is predicated on two central philosophies. One: Don't give up the big play. Two: Control the LOS to mitigate big plays to smaller ones increasing difficulty on third down. This is not to say that rushing the passer isn't important but some people make it out to be the end all of a defense when that's simply not true. Our OLBs are asked to stand up, engage an OT and react to a play as it develops to force it for minimal gain by either subsequent pass rushing or setting the edge. This can be referred to "two gapping" a term designed as guarding an area rather than attacking an area to force a sack ("one gapping"). When you defend an area like I describe, it lessens the chance for a substantial gain by the opposing team by limiting their chance of success by having the entire team involved in run support via setting the edge etc. Because of this you will never see a LB like Clay Mathews being great in our system. He will excel in the Packers offensive scheme utilizing his high motor and speed rush, but he simply doesn't have the length or the strength to engage an offensive tackle and win the battle for fighting for space. The OLBs are not the only ones who have to do this, this is also a responsibility for our DE's as well. And as of right now, I'm not sure we have a single DE on the roster that can two gap proficiently. My only guess would be Ty Warren and although I've always liked him, I'm wondering how he'll do without Seymour. Ron Brace is a bit of an unknown, and I believe he is a more natural fit for NT. Because of this, you see our DEs attempting to two gap and getting annihilated because they don't have the technique of physical tools to take on a double team successfully. The result of this is getting gouged in the run game, I don't have the statistics on me but this team was AWFUL against the run last year. If you don't believe me I can hunt them down but I assume if you've read this far you might just take my word for it.
How this plays into the draft: This draft only has one proven OLB who has a pass rushing pedigree and his name is Von Miller and there's no way that dude can 2gap so I'll just move on from there. Because of this We'd be asking a conversion prospect to do an extremely difficult task. Is this something we should be doing with a first round pick where premier talent is supposed to be taken to bolster the team? I'd say no. I believe its much easier to identify a almost any other position in the draft than an 3-4 OLB in the Patriots system.
Three tier defensive needs:
High need: Defensive end, OLB
Middle need: FS, NT (Backup, this would be a low need but this position is fairly injury prone), DB
Low need: ILB
So assuming you read that and at least partially agree with what I'm saying I'll ask a fairly basic question. Would you rather attack a high need with a pick in the top two rounds that is a more likely system fit at a high level, or sell the farm for a conversion prospect? The point that I was trying to make earlier about Kindle vs McCourty etc, is that you can get gamebreakers at any position to help this team, not just OLB. An above average DE and potential franchise LT can help this team just as much as selling the farm for a conversion prospect, if not more.
Last edited by Brady2Welker; 04-01-2011 at 12:10 AM..