Prediction: The Pats' Pass Defense is About to Go From Terrible to Very Good

Discussion in ' - Patriots Fan Forum' started by mayoclinic, Nov 3, 2012.

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  1. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic Supporter Supporter

    So far through 8 games the Pats' overall defense has been somewhere between mediocre to respectable, ranking 12th in points allowed (averaging 21.3 PPG) and 23rd in total yardage . The run defense has been outstanding, ranking first in least YPA (3.5) and 8th in YPG (88.6). And they rank 3rd in the NFL (and 1st in the AFC) with 20 takeaways (11 fumble recoveries, 9 INTs).

    The pass defense has been another story. The Pats rank 28th in passing YPG (281), and in yards per attempt (8.0). They rank 27th in opposing QB rating, allowing an average rating of 96.8. The 17 passing TDs which they've given up is tied for 2nd worst in the league. And they rank 23rd in opponent 3rd down conversion rate (43%). By all measures our secondary play has been poor. And what we've witnessed is commensurate with what the numbers suggest.

    I think that's about to change. Recent history has shown that teams can go from having poor pass defenses to very good ones in a very short time. The 2010 San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks were among the worst pass defenses in the league, and the 2010 Houston Texans set records for the most passing yardage allowed. All 3 teams were markedly better in 2011, and are among the best in the league this year. And I think there's a good chance that we're about to be the next team to make that switch.

    There are 4 reasons why I think things are about to change:

    1. Upgrades in personnel. The Pats' secondary has been paper thin. Pat Chung and Steve Gregory have been out. Ras-I Dowling was banged up before going on IR. Kyle Arrington has been hobbled. Things seem to finally be improving. Gregory was almost back for the Rams game, so he should be back after the bye week. Hopefully Chung will be back, and some time off will benefit Arrington. Alfonzo Dennard has just begun to emerge over the past few weeks as a bona fide starting CB. And the acquisition of Aqib Talib immediately upgrades our personnel at CB by a considerable margin.

    2. Devin McCourty as the deep FS. McCourty has played FS for the past 2 games, and BB has noted that the deep protection was improved from previous weeks. The Pats haven't had a FS with deep cover skills since Brandon Meriweather was cut, and Meriweather lacked the discipline and selflessness to play that role well. McCourty in man coverage is a liability. McCourty patrolling the deep part of the field with everything in front of him and making sure nothing gets by could be an Earl Thomas kind of anchor for the secondary, allowing the CBs to play more man-press and the front 7 to attack more aggressively. It may take a few games for McCourty to make the adjustment, but by the end of the season I think we'll see a huge difference in big pass plays and long 3rd down completions. I personally think that BB's comments plus the acquisition of Aqib Talib is a clear sign that DMac will stay at FS. The position is too important, and no one else has the skills to handle it.

    3. Coherence in the secondary. For years now it seems like the secondary has lacked cohesiveness, coherence and communication. Having DMac as the deep safety and captain of the secondary should help. He will play the same kind of role that Jerod Mayo plays for the front 7. In addition, having 2 CBs who are suited to playing press-man coverage will allow the secondary to have a coherent approach for the first time in a long time. It seems like the secondary has been too busy applying band-aids to put 4-5 guys on the field to have any consistency or coherence. Remember last year when the safeties seemed to change every quarter? With 2 outside CBs who can play press-man and a solid deep cover FS, the coaching staff can mix and match with the other parts, using Chung, Wilson, Gregory, Arrington and Cole as the situation dictates, without giving up basic defensive coherence or cohesion.

    4. Synergy with the front 7. Houston's secondary improved from 2010 to 2011 in part because of the acquisition of CB Jonathan Joseph, who provided a huge upgrade. But without a doubt the addition of JJ Watt and Brooks Reed and the return of Connor Barwin made at least as much difference. It's hard to play an aggressive defense when the secondary is getting strafed, and it's hard for any secondary to hold up in the NFL when there's no pressure on opposing QBs. If the deep safety coverage is reliable it will allow the CBs to play press-man and bump opposing receivers off their routes, knowing that someone has their back if their man gets past them. That allows the front 7 to attack more aggressively, generate more pressure, and create more disruption.

    Theoretically, it should all come together. Of course, it never works exactly the way it should in theory. I'm sure there will be some bumps on the way. But I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that we'll see significant improvement in the pass defense over the next 8 games, so that by the end of the regular season it is almost unrecognizable from what we saw against Seattle, Baltimore, or the Jets earlier this season. I certainly hope so. I'm not worried about making it to the playoffs with what we've had up to now, but making it through without a significantly improved pass defense would have required an awful lot of luck.
  2. KontradictioN

    KontradictioN Do you even lift? Supporter

    No Jersey Selected

    I'll take decent at this point.
  3. supafly

    supafly Supporter Supporter

    #32 Jersey

    Great post, Mayo.

    I definitely agree that McCourty provides us a huge upgrade at FS, and should be kept there for the remainder of the season.

    I do not find it coincidental that the coaching staff felt that he would be best used there during the offseason (at least according to SMY and Bedard) until they changed their mind due to what they saw as a lack of depth at the CB position.

    I see safety play as extremely important to the play of the CBs, so it would make the most sense to shore up the weakest position by leaving McCourty at safety. The dropoff just isn't significant enough at CB.
  4. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic Supporter Supporter

    So would I. It would be a start. We'll probably need a bit more than that by playoff time, and I think we'll get there.
  5. Big-T

    Big-T Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #51 Jersey

    Improved secondary play (McCourty at safety, addition of Talib) will also give Patricia more confidence in dialing up the blitz too which will further improve the pass defense.

    1 addition sets off a chain reaction, a domino effect of improvement.
  6. robertweathers

    robertweathers Pro Bowl Player

    Looking at their remaining schedule and offensive ranking.

    @ Dolphins-22nd
    Houston- 3rd

    In theory, statistically they should improve as long as they don't allow Sanchize to throw for 328 again.
  7. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic Supporter Supporter

    Agreed. That was included under #4 in the OP. "More aggressive" front 7 play included more blitzing.
  8. Marqui

    Marqui In the Starting Line-Up

    Not only do the DBs need to play more aggressive coverage schemes, but the linebackers need to do so as well. It doesn't make sense to always drop those huge linebackers in soft zones and make them cover in space. Have them use their size to beat up TEs/slot WRs at the LOS or blitz.
  9. Big-T

    Big-T Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #51 Jersey

    Danieal Manning was probably the most under rated addition to the Texans secondary last season, as mentioned around this board the last couple of days, a good FS transforms the defense.
  10. VJCPatriot

    VJCPatriot Pro Bowl Player

    Let's hope Talib acquistion works out. He could change the whole complexion of the defense. And I've liked what I've seen of McCourty at FS so far.
  11. Off The Grid

    Off The Grid Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #3 Jersey

    One of your very finest Works ever, my friend.

    And that is saying quite a lot. :cool:
  12. Boomer B

    Boomer B On the Game Day Roster

    #54 Jersey

    They will get better because they upgraded talent (Talib) and they are playing some pretty bad offences the rest of the year. Way to early to say they will go to "Very Good", although I hope you are right.

    I'd like to see Chung in at strong safety on 1st down and then moved to coverage linebacker on passing downs. He'd be much better covering TEs and RBs then the linebackers we have now. We could go with McCourty and Wilson at the safety spots on passing downs with Chung taking over one of the linebacker spots.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2012
  13. PatsWickedPissah

    PatsWickedPissah Supporter Supporter

    Disable Jersey

    Wicked Pissah Pats Homo, bro.
    Made my night.
  14. Brady_to_Moss

    Brady_to_Moss Butler Island is here Supporter

    #95 Jersey

    lets start at decent first before we say very good :bricks:
  15. robertweathers

    robertweathers Pro Bowl Player

    Good post, Mayo.

    When folks were saying that their defense was good in the playoffs last year it really wasn't as Flacco had a 95 QBR and Eli had a 103 QBR with both teams winning the ToP battle and netted close to or over 50% conversion on 3rd down. However, they only allowed 20 and 21 points respectively so folks can't complain too badly.

    I agree completely that they need guys healthy, playing together and to their capabilities, more talent than can execute on gameplans and as always, playmaking.
  16. Brady'sButtBoy

    Brady'sButtBoy 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

    #12 Jersey

    Mayoclinic, I'm right there with you again. One of the first things I said to my football buds minutes after the trade was how much difference one player can make to a certain group. I AM NOT SAYING TALIB'S ANYWHERE NEAR AS GOOD but think of what Revis does for the Jets DB's and how the whole D plays with more swagger. If Talib plays close to his best the Pat's other DB's will surely become better as group - more confident, more able to play to the top of their abilities. This not only because the more talented of the group will be on the field but also because of a change in disposition.
  17. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic Supporter Supporter

    As I said earlier in this thread, I'll be happy to settle for "decent" initially. "Very good" won't happen immediately, if it happens at all. Great things have small beginnings, and playing a bunch of poor offenses may be just what this defense needs to build confidence and give things time to gel. I'm assuming it will take some time, and I'm assuming there will be a few bumps, even if they eventually do make it to "very good".

    That's not unreasonable. There are a lot of different ways that the defensive coaching staff can start to tinker with things. Again, if the deep passing hemorrhage has been stopped somewhat, I think there will be a bit more willingness to get creative.
  18. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic Supporter Supporter


    I have to say, I'm feeling cautiously optimistic - not overly homeristic, but cautiously optimistic - about the secondary for the first time in a long, long time. At least since the beginning of 2011, probably since early 2010, maybe longer. The emergence of Alfonzo Dennard. McCourty's play at FS. And the Talib trade. It just seems to like the storm clouds are suddenly shifting and some light is finally beginning to shine after a long period of darkness. I realize that it could all be an illusion, especially with Talib's off field history. But I'm cautiously optimistic.

    I was VERY optimistic about our secondary back in 2009. The safety position looked extremely strong. Brandon Meriweather made the Pro Bowl and probably deserved it, and seemed to be making the leap towards fulfilling his potential. He made some stunning plays showcasing his range and ball skills. Pat Chung was a rookie and showed signs of providing a physical intimidating presence we hadn't seen since Rodney. Brandon McGowan was an unexpected find as a UFA, and James Sanders rounded out a very solid and versatile unit. At CB Leigh Bodden was a terrific outside CB - like Talib, a 6'1" CB who could play press and man coverage as well as zone, and who provided some veteran leadership. Shawn Springs was intended to provide a second tall veteran CB who could plan press-man, but though he wasn't a total bust he didn't live up to expectations. (BTW, I find it amusing that Mike Reiss talks about Talib like he's a total deviation from BB's model for DB's; Bodden was 6'1", Springs 6'0" and DOwling 6'1", all big, physical guys who were suited to playing press-man coverage, so it's not like this is an entirely new departure.) Darius Butler had all the athletic ability in the world and showed promise as a rookie, and we were still too naive to give up on Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite. Bret Lockett and Kyle Arrington were essentially STers that year.

    It seemed like a darn good group, and Butler was expected to make a big leap in 2010. So good, in fact, that most people were incredulous when the Pats used a 1st round pick on Devin McCourty in 2010. I was one of the few that predicted that the Pats would go DB instead of going after a pass rusher. I was hoping that Earl Thomas would fall to #22. My argument was that in today's game you need 5 good DBs, and a "nickel" back was effectively a starter and worth a 1st round pick. With the addition of McCourty and Leigh Bodden signed to a 4 year extension, the secondary seemed in good shape for a long time.

    And then it fell apart. Bodden got hurt and ended up on IR, and pretty much ended his career with the Pats. McGowan got hurt and eded up on IR, and pretty much ended his career with the Pats. Butler lost his confidence and regressed, and was cut a year later. Wilhite and Wheatley were never more than JAGs at best, and injured ones in the case of Wheatley. And Meriweather's freelancing and selfishness started to outweigh his value. So BB tore the whole thing up in training camp of 2011, and we were left with McCourty, Chung and a bunch of JAGS and youngsters to band-aid together a secondary.

    This is the first time in a long time that I've gotten the sense of a real plan as far as how the coaching staff wants the secondary to progress, instead of just what seems like an ad hoc band-aid approach. It seems like they clearly want a deep cover safety who can protect against all the bleeding that's been going on, and McCourty seems like the man for the job. It seems like they're moving towards a man-press approach. Dennard is developing nicely. McCourty is a stud but doesn't play that style well, and is needed at FS. Dowling went down again, and more experience is needed anyway, so Talib met both requirements. It seems like there's actually a plan, not just plugging in backup/STers like Brown and Ihedigbo and expecting them to be starters or relying on guys like Julian Edelman and Matt Slater to fill in at DB when necessary.

    Of course, it may not work as planned, just like it didn't work in 2009-2010, and it may all fall apart. But at least they're trying, and at least there seems to be a direction. So I feel cautiously optimistic about the secondary for the first time in a long time.
  19. Joker

    Joker Supporter Supporter

    after reading this thread I can see what Talib's defensive tactic is gonna be..slather himself in mayo-nnaise and squirt free from the offensive players trying to tackle him on the way to the house....just what the Pats needed for their BLT defense (Brandon Spikes,Kyle Love,Tavon Wilson) with a double helping of offensive artery clogging MAYO-nnaise....[​IMG]
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2012
  20. Avenger

    Avenger Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

    #11 Jersey

    The Pats drafted a S in round 2 and signed a FA S. That doesn't look like they thought McCourty was S, that looks like they intended him to be a CB, he didn't play S at all in camp, and didn't move to S until injuries forced it.
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