My Blueprint for the Defense

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patsfaninpa

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
I'm with you -- that position is one where explosiveness is at a premium. But I put the Trey and Tre picks in a similar category. They're both guys who had great college careers with top programs who I thought were seriously overrated because they had marginal athleticism. If they had gone in round 2 as widely projected, I would have loathed the picks. In the 4th, eh, I can live with that.
While you always want explosiveness. I think the LDE should be bigger and stronger vs the run than your RDE. Stopping the run is more important on that side. You can sub out in nickel-packages to get a better pass rush. Have to stop the run first in order to get to those pass-rushing situations.
 

varjao

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
Apart from the #64 pick I'm happy with this draft. Drafting a long snapper in the 5th round is also questionable but since it's the 5th round i'll trust Belichick on this.

I loved the Malcom Brown pick, I don't think BB entered the draft with a "need to find a Vince Wilfork replacement" mentality but once it was there, why not? And it's not that simple, Brown opposite to Wilfork can penetrate the line and go for the QB. Him and Easley will create an amount of panic and havoc that will be funny to watch.

I also loved the fact that even with the addition of Sheard in the off season, even having developmental guys already in place in Buchanan and Moore, they drafted 2 DE, 1 DT and another LB. Instead of throwing a lot of safeties on the wall to see what sticks I pretty much prefer to see them doing that at DE and DT. Can't have enough pass rushers.
 

mayoclinic

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I'm with you -- that position is one where explosiveness is at a premium. But I put the Trey and Tre picks in a similar category. They're both guys who had great college careers with top programs who I thought were seriously overrated because they had marginal athleticism. If they had gone in round 2 as widely projected, I would have loathed the picks. In the 4th, eh, I can live with that.
I can certainly live with both picks in the 4th round. I wanted no part of Tre Jackson either, and would have hated him in the 2nd. But I think he can be a solid starting RG. I'm much more interested in whether Shaq Mason can develop into a starting LG or C (and if the latter, whether Bryan Stork could move to LG), but that's for another thread.
 

patchick

Moderatrix
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While you always want explosiveness. I think the LDE should be bigger and stronger vs the run than your RDE. Stopping the run is more important on that side. You can sub out in nickel-packages to get a better pass rush. Have to stop the run first in order to get to those pass-rushing situations.
Absolutely, but with Jabaal Sheard now available to platoon with Ninkovich, I saw LDE as the lower need of the two.
 

patchick

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I can certainly live with both picks in the 4th round. I wanted no part of Tre Jackson either, and would have hated him in the 2nd. But I think he can be a solid starting RG. I'm much more interested in whether Shaq Mason can develop into a starting LG or C (and if the latter, whether Bryan Stork could move to LG), but that's for another thread.
Agreed. Off to start that other thread! ;)
 

patsfaninpa

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
While we focus on the Pats for obvious reasons. There are a couple of quarterbacks out there who have beaten us in some big games whom struggle against a strong pass rush. I'm talking Joe Flacco and Eli Manning. Neither should be put in the rarified air of Brady/Peyton. Yet, we struggle with both. When Pittsburgh had a decent pass rush they gave Jump Ball Joe absolute fits. The same with Eli against a team like Philly. He's had some horrendous games against them. I'd like to get more pressure on the qb's. And, I think we will.
 

manxman2601

Hall of Fame Poster
Statistically, Matthew Wells had the best coverage stats of all draft eligible linebackers. Interesting how he slipped through the cracks although understandable as a blind in one eye sub 220b linebacker.
 

mayoclinic

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Statistically, Matthew Wells had the best coverage stats of all draft eligible linebackers. Interesting how he slipped through the cracks although understandable as a blind in one eye sub 220b linebacker.
I'm really intrigued by Wells and Darryl Roberts. Both really athletic guys with some upside. Wells is one of those "doesn't seem to fit anywhere but plays everywhere" guys who most teams don't know what to do with. BB seems to do great with those kind of guys. I'll be very curious to see how he does.
 

patchick

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Statistically, Matthew Wells had the best coverage stats of all draft eligible linebackers. Interesting how he slipped through the cracks although understandable as a blind in one eye sub 220b linebacker.
I'm fascinated by that pick. I love using 6th & 7th rounders on "shoot the moon" prospects, and Wells certainly fills the bill. Come to think of it, Roberts and Derby, too.
 

mayoclinic

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I'm fascinated by that pick. I love using 6th & 7th rounders on "shoot the moon" prospects, and Wells certainly fills the bill. Come to think of it, Roberts and Derby, too.
What a great name draft for you. Pats could literally win the Derby this year. They drafted a Mason and a Dickson, 2 Tre(y)s, and a Malcom in the Middle. Shaquille Olajuwon Mason is one of the all time great draft names.
 

patchick

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What a great name draft for you. Pats could literally win the Derby this year. They drafted a Mason and a Dickson, 2 Tre(y)s, and a Malcom in the Middle. Shaquille Olajuwon Mason is one of the all time great draft names.
This whole draft a thing of beauty, namewise. How about successive 1st-round picks called Flowers and Gurley?
 

unoriginal

In the Starting Line-Up
Nice post. I so think the 3cone is important to a pass rusher though. Just think about what happens during a pass rush and what happens in a 3cone and the mechanics of both are almost the same. Having said that, some DEs aren't pure speed rushers and benefit more through length and strength - that's where Flowers wins.
I think the three-cone is less important than ever to the Pats for an EDGE player.

The Pats like contain rush, perhaps now more than ever. Bequette is essentially a draft clone of Rob Ninkovich.

Rob Ninkovich, #135 2006
Code:
Height: 6031
Weight: 260
40 Yrd Dash: 4.93
20 Yrd Dash: 2.86
10 Yrd Dash: 1.69   
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 23
Vertical Jump: 34 1/2
Broad Jump: 09'08"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.18
3-Cone Drill: 6.96
Arm length: 31.5
Jake Bequette, #90 2012
Code:
Height: 6045
Weight: 274
40 Yrd Dash: 4.82
20 Yrd Dash: 2.83
10 Yrd Dash: 1.71
Vertical Jump: 34
Broad Jump: 09'05"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.07
3-Cone Drill: 6.90
Arm length: 32
So in hindsight its not hard to understand why Bequette was drafted where and when he was drafted. By 2011, Rob Ninkovich had emerged as a dependable, durable starter at LE in the 4-2, and as a sometime-Sam in the 3-4 and 4-3. Rob Ninkovich had great agility metrics, short arms, a non-stop motor, and came out pretty raw (backup at Purdue until halfway through his senior year). In order to back him up, the Pats drafted a guy with great agility metrics, short arms, a non-stop motor, and who was also pretty raw (no pass rush moves).

Come to find out, Rob Ninkovich is just smarter and more grizzled than the average NFL bear. Bequette has so far done nothing but get blocked. To be fair, Ninkovich also took quite a while to get going in the NFL, which partially explains why Bequette has been held on this roster till this point.

So rather than continue to try reduplicating the enigma that is Rob Ninkovich, the Pats have increasingly gone in this direction:

Chandler Jones, #21 2012
Code:
Height: 6053
Weight: 266
40 Yrd Dash: 4.87
20 Yrd Dash: 2.86
10 Yrd Dash: 1.69
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 22
Vertical Jump: 35
Broad Jump: 10'00"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.38
3-Cone Drill: 7.07
Arm length: 35.5
Chandler Jones et al. can explode off the snap, get into OTs and defeat their arms, bending the pocket in while keeping contain. Perhaps Chandler Jones' most remarkable athletic attribute is his freakishly long arms. Rob Ninkovich's most remarkable attribute, conversely, was his freakishly short arms. I think the only two players than have been drafted with shorter arms in the past two decades were Davis Tull and Matt Roth.

Trey Flowers, #101 2015
Code:
Height: 6021
Weight: 266
40 Yrd Dash: 4.93
20 Yrd Dash: 2.88
10 Yrd Dash: 1.73
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 28
Vertical Jump: 36 1/2
Broad Jump: 10'01"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.40
3-Cone Drill: 7.34
Arm span: 34.25
People talk about Chandler Jones like he is a superior athlete... and he is. Apart from body and arm length and 0.3 seconds on the three cone, Trey Flowers doesn't give up much to him. In fact, his get-off-the-snap metrics are slightly better, and his arm length is still very good... especially in comparison to his height.

I don't think the Pats are looking for start-stop rushers or whirling dervishes out there. Not even Ninkovich plays like that, when the metrics say he should. And I don't think they're looking for guys who can zone drop regularly. Even Ninkovich hasn't done that for a while, whereas he used to do it frequently... recall his interceptions against Miami in particular. They want power rushers and run contain.
 
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mayoclinic

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Ben Volin actually has a decent piece on the Pats' offseason direction on defense:
The core tenets of Bill Belichick’s football program always will remain the same: Versatility is key. Do your job. Hide your weaknesses and attack theirs.

But Belichick is smart enough to not be rigid in his ways. Even at 63 years old and with four Super Bowl rings on his nightstand, he’s constantly seeking out new information and his plan of attack is evolving.

It’s a strategy that is employed by many teams in the NFL — Patriots fans still have nightmares about the Giants sending wave after wave of pass rushers at them in the two Super Bowl losses. The Seahawks also have reached two Super Bowls behind a stout defensive line that rolls five or six deep at end. The Steelers have created an assembly line of pass rushers, and they haven’t drafted a cornerback in the first round since Chad Scott in 1997.

But the last few years, the Patriots went the opposite way, relying heavily on Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones. In 2013, Jones played 98 percent of the Patriots’ snaps, and Ninkovich 95 percent. In 2014, Ninkovich led the defense with 94 percent of snaps played, and while an injury forced Jones to play in just 58 percent of the season, when he was healthy he played the entire game, sitting out just eight total snaps in the playoffs. Vince Wilfork also played 73 percent of snaps last year.

It’s hard to argue with the results — the Patriots made the AFC Championship game the last two years and just won a Super Bowl. But with Jones coming down with a little bit of the injury bug last year and Ninkovich now 31, it appears that Belichick is wisely planning to ease their workload this year and get more of a rotation going along the defensive line.

Let’s put it this way — the Patriots didn’t give pass rusher Jabaal Sheard $5 million guaranteed to sit on the bench. They didn’t draft Geneo Grissom in the third round or Trey Flowers in the fourth round to only play special teams. And they didn’t give Ninkovich a contract extension through 2016 and trigger Jones’s fifth-year option to ship them out of town, either.

There’s plenty room for everybody at the table.

The Patriots were caught a bit flat-footed last year when Jones went down with a hip injury, forcing them to trade for linebacker Akeem Ayers and play him out of position at defensive end. Of course, it worked out swimmingly, because Belichick is an incredible coach and didn’t ask Ayers to do too much. But the Patriots are much better prepared for an injury to Jones or Ninkovich this time around.

The Patriots now have three solid veteran pass rushers in Jones, Ninkovich, and Sheard, plus rookies in Grissom and Flowers who should contribute to the rotation. Up the middle they roll five deep with Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, Dominique Easley, and first-round pick Malcom Brown.

And let’s not forget their two versatile linebackers, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, who combined for 10 sacks in the regular season.

That’s a lot of heat that Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia can bring at quarterbacks. And the days of having to sign a free agent off the street such as Andre Carter, or depending on developmental rookies such as Michael Buchanan or Zach Moore, are gone.

Is the secondary worse without Revis and Browner? No question. But I keep going back to the point that the 2011 Patriots, with a borderline horrible secondary, were a miracle Mario Manningham catch away from winning a Super Bowl, while the 2014 Patriots, with Revis and Browner making $16 million combined, were a miracle Malcolm Butler interception away from losing the Super Bowl.

If Belichick thinks the team is better off not spending $39 million guaranteed on Revis, or using a first- or second-round pick on a cornerback, well, he gets the benefit of the doubt at this point.

But at least Belichick isn’t resting on his championship laurels. It’s fascinating to see a future Hall of Fame coach be willing to change his defensive philosophy literally a month after winning his fourth Super Bowl. One area of the defense is worse, but another area is much improved.

If the Patriots’ pass rush can bring the heat, the cornerbacks don’t have to be great.

Quick, who were the Giants’ starting defensive backs in the Super Bowl matchup after the 2011 season?

Exactly.

But you certainly remember Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and Chris Canty making life miserable for Tom Brady.

That’s where Belichick is now with the Patriots’ defense. Instead of betting on a stable of cornerbacks, he’s betting on a stable of pass rushers to get the job done.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/...or-patriots/UuApMgCbLCmnNQ5qAfDTwL/story.html
 

patsfaninpa

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
Seems we're putting modern analytics in the mix too. Flowers and Wells came out very good in statistical analysis.
 

AzPatsFan

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
Absolutely, but with Jabaal Sheard now available to platoon with Ninkovich, I saw LDE as the lower need of the two.
But BB wants DE and DE/OLBs who can set the edge and stop the run as well,as rush the passer. Now he has them on both sides.
 

ATippett56

Pro Bowl Player
Time for a revision.

2015 New England Patriots Defense (25 minimum)

DT (5) - Branch, Siliga, Brown, Chr. Jones, Easley
DE (5) - Ninkovich, Sheard, Cha. Jones, Grissom, Flowers
LB (5) - Mayo, Hightower, Collins, xxxxx, Freeny/White
S (5) - Chung, McCourty, Harmon, Richards, Ebner/Wilson
CB (5) - Ryan, Butler, Roberts, Arrington, McClain

Practice Squad Allotment (Defense):

1 - Defensive End (Buchanan/Moore)
1 - Defensive Tackle (Taylor)
1 - Linebacker (too many to consider from)
1 - Safety (Jean/King)
1 - Cornerback (Green/Swanson)

http://www.patriots.com/team/roster

http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2015-nfl-undrafted-free-agents
 

mayoclinic

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Steve Palazzolo of PFF likes Trey Flowers and Matt Wells a lot, and also is hopeful that Brad Fletcher will bounce back from an off year:

http://www.csnne.com/video_content_type/steve-palazzolo-what-stood-out-patriots-draft

Right now it seems to me like the Pats' front 7 players can be divided into 4 main groups:

DTs: Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones. Will play mostly inside, though outside on a 3 man front is possible at times.
DT/DE hybrids: Dominique Easley, Zach Moore. Can play inside or out, up and down the line. Chess pieces.
Base DEs: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers. Will spend most of their time on the line at end, though they can move inside in NASCAR packages and drop back on occasion. It seems to me that these guys' primary job is edge setting and generating controlled pressure, so that the hybrids can be moved around to wreck havoc.
EDGE hybrids: Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Geneo Grissom, Michael Buchanan, Darius Fleming. Can be moved all around at both LB and DE in a variety of roles. Chess pieces.
Off-LOS LB: Jerod Mayo, Matthew Wells, James Morris. LBs who play in space exclusively, not on the line.

The lines are fuzzy, as almost everyone will have more than one role, and it's a matter of degree. That's 18 guys, which will probably have to be pared down to 15, plus PS.
 

mayoclinic

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Thinking about the defense some more, I think that BB is trying to find a mix of structure and fluidity. He wants an "interchangeable" defense with a lot of moving parts, so versatility and being able to play multiple roles is key, but that also comes with a high cost in terms of potential for confusion and too many moving parts. There are 2 basic ways to limit this:

1. Have some really smart players on the field who can function as real time coaches to help keep everyone in the right place at the right time. Ninkovich, Mayo and McCourty (all captains) clearly play this role. "Coach" Jordan Richards also fits this kind of mold.

2. Have certain players/positions be a bit less fluid than others. The interior DTs and the base DEs will probably be a bit less fluid than the extreme hybrids. Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, Dominique Easley and Geno Grissom seem like the guys who are going to be moved around the most.
 
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