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Pats trying CB Will Allen at safety in OTAs

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  1. PatsFans.com Article

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    Pats trying CB Will Allen at safety in OTAs
    By: John Morgan

    I'm hesitant to read too much into what happens during an OTA, but I thought it was interesting to note that today the Patriots were lining up cornerback Will Allen at the safety position during the majority of drills in Foxborough...

  2. Guimond3434

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    To be honest, I wouldn't read to much into it. It's just BB doing his due-diligence with his roster, and seeing what his players can bring to the table. We don't want a situation like last year in which we were forced to play un-prepared CB's at Safety (such as Moore and McCourty). McCourty did pretty well at Safety, but he's best fit at CB, and at least we know he can play the part now if needed.

    Will Allen is a savvy veteran who doesn't bring much to the table in terms of ST's, so if he is going to stick on this roster....he's going to have to prove himself to be versitile and an asset to stick on the final-53, especially with so many other hungry players waiting in the wings (Dennard, Moore, Arrington, Dowling, McCourty, Gregory, etc etc).

    I hope he makes it. As much as I like the youth on this squad, I think we really need a veteran back there.
  3. Sicilian

    Sicilian On the Roster

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    After the free agent signings (and then following the drafting of Tavon Wilson), I started thinking that BB is taking the same approach to the secondary that he seems to be molding with the front seven: Very few if any players having a set position.

    McCourty, Moore, and Gregory all played some S and some CB last year.

    Allen seems to have the physical tools needed to play S, but was a CB last year.

    Dowling has been projected by some as a player who could play both.

    Tavon Wilson's biggest selling point post draft was his position flexibility.

    Whether it's to get the best 6-7 DB's on the field or to cause confusion in the opposing offenses, it seems like they have more secondary players that can move all over the field than they have since BB took over.
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    In other words: all amoeba, all the time.
  5. mayoclinic

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    OTG and I have both been advocating the use of CB/S "hyrbids" for some time. Grid would go so far as to have 5 such guys in the secondary, though I can see a role for a more "traditional" safety like Pat Chung along with 3-4 CB/S hybrids who can be moved around flexibly. Ian Rapoport has written about this "4 corners and a safety" approach recently for NFL.com in connection with the Pats and with the Dallas Cowboys:

    Dallas Cowboys still have plans for disgruntled CB Mike Jenkins - NFL.com

    As Dallas DBs coach Jerome Henderson noted:

    That kind of "ameboid" flexibility gives a lot of options to create confusion and to match up with different offenses. Chris Price has also written about this flexibility:

    patriots - Why Bill Belichick will enter a whole new world with his secondary in 2012 - WEEI | Christopher Price

    Other than Pat Chung (and possibly Josh Barrett) as pure safeties, the Pats have a bunch of guys who can be used at CB or S: Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Steven Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard. Possibly Kyle Arrington. And now it looks like BB is at least taking a look at whether Will Allen could offer that kind of versatility as well.

    BB has gone down this road before, at least to a limited extent:

    The Belichick Defense Pt. 3 | 60 Max Power O - The Strategist's Guide to New England Patriots Football

    Having this kind of secondary really requires physical DBs who can play run support as well as cover, and a versatile LB corps. Those seem to be two things that BB has prioritized in recent years. It will be very interesting to see how all this plays out.
  6. mgteich

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    I would not make too much of this. All non-starters need to be able to be valuable at another position or on special teams. In Allen's case, he need some time at safety in order to be better evaluate his value compared to others competing for roster spot in the secondary.

    LOCKS (6)
    McCourty, Dowling, Arrington
    Chung, Gregory, Wilson

    COMPETING FOR 3-4 ROSTER SPOTS
    Moore, Barrett, Dennard, Allen, Cole, Brown, Williams
    I favor the first 3 to make the 53. However, there is much competition for these roster spots.
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
  7. mayoclinic

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    I wouldn't make too much of Allen playing safety at all. What I would emphasize is that BB seems to be moving towards players with CB/S versatility. Chung is the only one of your "locks" without such versatility. Moore and Dennard among the competing guys clearly have some positional versatility, and trying Allen at S seems to underscore that BB is intersted in for this kind of ability.
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    This team has only one player, Gregory, who's shown the ability to play both safety and cornerback at a high enough level to be of any value to an NFL team.
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
  9. mgteich

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    As a nitpick, I would say that McCourty has "some" value at safety to an nfl team. He did play safety for us at times last year.

    That being said, I would rather that our safeties have value as safeties. We will have Chung, Gregory and Barrett. We will also have rookie Wilson, who is obviously unproven. In any case, it seems to take a year to be valuable at safety for the patriots (at least in recent years).

    Belichick needs to decide whether any of his corners have any skills at safety, in case of emergency.

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    betterthanthealternative Rookie

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    How much does this trend shift the definition of DB's, and the value in the words "safety" and "cornerback"?
  11. Fencer

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    A pure safety is a DB who's a step slow at sticking with receivers in coverage.

    A pure CB is a DB who's a step slow at getting into a play that's happening away from him.
  12. mgteich

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    Cornerback, safety and nickel back are all separate positions. In order to make the team as a backup, a player is expect to play more than one of these positions (and/or be a top special teamer).

    Let's not be silly here. We should have 5 starters in teh secondary (including nickel) with little crossover. I would MUCH rather have a safety like Barrett starting (in case of injury) than have one of our starting corner playing safety. Yes, the dime back could be a corner or a safety. Yes, the backup nickel could be a corner or a safety.


  13. Deus Irae

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    True, but there's a 'but' there. He lined up in the safety position in some sub packages, but he never played safety in the base defense.
  14. mgteich

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    fair enough

    Who actually started at safety last year, in addition to Chung, Barrett and Ihedigbo? Didn't Moore?

    Last edited: May 31, 2012
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    I think the evolution of the game is forcing a change in the fundamental concepts of the defensive back field. The terms "free safety" and "strong safety" will no longer be appropriate designations. Teams are realizing if they are ever going to have a decent chance of stopping the big, fast, maneuverable, WRs that are coming into the game the same time as the Passing game is reaching its highest evolution of complexity, they are going to have to have at least 4-6 DBs that are capable of being able to excel in coverage.

    It is the ONLY chance defenses have to stop these prolific passing offenses. Offenses that can almost immediately spot the match up advantage, either through formation or motion, and QB's capable of accurately getting the ball there. There is no way to defend a well run pattern and well thrown ball. Not under the current rules.

    I think we are going to see nickel and dime packages as base defenses this season and that will stay out there until a team PROVES that they can run the ball effectively against it. That is why virtually all the guys that BB has drafted or brought in are good run defenders as well.as coverage guys. They don't have to be explosive, highlight reel run defenders; they simply have to get the damned ball carrier on the ground.

    Believe me folks, it will take some time to get all the roles sorted out, but when its done, and the they have a chance to play together for a while, it will be good.

    BTW- if you are looking for for the NEXT new thing that is the response to all these DBs, you just have to "look ahead to the past" and go back to when the running game was as complex as the passing game is now. Back to the 30's and 40's and the single wing. Add some spread concepts to some of the things they used to do back then, and it would be a tough offense to stop with half your defense under 200 lbs

    What Carolina is doing with Cam Newton is as close as you get to that right now in the NFL. Give it a decade to percolate and we will start to see some serious complexity to a run game that is now pretty damned simple in the NFL>
  16. Deus Irae

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    Moore and Brown got some time at the spot. I don't recall who was awarded the actual 'starter' connotation for all the games.
  17. jsull87

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    I'd argue Devin McCourty has shown the ability to play both Saftey and CB at a high level.
  18. mayoclinic

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    That's a bit harsh. It depends what your view of "any value" is. Both McCourty and Sterling Moore played CB and S last year. Tavon Wilson and Alfonzo Dennard are both obviously unproven at an NFL level because they are rookies, but Wilson has experience at both CB and S, and Dennard was projected by several people to potentially move to S. It's not a huge stretch to imagine either playing both positions. Same for Ras-I Dowling. The Chris Price article that I cited emphasizes positional versatility as something that could play more of a role in the secondary in 2012, and not just on an "emergency basis", but on a regular basis.

    More important, regardless of whether the current group of players have proven the ability to play a hybrid CB/S role, the reality is that a number of teams are moving in this direction, including the Pats. To cite just one example, Dallas is reportedly considering moving CB Orlando Scandrick to a hybrid CB/S role in order to get more coverage DBs on the field:

    Cowboys' Scandrick against hybrid safety/corner role - NFL.com

    With the use of spread offenses, defenses are shifting to get more coverage ability on the field. Creating a hybrid CB/S roles is one way to achieve this. Whether the Pats' players currently have experience or not, it's not unrealistic to expect that they may get used this way. As the above article notes, "the reality is that a lot of teams are making players hybrid cornerback/safeties. That's one of the only ways to match up with catch-first tight ends or formations with four players lined up wide." The Rapoport article that I cited above mentions that the Pats and Arizona led the NFL last year in having 4 CBs on the field at the same time in non-dime packages.

    I think that Gregory's proven ability to play a CB/S role is part of what made him attractive to the Pats. But I also think that we'll see more players in that kind of role.

    It's semantics, but it could have financial implications. Just as the DE/LB and WR/TE distinctions that have been blurred, players would much rather be designated as the position which generally carries a higher level of financial compensation. Terrell Suggs wants to be paid as a DE, not a LB. Jermichael Finley wants to be paid as a WR, not a TE. And Orlando Scandrick doesn't want to be called a "safety" if it will affect his financial leverage, as discussed in the article cited above.
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    I don't think it's harsh at all. Moore was terrible at safety, and McCourty didn't play any safety in the base defense. He was essentially playing CB from midfield in sub packages.

    McCourty is too small for long term viability at safety in the Patriots' system, because they don't protect smaller safeties with a FS/SS style of defense. Dowling's too fragile (hell, he has to show that he's not too fragile for CB, nevermind S). Moore might not even make the team. Dennard and Wilson will have to show what they can do.

    I think Wilson was a need pick as opposed to a BPA pick, and I expect the Patriots will either land a quality safety via trade/free agency between now and next April, or they will look to draft a safety high in the draft again. A quick look at a free agent safety list for 2013

    2013 NFL Free Agents : NFLTradeRumors.coNFL Trade Rumors

    makes me think that it'll probably be a draft pick.
  20. Elijah

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    Was Moore really that bad at safety? I remember the defense being significantly better when he was back here compared to Ihedigbo or especially Slater...
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
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