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My Dilettant Defensive Treatise

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  1. jays52

    jays52 Rookie

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    Happy New Years, all. I've had the d on my mind throughout the entire season. I was probably over optimistic at times, but I still think that it was the strongest part of the team this year. I have been impressed with their ability to get off the field when needed. I have been impressed with their ability to dial up the blitz. I have been most impressed by some of the creativity behind the plays and sets.

    Overall, I think that this is an extremely skilled squad. I think that the "lack of a pass rush" thing is just an easy term for the uneducated to throw out there. The fact of the matter is that a weak pass rush isn't a new problem for the Patriots. 08 was probably the worst year, with 07 being quite close as well. At least this season the team has the horses to run the race. This is the first season in quite a few years that the team has legitimate NFL speed on defense. If you have the speed to get to the QB, you can actually send people. Scheme can compensate for lack of an elite edge rusher, and we are seeing more and more blitzing from this team. This is indicative of the players getting what the coaches are trying to do, and the coaches trusting their players ability to reach the QB.

    While I certainly think that a legit pass rusher (in additon to another serviceable TBC type) is needed, I think that too much emphasis is placed upon the OLB in the 34 getting your heat. Let's consider pass protection schemes. At it's most basic, pass blocking schemes are set up as a "mug" protection. Often, you hear the "cup" protection, but it is more of a "mug". Cup protection forms a semi-circle pocket, mug protection has the guards and center staying more stout in their protection, as the tackles bring the ends upfield. This facilitates sliding much better than cup protection schemes. Too much emphasis is placed on edge rushers simply beating a tackle, end, or back (usually a combination) and getting a shot on the QB as he hits his hitch step. Largely, Belichick was responsible for this line of thought with the way he utilized the real LT. It really is much more than that, though. Pass rush is primarily about taking away avenues of escape. Be it sliding, throwing lanes, or hot reads, the rush needs to take these away to be effective. As an example, take a look at the best pocket slider in the NFL, #12. He is extremely tough to get after because he understands where the pressure is coming from, where in the pocket he can move to, and where his help is. When Brady is pressured effectively, teams understand how he moves. He has an initial slide, usually caused by an edge guy getting upfield. Brady then slides towards the B gap and uses the forward momentum of his step to deliver a strike either downfield or to a zone vacated by an extra rusher. When he is taken down, the defense beats a guard or center and puts a guy directly into the slide. This is accomplished by interior rush. The inverse of this situation is also true. Inside rush can also flush a QB into an end. We are seeing this type of complimentary pass rush from the Patriots recently. They understand how QB's move in the pocket and take advantage of it. The safeties and ILB's are becoming highly proficient rushers, and it is showing more and more on the field as the inside rush becomes a halmark of this Patriots team. Yes, they do need an elite edge guy to create a true swarm, but they are compensating quite well.

    As we're on the topic of defending the pass, let's talk about the secondary. I've been the biggest Bodden cheerleader since the beginning of the season, and he's made the fandom worth it. He doesn't get a lot of credit, but he is playing at an extremely high level. He is one of the best press corners I have seen in a long time. He is highly effective with his jam. He is fluid in his backpedal, side stride, and sprint. He also can play zone extremely well. He drives well off of his plant foot, and is the surest tackler in the secondary. The safety play is well known, so there is really no need to dive into that. We all know how good the young group of safeties is, and I think that Chung is going to become an elite SS in the league. Butler is progressing nicely, and I think that he is going to develop quite well. He is clearly a great athlete, has excellent ball skills, and I am pleasently suprised by his willingness to throw his body around. A major component of the championship Patriot defenses was a swarming, physical, opportunistic secondary that could stick across the board. This unit is moving towards this level rapidly.

    The backers need some help. Mayo is playing out of position in the base 34, and when compounded with the injury, his play is suffering significantly. He is a cornerstone 34 Will. He needs a Mike to play next to in order to create an elite ILB corps. Guyton is a good young player, but he is much better suited to passing situations and pursuit than he is a run player. He can't get off of blocks well, and he can't stone momentum at the NFL level. Mayo is better than Guyton in this regard, but he is still a better sideline to sideline player than a complete Mike. This is probably the most significant position of need in the front seven. It can be adressed in the draft, and maybe McKenzie is that guy. The team desperately needs a guard destroyer, more so than they need a beast Sam or Jack. Passing on Jason Phillips still stings.

    The D-Line needs Wilfork for the long term. He is the best nose in the game right now, and extending him is of tremendous importance. Warren is still a great player, and likely one of the most stout defenders in the league. His game is elevating lately as well. He is becoming pretty heady out there with his recognition and improvisation, and this should continue to improve. I think that if Green leaves, the team needs a replacement. Brace isn't the guy, he's a backup nose. He lacks the length to play the outside techniques, but I do think that people are far too hard on him. I'm optimistic on Brace, as nose at the professional level is extremely challenging until technique is mastered. He has the foundation, his challenge is to expand upon it. Pryor isn't the guy, either. He's a solid depth guy who can provide a blow for the starters when needed. He isn't going to be more than that. Wright could start on most NFL lines, and is a solid player overall. Highly active for a guy his size, has tremendous footwork and hand technique, plays the run well. They do need to secure a long term replacement for Seymour, though.

    I think that the offense can't decide what it wants to be, and is too predictable to cary the team in the tournament. There are going to be games when the defense needs to win it. As the adage goes, defense wins championships. Is this unit elite? No, but they do have the athleticism and versitility to execute a BB scheme. I haven't felt this way in quite a while. Come playoff time, I'll take an undervalued defense with the ability to execute the gameplans of the greatest defensive mind in history of the game anytime. The offense will need to play well enough to allow the D some breathers, but I feel that this unit, for the first time in five years, can win a championship for the Patriots. Have at me.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  2. buile

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    Re: My Dilletant Defensive Treatise

    > [Mayo] is still a better sideline to sideline player than a complete Mike.

    Pardon my ignorance: could someone give a general idea of the role difference between a Mike and Will? What more is needed for a Mike than what Mayo provides?

    Thanks, Jays52!
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2009
  3. Joker

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    Re: My Dilletant Defensive Treatise

    dilettante
  4. jays52

    jays52 Rookie

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    Re: My Dilletant Defensive Treatise

    Correction made, thanks Webster!
  5. jays52

    jays52 Rookie

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    Re: My Dilletant Defensive Treatise

    I'm speaking generally here, but the will is the weakside backer in the 43, and the weakside inside linebacker in the 34. Mike is middle backer in both.Think of the difference between the two like the difference between a fullback and a runningback. In run defense in the 34, the Mike is more responsible for blowing stuff up in the hole. He needs to take on linemen and fullbacks to allow the flowing Will to make the tackle. Think of the difference between the two like the difference between a fullback and a runningback. The Mike needs to be stronger, cary more momentum, and be outstanding in getting off of blocks. Think Ted Johnson. The Will is your flow and pursuit guy. He needs to be able to find the ball in traffic, scrape well across the LOS, have exceptional closing burst, and have the awareness to react to weakside runs and misdirection plays. The Will is your 3 down inside linebacker, typically the best backer on the team. The Mike is usually more of a thumper, running situation guy who also has the short distance quickness to defend against short passes in zone. Typically, when a runner doesn't have a hole and a linebacker streaks in to tackle him from the size, the Mike did his job.
  6. Deus Irae

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    You lost me right there. This is both incorrect and unfair to those who point out the pass rush problems of the current squad. The 2007 Patriots, for example, were #2 in the NFL in sacks. While that team was unquestionably helped by the one-sidedness of a lot of games, it was still a much better pass rushing team than the current squad.
  7. Patspsycho

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    Re: My Dilletant Defensive Treatise

    Jays,

    This is a great writeup! Really appreciate you taking the time to do this. I am unfortunately stepping out for the night but want to get back to analyzing this in depth in a few days.. a lot of food for thought here.
  8. jays52

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    It definately wasn't a shot at you, D. I was more so going after the on-air pundits. I think that it is a fair criticism on the team. However, when I look at that 07 team, I saw a team with a ton of opportunities for getting after the passer, and relatively few takings of said opportunities. When a team has to constantly pass, it's easy to get inflated sack totals. While that team may have racked up some impressive sacks, there were many times when they would try to dial it up and simply not get there. This years team makes the play when they dial it up far more consistently than that one.

    The way I view the perceived lack of rush this season is due to how infrequent the playcall favored getting after the passer. From a simple hand in the dirt, go get 'em personnel standpoint, yes they are lacking. They won't pressure the QB unless they bring extra, but that is part of defensive gameplanning. What stands out to me though is the ability to dial it up when need be. This defense is fast enough to finish plays, the others weren't.
  9. mayoclinic

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    Jays52, I saw the title of this thread and immediately thought that it had better be from you. I'm not disappointed.

    I've also felt that the D has outperformed the O this year. The D had known flaws coming in - youth, inexperience, new players who needed to blend, a lack of depth at OLB, and the loss of 4 pro bowl veterans. All things considered, it has performed well, and has generally met or exceeded expectations, in comparision to the offense.

    Interesting observation, since we had a team record 47 sacks in 2007. Of course, we benefitted from large leads and being able to tee off on opposing QBs. I'd like to hear you elaborate on how 2007 was a weak pass rush for the Pats.

    I get the male equivalent of Patriot Pam's tingly response when you go into this kind of technical stuff.

    This is brilliant stuff. It brings 2 thoughts to mind: (1) I'd like to see more interior pass rush from the safeties and ILBs, especially from Mayo and Chung, who have been very effective at times; and (2) it reinforces my thought that we could get more benefit to our pass rush and defensive pressure from an internal SILB who can get penetration like Rolando McClain than from a lightning quick edge rusher. Thoughts?



    I agree, and have been saying that Mayo is playing out of position as a Mike, which takes him away from his natural playmaking skills. Guyton doesn't complement Mayo well - neither one is the physical, penetrating Mike that we need. Again, your comments reinforce my belief that we would do more to upgrade our defense by trading up for Rolando McClain than we would be drafting a top edge rusher or 3-4 DE. I see McKenzie is being an improvement of Guyton at SILB, but I think that a true stud Mike like McClain would do wonders for Mayo's playmaking ability and for the interior penetration, which would allow our outside pass rush to be more effective.

    If you look at some of our most painful losses, exactly what you describe has happened. The outside rush has been effective at getting to the QB, but the inside penetration didn't collapse the pocket and close off the QB's ability to slide out. That was a factor in Eli Manning's infamous completion to David Tyree in the 2008 SB, and in Brett Favre escaping on 3rd and 15 in the 2008 loss OT to the Jets, which cost us a playoff berth. We got to the QB both times, but we couldn't finish it off because we didn't seal off inside.

    More than ever, I'd like to see us trade up to the 10-15 range for McClain. We can get solid DE/OLB conversion projects and linemen in the 2nd round, and they will be much more effective with McClain and Mayo anchoring the inside.

    Agreed. Who do you like?

    I agree that our defense is good enough, if our offense executes. With some changes for 2010, I believe it can rival 2003 as our best "elite" defense ever.

    Again, tremendous analysis.
  10. mgteich

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    I think that you underestimate the effect of lobsided games on the 2007 sack totals.

  11. Deus Irae

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    :confused2:

    I don't, particularly in the context of the team registering 29 sacks the season before.
  12. mgteich

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    The open question is whether it is worth our top two picks to upgrade the play at the ILB position. I agree that a top mike would improve that play. You would then have Guyton and McKenzie as backups.

    Some would prefer to use our resources for an OLB or a DE.

  13. mgteich

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    If your point is that the quality and talent of our passrush has decreased steadily since 2006, I agree.

  14. Sciz

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    I've been rereading this thread a few times to try to get everything out of it, and I find the LB stuff very interesting. One question. Do you think Rolando McClain could be a good Mike next to Mayo in the 34?
  15. redsx8827

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    This is interesting stuff. I have been thinking all along that we are one or two players away from having a great defense next year. Guyton needs to be a backup or situational player. He gets driven off the LOS every single inside run play.

    We then need an upgrade at either corner or at a pass-rushing position. If we can get a player of Bart Scott's caliber at ILB for Guyton, and one other improvement at CB or DE/OLB, then I think our defense would be great. Of course, doing that through the draft solely might take a couple of years before those players develop. I'd hope we sign a ILB this offseason.
  16. Deus Irae

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    My point was a simple one: I think that the notion that the 2007 pass rush isn't as good as this year's pass rush is wrong, and I didn't think his phrasing was fair to those who've been pointing it out. He clarified his position on the phrasing, and I've got no problem with that. Jay is a tremendous poster, and I love reading his stuff. I just think he's wrong about the comparison of this season's pass rush "horses" and the 2007 stable, even as I concede that 2007 had the numbers inflated due to score and style.
  17. Pat the Pats Fan

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    Great analysis. I liked you description of the cup vs. mug protection schemes. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge.:youtheman:
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    One of the problems earlier in the year is that our interior offensive linemen weren't playing that great. The best example of this is against the Jets in weak two. When the Jets blitzed up the middle, they often got penetration. This penetration did not always result in sack. It did not need to. Instead, the blitzing obstructed the B gaps, and thus the prefered passing lanes for delivering the ball quickly.

    Even though Logan Mankins got a Pro Bowl nod, he most likely received that on name recognition. I would very much like to bring him back. As long as he doesn't break the bank, we'll be fine. Koppen on the other hand has struggled throughout the season. The reason why his struggles are not apparent is because Stephen Neal frequently gives him assistance. The chain reaction is that Nick Kaczur is often left on an island against outside rushers.

    Now let's exam this. Our "Pro Bowl" center is constantly requiring help from our guard, while our scrub right tackle is left on an island. That doesn't make sense. This weakness hurt us in our second game against the Dolphins on the game losing interception. Kaczur was on an island because Neal was busy helping Koppen. The defensive player was out of his break well before Kaczur got out of his. No one was there to help him. In fact, if you look back to the Colts game, you'll see a similar strategy. Maybe the dolphins copied it.

    Since we were devoting so much of our attention to helping Volmer contain Freeney, it left Kaczur in a one on one against Robert Mathis. The Colts took advantage of this match up in the second half. They occasionally brought pressure up the middle in order to force Neal to help Koppen instead of Kaczur. That's why Mathis caused us so much trouble in the second half. Look at the critical 4th and 2 play. You'll see the Colts get pressure up the middle and Kaczur struggling to contain Mathis. This causes Brady to get rid of the ball faster. Instead of him making multiple reads, he determines immediately that he is going to throw the ball to Faulk. He doesn't see Welker beat his man across the middle. He doesn't see that Faulk didn't beat the press in time. We get screwed on a short pass and eventually lose the game.

    This isn't a new problem. The Ravens, Eagles, and Giants all used a similar strategy when we played them. They attacked us up middle in order to force our weaker right tackle into one on one match ups. Here's the thing: I'm not blaming Kaczur. He didn't write that check. He did his job and they paid him. The guy on the field that's really under performing is Dan Koppen. He's supposed to be a strength of the team, but he's actually a weakness. He's the offenses version of James Sanders. Good technician, knows his job, classy guy. Yet, both struggle physically performing. Both are usually over matched by the athleticism of our opponents. The difference is that Koppen goes to Pro Bowls and get's paid very well. Sanders doesn't and thus get's paid cheaply.


    Well put. Mayo is playing out of position and Guyton is a back up. This is why we should use Adalius Thomas would be much better in this capacity. You can say several things about Thomas, but he does cover well and teams rarely throw at him. He has ball skills. Most importantly, he has the size to take on guards. If we move Thomas back to the inside we could strengthen our D.

    Then who takes his place on the outside? We can use a combination of players for that purpose. Woods, Burges, and Ninkovich could handle rotational duty in small amounts. They would only be playing the outside linebacker position for two downs. Since we usually have a safety in the box anyway, we would have the degree of flexibility necessary to defeat tricky runners in the backfield.

    You are right about Wilfork and Warren. Green is too expensive. He's adequate, but not spectacular. I'm still not convinced that he plays the run very well. Many time he gambles with a pass rush move and slips in the back field to tackle the running back. Other times, like the many last season, he guesses wrong and the back goes for a long gain. On several big running plays last year, his poor play opened huge holes for opposing offenses.

    Pryor and Wright are surprises. We are lucky that they are performing so well. You are right though, we need a more permanent replacement for Seymour.

    This is one of our problems. We are trying to fir a round peg in a square hole. With the lack of depth at wide receiver and the depth we have at running back and tight end, you would think we would be a running team, (especially with a quarter back coming back from a knee injury). No. We are a pass heavy team. We're playing away from our strengths. We rarely give our tight ends the ball. We almost never throw to a running back not named Faulk. We're very predictable because we don't often play to our strengths.

    Now I am not trying to be a downer. Brady had one of his best days as a Patriot. The problem is that most of his passes went to Welker. Only about ten of his other passes went to the rest of his team. That's not even a balanced passing game. Hopefully, our new found commitment to the run alleviates this problem. The running game is our best shot at success. Should we abandon it, teams will bracket and whack Welker into injury.

    Good post. Very good analysis.
  19. convertedpatsfan

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    Great post. I guess after watching our D get destroyed by Indy and the Saints, it was easy to be down on them, but they have generally performed much higher than I anticipated at the beginning of the season.

    One question regarding the effectiveness of the pass rush though. You mention how the D has done a good job with schemes and a better inside rush, especially in taking away escape avenues.

    But has this been the case all season long, or is this just a recent development? It feels as if there's been more pressure the past few games, not just in terms of sacks but overall pressure on the QB. I'm wondering if you've noticed any changes in the scheme, or perhaps a guy like Burgess is becoming more comfortable, or having Jarvis healthy, or a bunch of different factors.
  20. dalero

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    Great post! Alot to chew on. Who's the idiot that gave it one star?
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