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Old 09-28-2017, 06:29 AM   #1
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Defense - Last in the League But Is There Hope?

From Bedard

<section class="social-sharing-top"></section> By now, everyone knows the statistics that show the Patriots have the worst defense in the NFL through three games.
In case you needed a recap, the Patriots are:
  • Last in points per game
  • Last in total yards
  • Last in yards per play
  • Last in passing yards per game
  • Next-to-last in rushing yards per game
  • 30th in first downs per game
  • 30th in defensive passer rating
  • Tied for 30th in goal-to-go situations.
And it’s not just real statistics; advanced analytics also reflect poorly on Bill Belichick’s defense. FootballOutsiders.com has the Patriots last in total defense, 31st in pass defense and 28th against the run.
With that out of the way, we have to ask two questions: Have the Patriots really been that bad? And will they continue to be?
Sort of. And no.
The Patriots were terrible in the opener against the Chiefs (the worst performance by a Belichick Patriots defense in points and yards), good against the Saints, and not good against the Texans. Some of it needs to be put into context. The Chiefs are a tough team to play, especially in the opener, because they’re unlike most NFL offenses in that they use a lot of spread offense principles. And coach Andy Reid is always at his best when he has time to prepare for an opponent. Plus, the Patriots had a lot of new personnel, and some returning players in new spots (Dont’a Hightower). That being said, New England should have been better that — the roster didn’t appear to be well prepared.
Against the Texans, the Patriots were facing one of their nemeses: an athletic quarterback. They’ve always had problems with those types of players, and Deshaun Watson probably played better than New England thought he could. Give him credit.
Because the Patriots are so conservative on defense, they play passively against athletic quarterbacks with a lot of zone. If you play man and the cornerbacks have their backs to the passer in coverage, you run the risk of an 8-yard scramble turning into 40 or 50 yards. So the Patriots play more zone against the likes of Watson. This is no longer 2004: today’s quarterbacks, even average or below-average ones, can carve up zone coverages because they are trained better and throw more before getting to the NFL than ever before. This is why the Patriots, since Aqib Talib arrived in 2012, have been primarily a man coverage team. At least once the real season starts October.
And when you throw in Drew Brees, even without good offensive tackles or adequate targets, you are talking pretty close to a worst-case opening for the Patriots.
So I wouldn’t hyperventilate about where they are defensively.
However, they are are a lot better than what they’ve shown to this point. That’s on the coaches first and the players second.
Not being prepared for the season opener thanks in part to a flaccid training camp, was not good enough. Putting players in position to fail (Jordan Richards, Cassius Marsh) at important spots when the Patriots had an entire training camp and preseason to prepare for one opponent, was not good enough.
The biggest mystery through three games is how a secondary where all three safeties and two of the top three cornerbacks (Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe) have returned with the addition of a player in Stephon Gilmore they valued at $13 million per season, is suddenly worse. Are we to believe Logan Ryan was the glue that held everything together? Of course not.
To this point, there’s been a disconnect in the secondary that safeties coach Steve Belichick and cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer have to fix. That’s their job. Both helped win a Super Bowl last season, so the hope is they didn’t forget how to coach in the offseason. (Yes, I’m being facetious.)
And, yes, there is hope. Remember when, after a Week 4 41-14 loss to the Chiefs in 2014, some thought the Patriots (including the defense) were finished? There were similar circumstances to this season. A veteran group that included the likes of Vince Wilfork, Chandler Jones, Jerod Mayo, Hightower, Jamie Collins, Chung and McCourty had yet to gel with a top free-agent corner (Darrelle Revis), and were waiting on another (Brandon Browner, who was suspended).
We all know what happened after that.
I wasn’t one of those who went nuts after that game, and I feel the same way now: this team, specifically the defense, is better than this. There is plenty of talent. And it’s up to the coaches to get it out of them.


DEFENSE
Defensive line (2.5 out of 5)

The ultimate grade for this group depends on what the gameplan was against Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. If the Patriots were under orders to make Watson beat them from the pocket, they failed miserably. Time and time again they opened up creases where Watson could either run (eight carries for 41 yards) or pass, and the Patriots had no answers. In years past, with more veteran players, you could count the Patriots to wall up against a mobile QB and not let him beat them with his legs. This is a young (Adam Butler, Deatrich Wise) and new (Lawrence Guy) group, but that’s no excuse. The Patriots need to coach it better. … If the Chiefs game (terrible) and Saints game (good) were the two extremes for this group, this one was decidedly in the middle. The pressure percentage, led by Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise, was good, even though Watson brought on a lot himself. The integrity of the run defense was poor and could have been further exploited by the Texans, who seemed to be targeting the undersized Butler more as the game went along (this is something to watch going forward). Butler and Guy each had gap issues at time in this game. … Give Alan Branch credit — he may just be a part-time player now with a snap percentage of 30 (after getting a contract extension), but he made a huge play with the game on the line: 3rd and 1 for Houston & Branch exploded their O line to close the running lane.



Linebackers (2 out of 5)
Looks like we can all relax: the Great Jordan Richards Experiment of 2017 seems to (mercifully) be over, since we haven’t seen it since Week 1. The Patriots appear to have settled into a unit of Elandon Roberts (Mike), Kyle Van Noy (Will) and Cassius Marsh (strong) when they need a more traditional 4-3 lineup. Of course, this all depends on where Hightower plays once he returns from injury. Wouldn’t be surprised if he takes Roberts’ spot at the Mike. That seems to be their best lineup. Roberts and Van Noy were both subpar in this game. Both had a couple of standout plays, but there are two many false steps and either Roberts running late to the wrong place, or Van Noy getting pushed around. … Marsh (four plus plays, zero negative), however, was a breath of fresh air and seems to be getting more acclimated to the defense.

Secondary (1.5 out of 5)
Another yikes. In order of performance from best to worst: Malcolm Butler, Duron Harmon, (huge gap) Jonathan Jones, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore, the 13 Million Dollar Man, had two penalties, played three passes poorly and missed a portion of the game with dehydration. McCourty allowed 1.5 touchdowns, although the one to Ryan Griffin was just a really good throw and catch. However, McCourty was bailed out by Watson who overthrew TE Griffin on a sure TD.
It wasn’t just man coverage where McCourty struggled. He’s also had issues as the lone deep safety where, in previous years, he was among the league’s best.

https://www.bostonsportsjournal.com/...ally-bad-hope/

I thought our D would be better than last year and I don't think the Pats will continue to be this bad. Our secondary should be much better than they are playing. McCourty is the guy who surprises me the most. Piss poor play so far from him. Injuries to Rowe and Gilmore aren't helping but even when healthy Gilmore wasn't earning his money. Butler played well vs the Texans & I'm counting on him the rest of the way.

Our LBing personnel is weak by BB standards. Better players are needed. However, LB performance, although not good, is far better than the secondary so far and that's surprising. The secondary can be fixed with the personnel they have.

There's has to be hope of a turnaround because the Pats won't win another SB with a defense this bad.
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Old 09-28-2017, 06:36 AM   #2
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It was this bad in 2011. But the talent on this defense is much better than 2011 so I expect it to improve. I think the defense's poor showing Sunday had some to do with the protests. They looked good vs the Saints so I expect a better game this Sunday against a wounded Panthers team.
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Old 09-28-2017, 06:58 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazz22 View Post
It was this bad in 2011. But the talent on this defense is much better than 2011 so I expect it to improve. I think the defense's poor showing Sunday had some to do with the protests. They looked good vs the Saints so I expect a better game this Sunday against a wounded Panthers team.
"Good" may be giving the Pats' D too much credit.

348 yds on 27 completions/2 TDs/0 ints/7.6 yds per pass
429 total yards/63 plays/6.8 yds per play

They had good moments but overall the D was pretty bad vs the Saints.
Brady can't be expected to bail us out of every game. This D has to get better.
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Old 09-28-2017, 07:05 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chevss454 View Post
"Good" may be giving the Pats' D too much credit.

348 yds on 27 completions/2 TDs/0 ints/7.6 yds per pass
429 total yards/63 plays/6.8 yds per play

They had good moments but overall the D was pretty bad vs the Saints.
Brady can't be expected to bail us out of every game. This D has to get better.

That's better than what the Texans did on Sunday, and I was told they "played great" so...I'm confused.
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Old 09-28-2017, 07:28 AM   #5
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Color me not concerned. I've seen enough through this run to expect them to pull it together. Still a lot of talent on that side of the ball.
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Old 09-28-2017, 07:37 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TommyD420 View Post
That's better than what the Texans did on Sunday, and I was told they "played great" so...I'm confused.
Exactly. No one understands why the Pats have been so bad.
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Old 09-28-2017, 07:46 AM   #7
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Their pass rush is never going to be "great" this year. They don't have the horses. But I honestly think it all hinges on Branch getting back to 2016 form. He is the immovable object that makes the run defense work and helps them get into 3rd and 7-8 instead of 3-4. He needs to start working harder. I think they will get better and finish top 10 in points allowed by years' end.
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Old 09-28-2017, 07:48 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PumpDee View Post
Their pass rush is never going to be "great" this year. They don't have the horses. But I honestly think it all hinges on Branch getting back to 2016 form. He is the immovable object that makes the run defense work and helps them get into 3rd and 7-8 instead of 3-4. He needs to start working harder. I think they will get better and finish top 10 in points allowed by years' end.
I thought I was the glass half full guy...

...j/k. I completely agree with this.
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Old 09-28-2017, 07:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PumpDee View Post
Their pass rush is never going to be "great" this year. They don't have the horses. But I honestly think it all hinges on Branch getting back to 2016 form. He is the immovable object that makes the run defense work and helps them get into 3rd and 7-8 instead of 3-4. He needs to start working harder. I think they will get better and finish top 10 in points allowed by years' end.
I don't think they have a chance with the hole they've dug.

I will take being top 10 over the final month and improving as it goes forward.
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Old 09-28-2017, 08:00 AM   #10
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I am not concerned.

If I recall correctly, many here were up in arms this exact time last year about what dogshit the defense was. They got better as the season went on.

This defense has upgraded in a few spots, and downgraded in a few, but I expect the same. They will get better as the season goes on.
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Old 09-28-2017, 09:23 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PumpDee View Post
Their pass rush is never going to be "great" this year. They don't have the horses. But I honestly think it all hinges on Branch getting back to 2016 form. He is the immovable object that makes the run defense work and helps them get into 3rd and 7-8 instead of 3-4. He needs to start working harder. I think they will get better and finish top 10 in points allowed by years' end.
I disagree on the pass rush. That's one of the few things I'm pleasantly surprised by to this point.

---------- Post added at 10:23 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:22 AM ----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dwight Schrute View Post
I don't think they have a chance with the hole they've dug.

I will take being top 10 over the final month and improving as it goes forward.
They've still got 6 games against the AFC East to play, yet.
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Old 09-28-2017, 09:51 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Undertaker #59* View Post
I am not concerned.

If I recall correctly, many here were up in arms this exact time last year about what dogshit the defense was. They got better as the season went on.

This defense has upgraded in a few spots, and downgraded in a few, but I expect the same. They will get better as the season goes on.
Pats are playing a significantly better set of quarterbacks this season, though. I wouldn't use last year as any barometer. The big test will be vs. Atlanta. If they come in here and score 40, I think the reality is this defense is going to be awful all year against elite QBs
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Old 09-28-2017, 10:05 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PumpDee View Post
Their pass rush is never going to be "great" this year. They don't have the horses. But I honestly think it all hinges on Branch getting back to 2016 form. He is the immovable object that makes the run defense work and helps them get into 3rd and 7-8 instead of 3-4. He needs to start working harder. I think they will get better and finish top 10 in points allowed by years' end.
They usually never have the horses though.

It also doesn't help things by trading draft picks for busts then cutting them for nothing.
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Old 09-28-2017, 11:01 AM   #14
Mazz22
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Originally Posted by chevss454 View Post
"Good" may be giving the Pats' D too much credit.

348 yds on 27 completions/2 TDs/0 ints/7.6 yds per pass
429 total yards/63 plays/6.8 yds per play

They had good moments but overall the D was pretty bad vs the Saints.
Brady can't be expected to bail us out of every game. This D has to get better.
Meh. They gave up 13 points until garbage time. On the road to Drew Brees. That will be plenty good to get the job done. I do think they were out of sorts with the protests last Sunday so I expect a bounce back this week. Would also be nice if Hightower returns.
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Old 09-29-2017, 09:40 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by TommyD420 View Post
That's better than what the Texans did on Sunday, and I was told they "played great" so...I'm confused.
Meh. No one said the Texans played a great game, only that they were a great defense. Sorry that distinction continues to confuse you.
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