Is the Pats' Defense Starting to Gel?

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Deus Irae

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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.

Yup.... If Wilson gets burned, or Jones get manhandled, or McCourty gets smoked in man coverage, it'll all flip around and there will be one group running for the lifeboats on the Titanic and one group insisting that the exhibition games are meaningless.


And many of those deriding the exhibition games will have been pimping the team prior to the beat down.
 
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Zeus

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This thread is fun. I'm as excited as anyone about the influx of talent, youth and athleticism on defense.

But let's wait to see how we feel late in the season when some of these guys are gone and everyone is banged up. The true test is how they play in December when the play-offs are on the line and in January where a single mistake can be fatal. Will the coaches be able to get guys to improve throughout the season and do they have the depth to compete when it matters?
 
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goheels22002

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Yup.... If Wilson gets burned, or Jones get manhandled, or McCourty gets smoked in man coverage, it'll all flip around and there will be one group running for the lifeboats on the Titanic and one group insisting that the exhibition games are meaningless.


And many of those deriding the exhibition games will have been pimping the team prior to the beat down.

Belichick and the Krafts never left the lifeboats:
 

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JackBauer

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Not to go full-tilt homer, but...

@MikeReiss Over the last few days, have noticed safety Nate Ebner getting some more quality defensive reps with more experienced players.

@MikeReiss One last note from practice: Rookie safety Nate Ebner with a pass breakup that caught the eye. Ball was tipped at line & he finished it off
 

supafly

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Not to go full-tilt homer, but...

@MikeReiss Over the last few days, have noticed safety Nate Ebner getting some more quality defensive reps with more experienced players.

@MikeReiss One last note from practice: Rookie safety Nate Ebner with a pass breakup that caught the eye. Ball was tipped at line & he finished it off

I've been keeping a close eye on the Ebner situation myself.

I still think that he may go to the PS, but I also think that he has improved his chances quite a bit since he's been healthy enough to practice.
 

mayoclinic

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Not to go full-tilt homer, but...

@MikeReiss Over the last few days, have noticed safety Nate Ebner getting some more quality defensive reps with more experienced players.

@MikeReiss One last note from practice: Rookie safety Nate Ebner with a pass breakup that caught the eye. Ball was tipped at line & he finished it off

From Bedard today:

Nate Ebner was thought to be an afterthought when he was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round. Even he was surprised to get drafted, especially given most of his play had been on a rugby field. But the Patriots apparently like what they see because he is all over the special teams units, and he’s in the mix at the backup safety spot. He also took over for Tavon Wilson at the “money” position (a linebacker/defensive back hybrid) in sub packages. It would be a surprise if Ebner doesn’t make this team.

Practice rundown #17 - Extra Points - Boston.com

A safety group of Chung/Gregory/Wilson/Ebner would have a lot of versatility and upside. I'd be excited about that group, and happy to see Ebner bump Josh Barrett off the roster.
 

Marqui

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And more signs of confidence and swagger from the defense again today.

Bedard:
At one point, the offense was so bad that Jerod Mayo openly mocked them by asking for the punt team on third down.
 

mgteich

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I agree that when Fanene (or Pryor for that matter) is healthy, he will replace 2011 Wright/Pryor and be an improvement over 2011's inside pass rush.

With regard to better depth, I should hope that we will better having added three top rookies plus Fanene and Scott. (Yes, I've ignored the UDFA's).

SACKS
I agree that number of sacks are not the key stat; number of points allowed is.

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.
 
I agree that number of sacks are not the key stat; number of points allowed is.
I'm a hurries/hits type, the sort of play that made Ty Law's pick six possible in the Rams game.

To me the goal is to hurry and harrass more than to tackle the QB, since the latter is far more difficult and not necessarily going to change the QB's style of play and patience.
 
This is the annual training camp euphoria.
I *wish* this year's crop and euphoria was an annual event.

I don't ever remember anything like this except when Drew was drafted. Well, I did like the Vince draft an awful lot. Let's put it this way though: It's not just the draft this time. This team has scored majorly in the off season. It's absolutely brilliant personnel work worthy of an award.

The Jets got all the hoopla and we got all the talent.
 

Deus Irae

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I *wish* this year's crop and euphoria was an annual event.

I don't ever remember anything like this except when Drew was drafted. Well, I did like the Vince draft an awful lot. Let's put it this way though: It's not just the draft this time. This team has scored majorly in the off season. It's absolutely brilliant personnel work worthy of an award.

The Jets got all the hoopla and we got all the talent.

People were saying the same thing in 2009.
 
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mayoclinic

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It is absolutely way to early to determine how this defense will be. Yet its really hard NOT to be excited about their prospects.The good news is, as to seeing improvement, it won't be hard not to, since the bar has been set so low. My early goals were to have them end up in the middle of the pack in total defense (14-18) and in the top 10 in scoring D. The key element in the latter goal will be continuing our stellar record of creating TO's and giving up a lot fewer.

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.

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.

As I said in the OP, it's too early to go out on a fence about how good this defense will be. But my "realistic expectation" is that it should eventually (by the end of the season) be better than the 2011, 2010, 2009 or 2008 defenses. The 2007 defense had Seymour-Wilfork-Warren up front, Bruschi-Vrabel-Adalius Thomas-Colvin at LB, Rodney at safety and Asante Samuel at CB. Even though Bruschi and Vrabel were on the downside of their careers, that group had a ton of experience and the front line was elite. But I think that the 2008-2011 defenses are a "realistic" target.

Ken notes that "the bar has been set so low". But the reality is that the Pats' D over that 4 year stretch hasn't been horrific by any stretch - just not as good as we would like. But consider:

- PPG: the 2007 defense finished 4th at 17.1 PPG. In 2008 the Pats finished 8th at 19.3 PPG. In 2009 the team finished 5th at 17.8 PPG. In 2010 the team finished 8th at 19.6 PPG. Even in 2011, when the team finished 15th at 21.4 PPG, they were still less than 1 PPG away form being in the top 10.

- Sacks: the 2007 team had 47 sacks (2rd overall), often being able to rush from a position of a huge lead when opposing teams had to abandon the run. The 2011 team had a fairly respectable 40 sacks.

- Turnovers: the 2011 team led the AFC and tied for 3rd overall in the NFL with 34 turnovers. The 2010 team led the AFC and finished second overall in the NFL with 38 turnovers. The 2009

We know about the 3rd down conversion rates and the poor pass defense last year. There's certainly room for improvement. But the 2011 defense, for all its warts, still produced 40 sacks, 34 turnovers, and finished in the top half of the league in terms of points allowed. And over the stretch run it was arguably one of the better defenses in the league. If BB could produce respectable numbers with the defensive talent that he had from 2008-2011, he should be able to do better given what he has to work with this year, though it may take time for the unit to fully hit its stride.
 

patchick

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Not to go full-tilt homer, but...

@MikeReiss Over the last few days, have noticed safety Nate Ebner getting some more quality defensive reps with more experienced players.

@MikeReiss One last note from practice: Rookie safety Nate Ebner with a pass breakup that caught the eye. Ball was tipped at line & he finished it off

Here's what strikes me most: halfway through camp, reports on all 7 draft picks have been very positive. That's pretty remarkable.
 

everlong

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Hypothetical:

Vick: 12/15 150 yards 2 TD, 2/15 rushing in the first half
Edwards: 10/17 140 yards 1 TD in second half

Combined rushing: 20/85 1 TD

Euphoria becomes hysteria?

I think we need to keep this in perspective and that it's going to be a season long growing processes and not all of that will be a linear trend upwards. As we've seen almost every year since 2004 it's who's peaking late so I'm waiting to see what they do post Thanksgiving no matter if the early results are good, bad or up and down.
 

KontradictioN

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Hypothetical:

Vick: 12/15 150 yards 2 TD, 2/15 rushing in the first half
Edwards: 10/17 140 yards 1 TD in second half

Combined rushing: 20/85 1 TD

Euphoria becomes hysteria?

I think we need to keep this in perspective and that it's going to be a season long growing processes and not all of that will be a linear trend upwards. As we've seen almost every year since 2004 it's who's peaking late so I'm waiting to see what they do post Thanksgiving no matter if the early results are good, bad or up and down.

Yep. Last year, the defense looked like the '85 Bears against the Bucs around this time.
 

mayoclinic

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Euphoria becomes hysteria?

I think we need to keep this in perspective and that it's going to be a season long growing processes and not all of that will be a linear trend upwards. As we've seen almost every year since 2004 it's who's peaking late so I'm waiting to see what they do post Thanksgiving no matter if the early results are good, bad or up and down.

I agree. The premise of the OP was that the defense is showing very early promising signs, combined with more athleticism and playmaking than we've had in a long time, so there is some reason for cautious optimism. But by no means do I expect a "linear trend upwards", and the intent wasn't to start a massive Rex Ryab-style lovefest of hyperbole on how great the defense is. Youth, injuries and inexperience will all play a role. And I expect the defense not to fully "gel" until after Thanksgiving and perhaps not until the playoffs, which is fine by me.
 

patfanken

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Ken notes that "the bar has been set so low". But the reality is that the Pats' D over that 4 year stretch hasn't been horrific by any stretch - just not as good as we would like. But consider:

- PPG: the 2007 defense finished 4th at 17.1 PPG. In 2008 the Pats finished 8th at 19.3 PPG. In 2009 the team finished 5th at 17.8 PPG. In 2010 the team finished 8th at 19.6 PPG. Even in 2011, when the team finished 15th at 21.4 PPG, they were still less than 1 PPG away form being in the top 10.

- Sacks: the 2007 team had 47 sacks (2rd overall), often being able to rush from a position of a huge lead when opposing teams had to abandon the run. The 2011 team had a fairly respectable 40 sacks.

- Turnovers: the 2011 team led the AFC and tied for 3rd overall in the NFL with 34 turnovers. The 2010 team led the AFC and finished second overall in the NFL with 38 turnovers. The 2009

We know about the 3rd down conversion rates and the poor pass defense last year. There's certainly room for improvement. But the 2011 defense, for all its warts, still produced 40 sacks, 34 turnovers, and finished in the top half of the league in terms of points allowed. And over the stretch run it was arguably one of the better defenses in the league. If BB could produce respectable numbers with the defensive talent that he had from 2008-2011, he should be able to do better given what he has to work with this year, though it may take time for the unit to fully hit its stride.
You make a good point here Mayo. I know people get frustrated sometimes with BB's "bend but don't break" defensive philosophy. But the bottom line is that although it gives up a lot of yards, in the end it consistently produces results in the 2 most important areas of scoring and turn overs.

People sometimes forget that in the Pats first 2 superbowls the defense ranked in the mid 20's in total defense. It seems odd to say, but its not about the yards, its about the scoring. I understand that we'd all LIKE to see a shut down style defense, which creates a large amount of 3 and outs, but that's not necessary to have a "superbowl" defense.

The ultimate goal of a defense is to be in the top 5 in scoring.....period. Where you are in yards, sacks, 3rd down conversions, etc really doesn't matter (although it doesn't hurt if they are good too.) Scoring and stats related to scoring like red zone defense are the real numbers to watch.

We are used to saying that BB is the best coach in the league. But think about this. Since 2008, BB's teams have won 11, 10, 14, and 13 games in the regular season, while totally revamping his defense. Injuries, and some questionable personnel decisions, rendered last year's Pats defense one of the worst in league history in yards allowed. Yet it was good enough to get to the superbowl and THEN hold one of the top offenses in the league to just 21 points (and that's including the safety and the give up TD)

That's pretty amazing stuff. when you consider the Pats lost their 2 best inside rushers (Wright and Pryor) 2 of their top 4 CBs (Dowling and Boddin) Lost their top S (Chung) for more than half the season and their #2 safety (Barrett) for virtually the entire season. Those are incredibly severe losses for a defense that wasn't loaded with pro bowl talent to begin with. (and that doesn't count the multi game losses of Carter and Spikes)

When I think about who was playing S for the Pats for most of the season I am stunned they did as well as they did. Think about it. The Pats played the great majority of last season without a single legitimate starting Safety. Is it any wonder that the secondary looked soft when guys like Brown, Ihedigbu, Slater, and Edelman are patrolling the middle. :eek:

I guess when you come down to it, the point of this ramble was to state that BB's management of the rabble that made up the Pats defense last season could have been one of his best jobs of his career. Is it any wonder that with the addition of players from that draft and FA, plus the return to health of several returning player; that we are extremely optimistic about the state of the defense......to this point.

And when I say "extremely optimistic". I mean it in a very cautious and realistic manner ;)
 

Nunchucks

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If the Patriots defense was better last year, it would have given the Patriots offense more opportunities during the Superbowl. Bend don't break is great, but when the Patriots offense is getting shut down, the defense needs to get them back the ball...Time of possession can be a very telling stat if the offense is not scoring points.
 

livinginthe past

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If the Patriots defense was better last year, it would have given the Patriots offense more opportunities during the Superbowl. Bend don't break is great, but when the Patriots offense is getting shut down, the defense needs to get them back the ball...Time of possession can be a very telling stat if the offense is not scoring points.

C'mon maaaaaaaaaan!

I think the majority of people know which unit failed us in the latest SB - ie, the one which failed to put a single point on the board for the last 26 minutes of the game.

The D did their part - couple of fumbles didn't go their way is all.
 
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