Is the Pats' Defense Starting to Gel?

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Buchanty

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
It's hard not to be excited by the reports from camp, especially those citing the capabilities being shown by the defensive rookies, including Ebert and Francis. But I am still going to take it with an optimistic smile and a mild pinch of salt. Not that I doubt the growing cohesion, or the emergence of defensive backs being where they should be. However it is still pre-season, and they are facing an offense that has several holes and a unit that dropped off considerably from the opening week of camp.

I might be mistaken but it almost appears as if the offense has had a governor on their motors, one that is planned rather than one influenced by the defense. Perhaps the coaching staff is manufacturing that sense of confidence that comes through in each report. I could attribute this sense of puppetry to the changes in the camp dynamic demanded by the CBA. Gone is the intensity of two-a-days, and the sense of exhaustion they produced. So too is the change in tempo or lack of it, as you could more or less detect what stage of the camp/preseason we were in without looking at the calendar.

Another factor could be the 3 games in 10 days, and solid reason to rest offensive starters. I wish that we could get more observations and analysis on the effect of both schedule and CBA limitations on training camp, it is just so different from previous seasons.

Having sown some doubt I should add that I have gained confidence on a number of key areas on defense:

a) they will be better than last season, not top tier (that will take months not weeks and not a few but many) but more towards the middle of the pack.

b) they should be able to get off the field sooner this year, giving the offense the advantage of better time of possession.

c) they should be better on 3rd and long than in the past few years. Part of that is due to the fact that we appear better able to generate more pressure with the front 7; and we have something better than JAGs at FS (potentially several).

d) Wilfork will not be asked to do everything again, not that he couldn't, but I want him to be a lasting inspiration and team leader. A fresh Vince is a formidable defensive weapon.

Excited? - its hard not to be: I just want to establish some realistic expectations, and if they are exceeded I will be even happier.
 
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Bobs My Uncle

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It sure looks as though the Pats defense has all the talent they need to be top notch. It appears all they need is time to mesh and learn how to play together. By the time the playoffs roll around we could be staring at something special. Can't wait.
 

patsinthesnow

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I forgot about Bequette because of all the Jones hype....sweet that he's looking good. Who would of thought that two rookies will be our replacements for Carter and Anderson, hope it works.
 

mgteich

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You are indeed getting excited. Some are not even sure Fanene will make the team. I think he will definitely make it (as a wide-body), but I certainly don't consider him a pass-rushing threat. You might as well call Wilfork a pass-rusher; he had a couple of interceptions after all.

Yes, we need to find players to IMPROVE on the 2011 pass-rush of Carter, Anderson and Ninkovich. Yes, there are plenty of guys that can potentially do this. Yes, Jones and Bequette and Hightower were great additions. My hope is our core will be Jones, Ninkovich, Bequette, and Hightower.

We will not need more than 4 pass-rushers. I don't expect Cunningham and Scott to be great pass-rushers, or even get many reps absent injuries. We need backups. They will fill that role. We might be surprised and see Mayo given more leeway to rush the passer now that Hightower is back there next to him.

Last season the Pats had just 3 legitimate pass rush threat, and although that were good, none would be considered elite (Carter, Anderson, and Ninko). And although we lost both Carter and Anderson and literally half our sack total, the prospects this season are actually better because we have more than doubled the number of guys who have a skill set that can rush the passer. Now in addition to Ninko, we have Jones, Scott, Bequette, Cunningham, Hightower, Fanene. That's 7 legit guys.
 

Deus Irae

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It's training camp. The team's played one exhibition game. As it is with every team, some things look promising and some things seem less so. We'll get a more informed insight into what's going on over the course of the next two weeks.
 

BradyFTW!

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There's definitely been an influx of talent: if Dowling can stay healthy, we'll be adding an extremely athletic, highly drafted starter to the line, linebackers, and secondary, and that's just for starters. Based on that alone, I'm optimistic, but trying to keep the enthusiasm in check until we've seen them perform in the regular season.
 

PatsBoy12

Pro Bowl Player
I am super excited about the potential of this defense. We seem to have playmakers at every level of the defense going into the season, and that's not something we could have said in recent years. I think with the progression of some of our younger players and the maturity of the rookies so far, paired with the strong veteran leadership and coaching, means good things for the future of this team defensively.

With all that said, however, I am choosing to temper my expectations a bit. The fact is that our front seven is going against an O-Line that is in flux right now without 3/5 of the starting lineup. Mankins just got back to practicing, but his workload remains light. Solder has been up-and-down. There has not been a strong presence at the right tackle spot. All of this means that our front seven is going to look really good in practice against our unit. We're really not going to know what we have defensively until the season starts (I now, captain obvious). We win and lose games in the trenches.

Thank you, Mayo, for your post nonetheless. It was a really good read and one that gives me great, if tempered a bit, optimism. As many have said, the defense only needs to be middle of the pack with what should be a pretty good offense (only the O-Line can hold them back at this point). The defense is young, fast, athletic and seem to play with aggression. They are an extremely physical bunch and they should intimidate opposing QB's.
 

Ochmed Jones

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With all that said, however, I am choosing to temper my expectations a bit. The fact is that our front seven is going against an O-Line that is in flux right now without 3/5 of the starting lineup. Mankins just got back to practicing, but his workload remains light. Solder has been up-and-down. There has not been a strong presence at the right tackle spot. All of this means that our front seven is going to look really good in practice against our unit. We're really not going to know what we have defensively until the season starts (I now, captain obvious). We win and lose games in the trenches.

I think when you examine our defense you have to consider that they are going against a very weak O line and the lack of time for our QBs to sit in the pocket is making the back seven look really good.

The key for the Pats defense this year is pressure on the opposing QBs. If we can generate consistent pressure, the defense will have a huge year. If we can' then it is the 2011 defense all over again.

To ask a secondary to cover for 5 plus seconds like ours had to to do last year is crazy. We need guys that opposing offenses respects, coming off the edge with their hair on fire and making opposing QB's move off their spots.

PS: I have been really impressed with how fast Hightower is picking up our defense. I hope BB remembers this when it comes time to draft in April because OG Jones, FS Lester and NT Williams would make a sweet 1-2-3 Alabama punch for our team.
 

patfanken

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You are indeed getting excited. Some are not even sure Fanene will make the team. I think he will definitely make it (as a wide-body), but I certainly don't consider him a pass-rushing threat. You might as well call Wilfork a pass-rusher; he had a couple of interceptions after all.

Yes, we need to find players to IMPROVE on the 2011 pass-rush of Carter, Anderson and Ninkovich. Yes, there are plenty of guys that can potentially do this. Yes, Jones and Bequette and Hightower were great additions. My hope is our core will be Jones, Ninkovich, Bequette, and Hightower.

We will not need more than 4 pass-rushers. I don't expect Cunningham and Scott to be great pass-rushers, or even get many reps absent injuries. We need backups. They will fill that role. We might be surprised and see Mayo given more leeway to rush the passer now that Hightower is back there next to him.
I think that people underestimate the losses of Wright and Pryor so early in the season. No offense to Vince, but those 2 guys were our two best interior pass rushers. Interior pass rushers are critical to the overall rush. Not so much that they get the sacks but they force the QB into making quick and often inaccurate throws, or lead to sacks by others. By having Fanene, and using Bequette, Vince and Jones on the inside at times (as the Giants sometimes use JPP) the Pats now have more options to create that immediate push on the inside.

Its not so much the players as the number of players who have pass rush skills and what it means. We have completely revamped our defense over the last 3 years, and I don't think people are aware of how vanilla it had become, because of the lack of talent and injuries.

BTW- I'm not necessarily expecting any great improvement on the 40 sacks we had last season. What I am expecting is a combination of more pressure with better coverage to yield better total defense and scoring results. Don't forget that the last truly great defense was the 2000 Ravens, who surprisingly had only 35 sacks that season. yet had the most dominant defense of the last 15 years. In another example, neither of the top 2 teams in sacks last season had winning records. (Vikes and Eagles. (as if you needed another pair of reasons to prove how sacks are an inflated and often irrelevant stat) Its all about the pressure. People talk about how the Giants pressured Brady and how good their pass rush was. What isn't mentioned is that the Pats sacked Manning more the Giant's sacked Brady. The Giants won the game because of consistent pressure, not actual sacks.

Its not just that the talent has improved, but its the DEPTH of talentthat will allow BB and Patricia to create a defensive playbook that will go from the short story we've been using the last few years, into the epic novel that Bill has been waiting to trot out.

That being said, while its POSSIBLE that we can see a Houston-like dramatic turnaround, I'd settle for the goals I stated in my previous post. Its certainly not going to a smooth uphill progression. More like fits and starts, with some very ugly moments.
 
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Ring 6

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You are indeed getting excited. Some are not even sure Fanene will make the team. I think he will definitely make it (as a wide-body), but I certainly don't consider him a pass-rushing threat. You might as well call Wilfork a pass-rusher; he had a couple of interceptions after all.

Yes, we need to find players to IMPROVE on the 2011 pass-rush of Carter, Anderson and Ninkovich. Yes, there are plenty of guys that can potentially do this. Yes, Jones and Bequette and Hightower were great additions. My hope is our core will be Jones, Ninkovich, Bequette, and Hightower.

We will not need more than 4 pass-rushers. I don't expect Cunningham and Scott to be great pass-rushers, or even get many reps absent injuries. We need backups. They will fill that role. We might be surprised and see Mayo given more leeway to rush the passer now that Hightower is back there next to him.
I think you are ignoring the inside pass rush in the sub packages.
To call Fanene and Wilfork the same in that regard is wrong.
Fanene has an injury issue, but healthy he is far and away the best we have as an inside pass rusher.
 

Bobs My Uncle

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I think when you examine our defense you have to consider that they are going against a very weak O line and the lack of time for our QBs to sit in the pocket is making the back seven look really good.
Or, perhaps, the ability of the Pats defense is making the offense (OL in particular) look not so good?

Not sure either way .... just sayin'.
 
Fanene has an injury issue, but healthy he is far and away the best we have as an inside pass rusher.
I thought Pryor was pretty good. I hope Fanene sticks. I think the guy you were answering was not giving him or Vince enough credit for what they can/could do to collapse the pocket. Just look at what Vince did against the Ravens.
 

aluminum seats

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All all of this gets better, IMO, when we add Andre Carter in the next 2 weeks.

My understanding was that not too long ago Carter was having to relearn how to walk properly. I don't think we'll see him this year.
 
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It's training camp. The team's played one exhibition game. As it is with every team, some things look promising and some things seem less so. We'll get a more informed insight into what's going on over the course of the next two weeks.
To me it means that the players have the upside at this level. That's all I need to see because they're going to get the coaching. They are in the right system to be tapped for whatever unique talents they have.
 
My understanding was that not too longer ago Carter was having to relearn how to walk properly. I don't think we'll see him this year.
Worse, he wants a long term deal. That is an accident waiting to happen.

I'm not convinced we need his services now either. It seems like a luxury. Who would he displace as a starter? He wouldn't start if you ask me. I'm seeing him as a luxury of depth if he's able to come back at all.
 
You might as well call Wilfork a pass-rusher.
He's a tremendous pass rusher when he's used that way. I just offer the Ravens game as Exhibit A. He crushed the pocket and drove his man back into the QB time after time. It got ridiculous. That supports the work on the outside by limiting escape routes and rushing the QB.

Fanene is a tremendous inside force when healthy.

Sacks is not what they generally do. I would not equate that stat to much in general. What Vince does in the passing game cannot be replaced by a mere mortal.
 

PatsBoy12

Pro Bowl Player
Worse, he wants a long term deal. That is an accident waiting to happen.

I'm not convinced we need his services now either. It seems like a luxury. Who would he displace as a starter? He wouldn't start if you ask me. I'm seeing him as a luxury of depth if he's able to come back at all.

I think Carter's return, assuming he's healthy enough to be competitive, will depend on mostly on what he wants at this point. If the speculation is true and he's looking for "Pro Bowler" money and a long-term deal, then I don't think he'll be a Patriot. Jones has shown flashes, Ninko should be steady, and there is enough depth with some of the free agent signings and players returning from injury. All of that makes Carter somewhat of a non-factor, IMO.

However, if Carter just wants another chance to challenge for a SB berth (and maybe win it this time) and he's willing to take on a lesser role, while mentoring the young talent, then I think it's a win for all parties. I certainly wish that this is the route he goes, but only time will tell what will happen. I don't want him taking valuable snaps away from Jones, but I also don't want them to overdo it with Jones either. All things considered, this isn't a bad problem to have if you're the Patriots.
 
The bad news is that between the rookies, the returning injured, and the FA's, there aren't a lot guys who have a lot of experience playing together. Their ability to "gel" as a unit is critical to their success.
I just won't worry about that because of what they did last year. I mean with Fat Albert setting them back a half a season they still managed to find themselves enough to be top 15 in scoring.

Besides that they have great leadership on the DL and LB levels. I think even Gregory is going to show that he's a leader. This will influence the gel factor greatly. This looks like a real defense, believe it or not.
 

Deus Irae

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To me it means that the players have the upside at this level. That's all I need to see because they're going to get the coaching. They are in the right system to be tapped for whatever unique talents they have.

32 team fanbases are making the same types of claims. The Jets fans, for example, now see Coples as a future All-Pro, just as Patriots fans see Chandler Jones as the next PPP. This is the annual training camp euphoria. The 2009 draft, and the euphoria in the months following it, is a pretty good example of what I'm talking about, in terms of a Patriots-specific example.

The next 2 games, which are closer approximates to the regular season, will begin to give people a little more insight as to which teams and fanbases are right, and which teams and fanbases have been indulging in a lot of wishful thinking. They won't be dead on, but they'll be more accurate than OTAs, training camp and exhibition game 1.
 
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KontradictioN

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32 team fanbases are making the same types of claims. The Jets fans, for example, now see Coples as a future All-Pro, just as Patriots fans see Chandler Jones as the next PPP. This is the annual training camp euphoria. The 2009 draft, and the euphoria in the months following it, is a pretty good example of what I'm talking about, in terms of a Patriots-specific example.

The next 2 games, which are closer approximates to the regular season, will begin to give people a little more insight as to which teams and fanbases are right, and which teams and fanbases have been indulging in a lot of wishful thinking. They won't be dead on, but they'll be more accurate than OTAs, training camp and exhibition game 1.

As per usual in the preseason, if the defense takes a step back in the next two games, we're doomed, going 5-11 this year, Jones is a bust, and we should have drafted Clay Matthews.
 
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