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The Problem I See with the Pats Linebackers

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by aluminum seats, Jan 25, 2013.

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  1. aluminum seats

    aluminum seats Rookie

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    It seems to me the Pats are in an unusual position with their linebackers. In most areas, if there's a problem that should be addressed, there's a clear solution to it (in theory, at least) even if acheiving that solution is difficult: the WR group, say, is thin. The safety position needs an upgrade, etc.

    Linebackers seem a little different. Mayo, Spikes, and Hightower are all solid players. Hightower was just a rookie, and will hopefully take a leap next year. But when he was drafted, the comparison to Spikes was made. And sure enough, as a starting group these guys all seem to share the same problems in coverage/space.

    That issue is continually noted, but I'm not sure what should be done about it. A guy like Fletcher would be better in coverage, for example, but to this point he hasn't been seen as a starting caliber linebacker. Obviously you have guys rotate in and out, but at a certain point the hope is that your starting guys will be able to handle any situation.

    So what's the answer? Shift back to the 3-4? Understand that it's hard for any positional grouping to be perfect? Consider moving a guy like Spikes to find someone better in coverage?
  2. Nehalem

    Nehalem Rookie

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    I would like to see a true coverage LB drafted.

    Then keep Spikes through the end of his rookie deal and then let him walk to find his millions.

    This will give the new LB a chance to learn the system and get the optimal return on Spikes.
  3. upstater1

    upstater1 Rookie

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    I'm not entirely sure that Hightower has the same problems covering backs and TEs that Mayo and Spikes have.
  4. randomk1

    randomk1 Rookie

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    It is what it is. BB likes his type of LBs.
  5. Sicilian

    Sicilian Rookie

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    The problem is they have below average coverage linebackers, AND below average coverage safeties (as a group). This creates a dead zone in the middle of the field on the intermediate routes. I'm ok with the linebackers we have IF we can improve the coverage ability of our safety corp.

    Of course, if a great coverage linebacker is available through FA or the draft, you absolutely grab him. We're a 4-3 defense that only has three real linebackers. There's room on this roster for more of them even with Spikes, Mayo, and Hightower.
  6. MoneyFX

    MoneyFX Rookie

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    A coverage linebacker would help, but if they can find a good safety to pair up with McCourty, it would fix some of the problems.
  7. upstater1

    upstater1 Rookie

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    McCourty and Gregory should be known as above average coverage safeties.

    They probably are.

    They don't lay the lumber like Pollard and Reed. That's their biggest deficiency.

    But when you have problems at CB (i.e. Arrington) then McCourty is going to lean to the outside of the field, not the middle.
  8. TriplecHamp

    TriplecHamp Rookie

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    Dane Fletcher returning will be huge on 3rd downs. Hopefully Hightower improves his coverage over the offseason. He was solid against the run from day one.
  9. PP2

    PP2 Rookie

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    McCourty is average in coverage. He is getting there in terms of timing and anticipating. I have seen improvements in him in terms of proper technique and better recognition of when the corner is beat and the job becomes his.

    Gregory is NOT anywhere near above-average or average. He is not an NFL caliber safety. He is only there because he manages to avoid making bad mistakes and that is all you will get out of him. He will not be returning this fall.
  10. aluminum seats

    aluminum seats Rookie

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    I'd be very surprised to see Gregory cut. Seems to me he's an excellent guy to have as a back-up--a solid professional who won't lose you games when called on throughout the season.

    I do completely agree/hope that he won't be starting or playing a ton of snaps.
  11. The Gr8est

    The Gr8est Rookie

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    Since we can't resign all of our stars, and considering that he hasn't always shown gr8 judgment in his personal life, it has occurred to me that, no matter how good of a player he is, Spikes may not be the type of player the Pats want to make a large longterm financial investment in, and he may be a trade candidate. Hightower can play his role in the middle and the Pats can hopefully get an OLB with more flexible skills.


    I would think Spikes would bring good value in a trade.
  12. borg

    borg Rookie

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    Maybe BB's long term plan is for Hightower to eventually become a DE.....the dude is big already and as he matures, I suspect he will add more weight. What has surprised me most about the rebuild of our LB corp is 1) the premium assets spent (#1, #2, #1) and 2) their coverage deficiencies. All that capital spent yet their is a sizable hole in their game. I'm on record as being confused by the Hightower pick at the time. If not the Willie McGinest role eventually, then I don't get having a LB of his size out there.
  13. makoute

    makoute Rookie

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    He was disappointing, but maybe we shouldn't be. These past few years, teams tend to keep their safeties, that is a position that is in high demand, so finding a very good one in Free Agency is almost impossible.
  14. Sicilian

    Sicilian Rookie

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    Honestly, I think it's just that finding a LB that can do everything well is extremely rare. I mean, our entire offensive philosophy is to take advantage of LB coverage mismatches, because if you're big enough to play linebacker you're probably not quick enough to keep up with the more athletic TEs/RBs, and if you're small enough to keep up, you're probably a safety.
  15. DocHoliday

    DocHoliday Rookie

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    Not that this means anything but while I love Spikes' playmaking he is absolutely stupid on twitter.
  16. IllegalContact

    IllegalContact Rookie

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    draft nico johnson of alabama in round 2 or 3........245lbs with sub 4.6 speed......spikes ain't long for his spot anyway.......

    I'd say fletcher, but it would be a miracle fo him to make it to october without going on IR
  17. borg

    borg Rookie

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    No doubt...and if a team finds an athletic enough LB, the likelihood is that the team sends that player after the QB.
    The troubling thing watching this LB corp in action is how a RB or TE can release with zero LB coverage. Its a complex issue and hopefully experience solves some of the lapses, if that's what they are.
    Which brings up an interesting scenario. The Pats deploy a 2 TE/2 RB package......say Ridley and Vereen. Play action Ridley up the middle, send Vereen into the flat, with AHern and Gronk working some high low magic. You would think LBs eyes would be spinning with a number of mismatches being created. I watch SF dazzle defenses with their bags full of formations, yet NE treats 3rd down as a 90% shot gun/0% play action same old same old.
  18. patriotsdynasty12189

    patriotsdynasty12189 Rookie

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    I love Dane Fletcher I really hope he can come back and be that Nickle linebacker. Another year of Hightower Spikes Mayo together I think our linebackers are going to be our strength.
  19. JackBauer

    JackBauer Rookie

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    I don't agree with this. Gregory clearly isn't who you want out there as a starter, but he's about on par with most of the 3rd or 4th safeties I can think of off the top of my head.
  20. JackBauer

    JackBauer Rookie

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    I'm kind of shocked this many people are so flip about getting rid of Spikes. Particularly after another playoff game where the Patriots were manhandled physically, the logical conclusion is to ship out your most physically violent front seven player.

    Then again, lots of people don't seem to mind Welker getting run out of here on a rail, so I guess there's something to say about judgments being made around these parts.
  21. Froob

    Froob Rookie

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    I too, would be shocked if Gregory was cut. He was really solid. But, I'd rather have someone better out there. Definitely keep Gregory for depth.
  22. Deus Irae

    Deus Irae PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club PatsFans.com Supporter

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    The linebackers would be better served by the team using more of a traditional 3-4 base. Spikes is horrible in coverage, and Mayo is little better than average. Hightower's coverage skills will likely still improve a bit, but he's not much better than Spikes at the moment.

    Someone (Sicilian) mentioned the safeties, and that brings up an excellent point. McCourty is better at safety than he was at corner, but he's still learning the position, and he's not instinctive enough to be really solid at the job yet. Gregory doesn't belong higher than S3, and he's probably not really much more than an S4. He's slow in his reactions, doesn't tackle particularly well, and he takes some really horrific angles. That's not really a recipe for a quality safety.

    Draft another S, switch back to a more traditional 3-4, and you'll see the center of the field defended much better, IMO. The question then would be whether or not the D-line could handle the job. I'm not sure the team has the 3-4 DEs needed.

    Just my $.02
  23. Sicilian

    Sicilian Rookie

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    It's an interesting point and would make sense to me. It's just logical that it's easier to cover the middle of the field when you've got the extra linebacker out there rather than a defensive lineman. It also allows you to disguise your coverages better, because you never know who the extra rusher or extra drop-back could be from your front seven.

    Obviously Wilfork is fine in either 4-3 or 3-4 sets, but the next guys I see that seem to the have the playstyle are Deaderick and Love, who are both serviceable players but not good enough IMO for that kind of assignment. It also brings up the question, where would Chandler Jones fit in that scheme? I'm not sure he's got the size to play 3-4 defensive end, but I don't really see him as a 3-4 OLB either. He would have to adapt to one of those two positions, or be relegated to a pass rush specialist (and I think he has the talent to be more than that).
  24. Sciz

    Sciz PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    How does going to a 3-4 help the LB coverage issues? I'm not seeing anything in the 3-4 that they can't do from the 4-3, and unless Jones is playing 3-4 DE, then it's taking speed off the field.
  25. borg

    borg Rookie

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    Someone asked Reiss during a recent chat if Fletcher's return would solve some of the Pats LB coverage issues, And Reiss' response was Fletcher was never really in the mix to begin with
  26. Get it shawtaay

    Get it shawtaay Rookie

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    In general it seems the readers of this board overstate the struggles of some of the New England defensive backs. Steve Gregory is bad, but most defensive backs in the NFL are bad.

    Anyway, I just looked it up. Even if Gregory is passed by a veteran and Tavon Wilson on the depth chart, 1.5 of his 2 million in 2013 is guaranteed, so cutting him wouldn't do the team much good.
  27. GoWhalers

    GoWhalers Rookie

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    I think posters here are right on regarding safety play influencing the perceived performance of the linebackers group. I thought the linebackers looked pretty decent in coverage against the Ravens.

    The safety strategies employed this season seemed very ineffective -- unable to provide help on outside long balls, big gaps in zone coverages, etc. It seemed like the safety play was seldom able to force the opposing offense into trying to attack the Patriot's areas of defensive strength.

    I'm completely unqualified to determine if this was due to intentional schemes or to players' (in)abilities, but I suspect it was a combination of both.
  28. aluminum seats

    aluminum seats Rookie

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    I think just for the simple reason that if there's 4 guys they'll have less space to cover per man.
  29. aluminum seats

    aluminum seats Rookie

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    I like Spikes a lot, and agree that he brings a thumping quality that the Pats overall seem to lack a bit.

    The thought behind even throwing the possibility out there was that maybe there's some redundancy with his skills and Hightowers, and Hightower may have more upside. (Also, trying for a thought on a trade that isn't the typical fan suggestion of trading a bunch of what you don't want anyway for something great, which is always annoying.)
  30. Sciz

    Sciz PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    That's what I was assuming, but I don't think it's a very good reason. If Belichick really wanted to drop 4 guys into underneath coverage, then he could just drop a DE. Both Ninkovich and Jones did this at times. And if the Pats were go drop all four of their 3-4 LBs into coverage, that'd leave just the three big DLs rushing the passer, which seems like a less than ideal situation.
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