2018 Patriots Roster

Super Nomario

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I do think that an infusion of pass rushers will go a long way in improving the defense. Foles had all day to throw the ball.
Where is this infusion of pass rushers going to come from? Top FA edge guys don't exactly hit the market too much, and Belichick showed with Chandler Jones that he's not willing to pay top dollar. I guess we could see more moves in the Chris Long / Kony Ealy / Cassius Marsh / Jabaal Sheard tier.
 

RedOctober3829

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Where is this infusion of pass rushers going to come from? Top FA edge guys don't exactly hit the market too much, and Belichick showed with Chandler Jones that he's not willing to pay top dollar. I guess we could see more moves in the Chris Long / Kony Ealy / Cassius Marsh / Jabaal Sheard tier.
That's where the improvement is going to have to come from. Free agents I'd take a look at are Ansah, Peppers, Clayborn, Poe. Maybe DeMarcus Lawrence if not franchised is this year's Stephon Gilmore.
 

SMU_Sox

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Where is this infusion of pass rushers going to come from? Top FA edge guys don't exactly hit the market too much, and Belichick showed with Chandler Jones that he's not willing to pay top dollar. I guess we could see more moves in the Chris Long / Kony Ealy / Cassius Marsh / Jabaal Sheard tier.
I struggle to see how to turn this unit around. They brought in youth to the front seven the last two years especially at LB, right? Injured this year. Plus we’re looking at guys like Langi and Rivers. Rivers got a ton of love from the draft community but he’s a pass rusher who tore his ACL losing a year of development and, I would imagine, impacting his performance this year.

Chung and DMC are getting older. They need another Chung type - and I’d imagine it would take a few years for someone to develop into that complicated role. Fine, they have a year or two for that but like you said if they want to turn this around via the draft it is NOT going to be immediate next year. Even with FA/Draft who are they going to target? FA with mid-tier guys is hit or miss too.

Who are the building blocks of the defense? I’ll make my list.

Secondary: DMC, Chung, Gillmore, Jones.

Linebackers: Hightower, KVN, Shea, Langi(?), Rivers

D-Line: Brown, Flowers, Wise, Rivers (listed twice).

During the SB I felt like they were playing with only 3 average to above average starters up front.

As for a guy I want gone? Elandon Roberts. Fooled too easily, bites on virtually everything, and this might be reactionary but it seems like he’s been burned a lot over the past two years.
 
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lexrageorge

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Where is this infusion of pass rushers going to come from? Top FA edge guys don't exactly hit the market too much, and Belichick showed with Chandler Jones that he's not willing to pay top dollar. I guess we could see more moves in the Chris Long / Kony Ealy / Cassius Marsh / Jabaal Sheard tier.
He's also shown that he will pay market price for guys like Roosevelt Colvin, Adalius Thomas, and, to a lesser extend, Hightower. He didn't want to commit to Chandler Jones long term; that may have been a mistake in retrospect, but he did get value out of the trade.
 

Super Nomario

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He's also shown that he will pay market price for guys like Roosevelt Colvin, Adalius Thomas, and, to a lesser extend, Hightower. He didn't want to commit to Chandler Jones long term; that may have been a mistake in retrospect, but he did get value out of the trade.
Kind of. The haul doesn't look as great with Mitchell missing his second season and Thuney not really developing from his rookie year (and obviously Cooper was a disaster).

The Patriots have always invested curiously little in edge players (no team has used fewer top-50 picks since 2000), with Colvin a rare exception. Thomas and Hightower were both kind of hybrid off-ball / edge guys (Mike Vrabel, too). And the Colvin / Thomas deals ended up working out not great (Colvin because of injury) with Hightower not shaping up great either. I think there's some validity to trying to go cheaper at edge, because they're not drafting in the top half of the first where most of the top pass rushers are found, but it's been a problem recently.
 

RedOctober3829

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Kind of. The haul doesn't look as great with Mitchell missing his second season and Thuney not really developing from his rookie year (and obviously Cooper was a disaster).

The Patriots have always invested curiously little in edge players (no team has used fewer top-50 picks since 2000), with Colvin a rare exception. Thomas and Hightower were both kind of hybrid off-ball / edge guys (Mike Vrabel, too). And the Colvin / Thomas deals ended up working out not great (Colvin because of injury) with Hightower not shaping up great either. I think there's some validity to trying to go cheaper at edge, because they're not drafting in the top half of the first where most of the top pass rushers are found, but it's been a problem recently.
Regardless if they get an edge rusher or if the added pass rush comes from the middle with DL or from the LBs, they need to add it wherever they can. Too many QBs have stood in the pocked untouched and picked apart the secondary.
 

lexrageorge

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One thing to keep in mind regarding next season: the Pats offense is still likely to be better than average. If their offense and special teams is really good, then the defense just has to be around league average, like it was in 2016 and 2014. My contention is that going from dumpster fire to league average should be doable in an offseason. Success, of course, is by no means guaranteed.
 

Super Nomario

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Regardless if they get an edge rusher or if the added pass rush comes from the middle with DL or from the LBs, they need to add it wherever they can. Too many QBs have stood in the pocked untouched and picked apart the secondary.
For sure, they need to address it. I'm just skeptical they'll be able to improve much in one offseason.
 

Bowhemian

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As for a guy I want gone? Elandon Roberts. Fooled too easily, bites on virtually everything, and this might be reactionary but it seems like he’s been burned a lot over the past two years.
I don't think one single person here will argue with that. He sucks.
David Harris must have murdered BB's kittens to be left off the field instead of ER.
 

Ed Hillel

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Kind of. The haul doesn't look as great with Mitchell missing his second season and Thuney not really developing from his rookie year (and obviously Cooper was a disaster).
Thuney was pretty darned good the last 10 weeks or so, I thought he developed well after some hiccups. Not sure they can afford Gilmore with Jones on the team, too, and Jones obviously was complicated by his off field stuff.

Random tangent, Navarro Bowman would be a real nice get.
 

Super Nomario

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Thuney was pretty darned good the last 10 weeks or so, I thought he developed well after some hiccups. Not sure they can afford Gilmore with Jones on the team, too, and Jones obviously was complicated by his off field stuff.
I like Thuney but he's a good guard and Jones was first-team All Pro. Gilmore has been as-advertised but what did him locking up his side of the field do last night when the rest of the D was so porous? The real question mark looks like picking Hightower over Jones. But it's probably not worth relitigating those moves at this point. I just don't know where the D goes from here.

I'm interested to see if Belichick steps back and re-assesses his whole defensive philosophy. The shifts they've made in the last few years (under Patricia, but hard to know how to parse his contributions vs Belichick's) have kind of brought the D halfway into the modern era, with more one-gapping, more man-to-man, more sub-package personnel, more one-high coverage shells, more games and blitzing up front, etc. But they still have relics of 1990s defense with their passiveness, priority on setting the edge, playing contain on mobile QBs, bend-but-don't-break, etc. They don't have to go full Rex Ryan - you never go full Rex Ryan - but they could use like 40% more Rex Ryan in their D. This is going to sound crazy, but I kind of feel like Belichick was holding Patricia back and not the other way around.
 

RedOctober3829

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I like Thuney but he's a good guard and Jones was first-team All Pro. Gilmore has been as-advertised but what did him locking up his side of the field do last night when the rest of the D was so porous? The real question mark looks like picking Hightower over Jones. But it's probably not worth relitigating those moves at this point. I just don't know where the D goes from here.

I'm interested to see if Belichick steps back and re-assesses his whole defensive philosophy. The shifts they've made in the last few years (under Patricia, but hard to know how to parse his contributions vs Belichick's) have kind of brought the D halfway into the modern era, with more one-gapping, more man-to-man, more sub-package personnel, more one-high coverage shells, more games and blitzing up front, etc. But they still have relics of 1990s defense with their passiveness, priority on setting the edge, playing contain on mobile QBs, bend-but-don't-break, etc. They don't have to go full Rex Ryan - you never go full Rex Ryan - but they could use like 40% more Rex Ryan in their D. This is going to sound crazy, but I kind of feel like Belichick was holding Patricia back and not the other way around.
I can see what you're saying. They definitely don't have enough speed on the field. They're a step slow on the edges,LB spots and as good as McCourty is he's seen numerous times getting worked by WRs and TEs.
 

wnyghost

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The offense is just fine. The loss of draft picks is showing itself of the defensive side. You don't need the the lost picks to be superstars, just above average.
 

EL Jeffe

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It's a pretty crappy FA class and there's a lot of money out there around the league to spend. I'm sure they'll try to score on a Sheard type signing or two, but they're going to have to hit on their picks or trade premium picks for good talent (a la Cooks). For example, I'd definitely make a call to Jacksonville to see if Fowler is available - and I think they'd listen as he's their nickel rusher and they just drafted D. Smoot at the top of the 3rd round last year, so Jax could absorb the player loss and use the pick to help the offense.
 

jsinger121

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It's a pretty crappy FA class and there's a lot of money out there around the league to spend. I'm sure they'll try to score on a Sheard type signing or two, but they're going to have to hit on their picks or trade premium picks for good talent (a la Cooks). For example, I'd definitely make a call to Jacksonville to see if Fowler is available - and I think they'd listen as he's their nickel rusher and they just drafted D. Smoot at the top of the 3rd round last year, so Jax could absorb the player loss and use the pick to help the offense.
Have to wait to see some of the veterans that are released. Seattle may release some of the Legion of Boom.
 

Ale Xander

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I'd go after the Vikings or Jags dime corners if a deal is there to be made.

I wonder what difference JonJon would have made yesterday, though.
 

Mystic Merlin

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Are we seriously talking about guys like Rivers, Valentine, and McClellin making a big difference? How many games do we expect from Hightower?

This D is going to be bad for at least a couple years. They need a talent injection basically everywhere, because so much of it is terrible, and of their good players, McCourty and Chung are both north of 30, and Hightower is falling apart. This does not look like a group that is one offseason away. The young players could show remarkable improvement but if we're being real, probably almost every other team has more impressive under-25 defensive talent that is more likely to improve.
This is on point. It sucks, but rebuilding a unit is not an overnight proposition.
 

OurF'ingCity

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This is on point. It sucks, but rebuilding a unit is not an overnight proposition.
This is especially true if Schiano or someone else comes in and Belichick agrees to make significant changes to the defensive approach. Doing so might create situations where for a few years you are trying to fit square pegs into round holes by playing players who were drafted or signed with one approach in mind in a different scheme. I don't really know enough about the X's and O's on the defensive side to know how much of an issue this could be/how long this process could take, but it's another reason why the defensive rebuild could take a few years and be a bit ugly in the meantime.
 

Dr. Gonzo

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First priority is a left tackle. Nobody signed for 2018 can play there. Maybe Solder re-signs but he will be 30 in April therefore I’m not sure if the Pats will want to sign him for a lot of years.
 

ScubaSteveAvery

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Are we seriously talking about guys like Rivers, Valentine, and McClellin making a big difference? How many games do we expect from Hightower?

This D is going to be bad for at least a couple years. They need a talent injection basically everywhere, because so much of it is terrible, and of their good players, McCourty and Chung are both north of 30, and Hightower is falling apart. This does not look like a group that is one offseason away. The young players could show remarkable improvement but if we're being real, probably almost every other team has more impressive under-25 defensive talent that is more likely to improve.
Agreed on this. Rivers is talented but he's lost a year and I remember a year or two ago there were some articles about how EDGE and DEs need at least a season to get acclimated to the NFL before they start to flash their promise. And who knows how Rivers bend and flex traits have been impacted by a torn ACL. He was pretty athletic at the combine and if he loses that athleticism and explosives he becomes JAG.

In addition to re-tooling the defense, one aspect too is getting more athletic players who can respond to misdirection and RPOs and are more adapted to the modern game. That may result in a change in scouting philosophy as well, which would be another deficit to overcome.
 

Hoodie Sleeves

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First priority is a left tackle. Nobody signed for 2018 can play there. Maybe Solder re-signs but he will be 30 in April therefore I’m not sure if the Pats will want to sign him for a lot of years.

There's this perception with fans that lineman in general (and Tackles specifically) can play well into their 30s - but they're actually one of the groups that declines earliest (behind RBs and CBs) - so Solder's replacement absolutely needs to be a priority, and there's no way they should be giving him a long deal.

There are 26 offensive lineman in the NFL right now who started more than 6 games this year and are over 30, and only 9 over 32. Most of them had higher career peaks than Solder - guys like Thomas and Staley and Peters. Solder wouldn't be a bad use of the franchise tag.
 

Dr. Gonzo

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There's this perception with fans that lineman in general (and Tackles specifically) can play well into their 30s - but they're actually one of the groups that declines earliest (behind RBs and CBs) - so Solder's replacement absolutely needs to be a priority, and there's no way they should be giving him a long deal.

There are 26 offensive lineman in the NFL right now who started more than 6 games this year and are over 30, and only 9 over 32. Most of them had higher career peaks than Solder - guys like Thomas and Staley and Peters. Solder wouldn't be a bad use of the franchise tag.
Solder cannot be franchised
 

Hoodie Sleeves

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Solder cannot be franchised
Clause as part of his '15 extension? Bummer.

2 years is the max I'd want to see - and that's iffy with the number of concussions he's had.

Looking around the NFL - defense seems way more volatile than offense - and it seems much easier to get a defense to reasonable than it does an offense.

I get the idea of playing a really conservative defense on the idea that as long as you don't really screw up, the offense will outpace your opponents - but they seem to have an awful lot of breaches, and I'm kind of hoping they get more aggressive.
 

Marbleheader

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Wouldn't surprise me if Solder walked away to be with his family. He's earned $35M and having a little kid with cancer has to be brutal.
 

BigSoxFan

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Wouldn't surprise me if Solder walked away to be with his family. He's earned $35M and having a little kid with cancer has to be brutal.
Seems to me like this may actually work out for both sides. Solder may be willing to take things year to year when players of comparable talent would not be willing to. I’d gladly sign him up on a reasonable 1 year deal and he might be amenable to that.
 

Ale Xander

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I root for the laundry and not Nate Solder, but I really don't want to see a team take advantage of a player's kid's cancer.
 

BigSoxFan

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I root for the laundry and not Nate Solder, but I really don't want to see a team take advantage of a player's kid's cancer.
How is it taking advantage? They would be giving him a competitive rate for 1 year at a time. If he wants more years, and is willing to relocate, he is free to do so. I’m sure the Pats would also go more than 1 year if Solder wanted it and the dollars worked.
 

Ale Xander

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How is it taking advantage? They would be giving him a competitive rate for 1 year at a time. If he wants more years, and is willing to relocate, he is free to do so. I’m sure the Pats would also go more than 1 year if Solder wanted it and the dollars worked.
Replying above to jsinger's post (hammer and sickle) not yours, sorry for not quoting. (You're fast)

I want the offer to be competitive, is what I'm saying.
 
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ZMart100

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I'm interested to see if Belichick steps back and re-assesses his whole defensive philosophy. The shifts they've made in the last few years (under Patricia, but hard to know how to parse his contributions vs Belichick's) have kind of brought the D halfway into the modern era, with more one-gapping, more man-to-man, more sub-package personnel, more one-high coverage shells, more games and blitzing up front, etc. But they still have relics of 1990s defense with their passiveness, priority on setting the edge, playing contain on mobile QBs, bend-but-don't-break, etc. They don't have to go full Rex Ryan - you never go full Rex Ryan - but they could use like 40% more Rex Ryan in their D. This is going to sound crazy, but I kind of feel like Belichick was holding Patricia back and not the other way around.
I don't see the Patriots defense as being behind the times. Defensive trends seem to me to go in waves around the league. Owners see success with one type of system and figure they should get them some of that. Right now the tide might be moving away from the Patriots style, but to me that's a good thing. It means less competition for players that fit what we want to be able to do. Let the other teams stock up on 6'3" CBs who can't change direction, light DEs who need to run themselves out of position and LBs who can't shed blocks. Even if we wanted to change the style of personnel we acquire, we don't have the money or draft capital to compete for the type of players who fit schemes that are sexy now.
 

lexrageorge

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I doubt the problem was the Pats targeting the "wrong" players for today's NFL; that's just reactionary nonsense, akin to the "attacking defense vs defense that attacks" nonsense from a few years ago.

Team has been stuck drafting at the bottom of the round for the past several years. They made some good selections with what they had (Hightower, Jones, Collins, Logan Ryan), but then those guys got expensive, and they had a couple of busts as well (e.g., Easly). They picked up a lot of scrap heap guys and UDFA's, and rotated them in to different positions. And there was the occasional big name signing for the secondary (Revis, Browner, Gilmore).

Defense just wasn't very good this year. They lost some key players up front (Long, Sheard), and then the injury bug took hold on the remaining few key players. There's only so much scheming that can be done to address what was left. It's really the same problem as 2009; they need better players.
 

MarcSullivaFan

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I doubt the problem was the Pats targeting the "wrong" players for today's NFL; that's just reactionary nonsense, akin to the "attacking defense vs defense that attacks" nonsense from a few years ago.

Team has been stuck drafting at the bottom of the round for the past several years. They made some good selections with what they had (Hightower, Jones, Collins, Logan Ryan), but then those guys got expensive, and they had a couple of busts as well (e.g., Easly). They picked up a lot of scrap heap guys and UDFA's, and rotated them in to different positions. And there was the occasional big name signing for the secondary (Revis, Browner, Gilmore).

Defense just wasn't very good this year. They lost some key players up front (Long, Sheard), and then the injury bug took hold on the remaining few key players. There's only so much scheming that can be done to address what was left. It's really the same problem as 2009; they need better players.
Agree here. Pretty silly to criticize the team building approach here when you’ve been to three Superbowls in 4 years and won two. The defense has been slightly above average to poor over that period, and that was good enough for two championships and a couple breaks from a third. Can’t fill every hole.

Edit: And I realize that’s not a particularly interesting take, and that no one is above criticism, etc, but we happen to be talking about the greatest run in NFL history, bar none.
 

dcmissle

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I don't see the Patriots defense as being behind the times. Defensive trends seem to me to go in waves around the league. Owners see success with one type of system and figure they should get them some of that. Right now the tide might be moving away from the Patriots style, but to me that's a good thing. It means less competition for players that fit what we want to be able to do. Let the other teams stock up on 6'3" CBs who can't change direction, light DEs who need to run themselves out of position and LBs who can't shed blocks. Even if we wanted to change the style of personnel we acquire, we don't have the money or draft capital to compete for the type of players who fit schemes that are sexy now.
SN, Red October and others have made the point that the Pats have not come close to figuring out, for want of a better term, what Andy Reid does (and by familial tree. Doug Pederson does) and is now a predominant form of offense in college. And they are right.

The first four games were a disaster defensively. In the last game, we circled back to the first game disaster with Nick Foles playing the role of Alex Smith. There were some differences — we held the edge better, but got destroyed up the middle, run and pass — but the outcome was the same.

This happens. In fact many of us here have been amused and happy that we own the Steelers on offense. Different game, same script, all the time.

They need to figure this out, scheme wise and personnel wise. This probably accounts in part for Schiano, if he comes. And that’s a good thing. We can’t go on this way.
 

Super Nomario

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I don't see the Patriots defense as being behind the times. Defensive trends seem to me to go in waves around the league. Owners see success with one type of system and figure they should get them some of that. Right now the tide might be moving away from the Patriots style, but to me that's a good thing. It means less competition for players that fit what we want to be able to do. Let the other teams stock up on 6'3" CBs who can't change direction, light DEs who need to run themselves out of position and LBs who can't shed blocks. Even if we wanted to change the style of personnel we acquire, we don't have the money or draft capital to compete for the type of players who fit schemes that are sexy now.
Pieces of it are cyclical, but pieces are not. The league as a whole has moved towards increased passing, increased speed and athleticism, more nickel, less size in the front seven, etc. for basically my entirely life.

You make a valid point that the Patriots zig while others zag by design - Belichick gave a great talk on this a couple years back - but you can zig too far. We need to understand why teams are zagging, in response to what problem the offense presents, and then make sure our zigging approach accounts for that problem. The Patriots have failed to do this, IMO (do I need to write "IMO" when they just got clobbered like that?).

People need to realize that Jordan Richards is a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself. Their LB are so unathletic that they've decided Richards is the best option they have for a sub package LB in passing situations. And if you think Hightower coming back fixes this, you are kidding yourself; Hightower does a lot of things well, but man-to-man coverage isn't one of his skills.


Defense just wasn't very good this year. They lost some key players up front (Long, Sheard), and then the injury bug took hold on the remaining few key players. There's only so much scheming that can be done to address what was left. It's really the same problem as 2009; they need better players.
I would say it's the same problem *since* 2009. The D has been bad more than it has been good since the old guard (Bruschi, Vrabel, McGinest, Law, Harrison, etc.) aged out. And that's true even though they've used the vast majority of high picks on the defense during that time period. This is not just a 2017 problem.

SN, Red October and others have made the point that the Pats have not come close to figuring out, for want of a better term, what Andy Reid does (and by familial tree. Doug Pederson does) and is now a predominant form of offense in college. And they are right.

The first four games were a disaster defensively. In the last game, we circled back to the first game disaster with Nick Foles playing the role of Alex Smith. There were some differences — we held the edge better, but got destroyed up the middle, run and pass — but the outcome was the same.

This happens. In fact many of us here have been amused and happy that we own the Steelers on offense. Different game, same script, all the time.

They need to figure this out, scheme wise and personnel wise. This probably accounts in part for Schiano, if he comes. And that’s a good thing. We can’t go on this way.
And not just Reid tree; mobile QBs who can also throw have absolutely eviscerated this defense. Cam Newton tore them to shreds the last two times they've played him. Colin Kaepernick back in 2012. Russell Wilson the three times they've faced him. DeShaun Watson earlier this year. They've done well against Tyrod Taylor since his WRs have fallen off but he hung 32 on them a couple years ago. They have no clue how to defend these guys.

The game changes all the time. Belichick has done a great job staying on top of the offensive innovations. He's fallen behind on D. There's no shame in that; that's why he meets with college coaches in the offseason all the time. But they can't keep doing what they're doing and expect a different result; something has to change.
 

lexrageorge

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I would say it's the same problem *since* 2009. The D has been bad more than it has been good since the old guard (Bruschi, Vrabel, McGinest, Law, Harrison, etc.) aged out. And that's true even though they've used the vast majority of high picks on the defense during that time period. This is not just a 2017 problem.
I disagree, respectfully. Jones, Collins, et al brought the level of the defense up to at least league average in 2014-2016, or even above average, depending upon which metrics you use. This season did continue a trend that indeed started last season in defensive decline, but it's not been quite as bad as you depicting here.
 

Shelterdog

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People need to realize that Jordan Richards is a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself. Their LB are so unathletic that they've decided Richards is the best option they have for a sub package LB in passing situations. And if you think Hightower coming back fixes this, you are kidding yourself; Hightower does a lot of things well, but man-to-man coverage isn't one of his skills.
I think the Pats have at least been thinking about changes and have looked closely at a number of the more athletics/smaller linebackers in recent years If memory serves they wanted Su'a Cravens (https://www.patspulpit.com/2016/4/29/11542698/2016-nfl-draft-southern-california-and-washington-lb-sua-cravens) Jaylon Smith (so much so that there were reports the pats would have drafted him high in the second) and Honey Badger, and they did draft Collins.

The bottom line for me is that this is all about talent and they don't have a ton of it--they haven't drafted all that well over the past four years, they've traded a lot of picks for not a lot of great play (Cassius Marsh, Dwayne Allen, Kony Ealy-Cooks is obviously good).

I do think Schiano is going to change things. I recall Tampa blitzing a lot, primarily one gapping, and using smaller linebackers--I would think that he wouldn't take the gig if he wasn't been given a fair degree of control.
 

SMU_Sox

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Step 1: Identify the Problem

Going by past and recent X's and O's work by ITP, Super Nomario, LockonPats, etc. it seems like there is a pattern to the defense not performing well against Andy Reid type offenses. I can't tell you how grateful I am for this type of analysis - it makes sense, the breakdowns have film, and since many pieces have been done over time you can see the same problems creeping up over and over again.

Step 2: Fix Problem

I think the fix comes down to two parts: 1) Coaching, schemes and general philosophy and roles.
2) Players

Scheme and coaching probably comes first I would imagine here. If this is a coaching and schematic issue then what is the answer?
I remember reading earlier that the Pats in particular struggle against teams that like to run out of the 11 package. They struggle against the RB wheel route. I'm picking up a theme that the more spread out they are and in space the less effective the defense was. What do you want to see the Patriots do more of (some of this can be hypothetical too like what you'd like them to be able to do but they can't because ____)?


Then 2: What sort of players do you think the Patriots need?
Lack of speed and athleticism, and a pass rush by the front is often brought up. I would imagine not having an athletic coverage LB is part of that too.

Do we need a larger slot coverage corner?

Basically, what sorts of defensive players do you think the Pats need to target not just to stop Reid schemes (for lack of a better terminology) but would also work for what they try to do overall (or, if you think they need to change why this player would be a good fit for a slightly different scheme)?


This isn't probably the easiest thing to do but I'd love to understand how better to fix the defense.

My own thoughts? Big picture the team looks like they have a lot of starters who would be better off as nice depth or rotational pieces. The first place I look is the front 6/7 and linebacker. I think they need a Deion Jones type. Roquan Smith out of Georgia? Not sure he lasts to 31. They need a better coverage linebacker though or a hybrid type big safety. I think they also need a pin back the ears pass rusher, but, again, with where they pick in the draft and cap space that's difficult to achieve. Mid-level FA's are risky here too. Also, many D-Linemen take 2-3 years to acclimate to the NFL anyway.

Outside and slot corner: Butler is gone. He needs replacing. I liked Jones and Rowe and think they are probably around average for corners.

Safety: Chung and DMC are getting old.

When you look at the defense what long term building blocks do you see? Malcom Brown, Flowers, Gilmore, until they age out DMC and Chung, Harmon, and... Hightower (pending injury and he's been hurt). KVN? He looked like our best LB aside from Hightower this year but I'm not sure how good he is relative to the league because he looks great compared to guys like Roberts but Roberts is terrible. Eye-test says he is an average to above average player. Wise jr. flashed and hopefully next year continues to improve. Still, seems like aside from Gilmore that they don't have anyone with elite talent on defense.
 

Shelterdog

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When you look at the defense what long term building blocks do you see? Malcom Brown, Flowers, Gilmore, until they age out DMC and Chung, Harmon, and... Hightower (pending injury and he's been hurt). KVN? He looked like our best LB aside from Hightower this year but I'm not sure how good he is relative to the league because he looks great compared to guys like Roberts but Roberts is terrible. Eye-test says he is an average to above average player. Wise jr. flashed and hopefully next year continues to improve. Still, seems like aside from Gilmore that they don't have anyone with elite talent on defense.
The NFL is such a year to year league that I wouldn't worry that much about long term building blocks--first round picks and expensive free agents are the only assets that you can realistically hope will turn into building blocks.

But I see two positive points.

First,as long as Brady is Brady and he's got a couple of weapons then you only need an average defense to be a Superbowl contender again. If the Pats were just a little better than "essentially the worst defense in the superbowl ever" they win the game.

Second, the talent is uniformly mediocre so actually have a fair amount of flexibility to pick the best defensive player available. While an athletic linebacker 3 down linebacker would be ideal (imagine Roquan Smith) you could help the defense with first or second round picks at pretty much every position. DL? check. DE/OLB? You can do better than Eric Lee and Deebo92. Corner? After Gilmore, you certainly can do better. Safety? we're getting old and Jordan Richards was seeing time on defense in the superbowl so there's clearly room for improvement there.
 

Bowhemian

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With all the injuries this season, many of which were season-enders, I almost feel as though the Pats were lucky to get as far as they did. They lost a ton of talent throughout the year, and replaced it with some barely replacement-level players. Those are the goats, such as Bademosi, Richards, Roberts, etc. We know the offense wasn’t really the problem in SB52, but if Edelman is there, I think the offense looks completely different. With Hightower in the middle of the D, it is a different look as well. Van Noy plays more of an outside backer role, not that he covers well, but he does rush the passer well when he is supposed to. I think he is a guy who needs a defined role. Tell him what his job is (and don’t change it on every play). Elandon Roberts shouldn’t even make the roster of an XFL team. He sucked this year. Again, with fewer injuries you don’t depend on a guy like that.

So, my thesis is that injuries finally killed the Pats at the worst possible time. However, the future could look brighter, especially if they avoid the injury plague next year.
 

BaseballJones

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By position group:

Quarterback: Brady is still Brady, and Hoyer is a perfectly fine backup. But this team, having dealt away Brissett and JG, needs a long-term succession plan and probably needs to start that with this draft. Not sure where in the draft they should select a QB, but they ought to go down this road.

Running Back: Lewis and Burkhead are free agents. Gillislee I still think is solid and White is terrific. Develin is a great FB and Bolden is a special teams ace who can fill in at RB in a pinch. I think I'm probably in the minority here but I'm ok if they let Lewis go, given what he may cost. I love Burkhead. Don't get me wrong - I love Lewis too, and he was fantastic this year. I hope they can keep this entire group intact - maybe save some $$ on Gillislee's deal?

Wide Receiver: Edelman returns, but will he be EDELMAN? I bet he'll be pretty much 100%, though just a year older. Amendola and Hogan are solid; we know what they are. Cooks should be back and after having been here a year is primed for more. Mitchell is a wild card - I hope he gets healthy because he's pretty darned good. But if not....do they go with Dorsett or Britt or someone else? Either way, this is still a position of strength.

Tight End: Gronk's status obviously is key. I'd love to see them bring back Gronk and Bennett and Hollister - that would be a fantastic group, IMO. You could manage Gronk and Bennett's snaps by alternating, while giving Hollister more playing time to grow. Allen was a fine blocker but I think they should move on from his contract, and put that money to use elsewhere.

Offensive Line: A very solid group that should get Pro Bowler Cannon back next year. Mason, Andrews, and Thuney are fine in the middle - and young. Solder is the wild card. If he returns, the OL should be in good shape. If not...they suddenly have a major need. But the OL is good and young (Andrews is 25, Thuney is 25, Mason is 24, Cannon is 29, Karras is 24...even Solder - who seems much older - is 29). If Solder returns, this group doesn't need much - maybe a later round project to draft.

Defensive Line: Injuries were problematic this year. I think Branch is done, obviously. I like Brown and Trey Flowers and Wise - three young players very much on the upswing. Rivers is a wild card - I think most of us think he'll be pretty good but we have to wait and see. It sure would be great if he was. Valentine seems fine and Adam Butler is a good rotational player. Guy was pretty solid this year. Clearly pass rush is an issue. I wonder if keeping Harrison for another year makes sense - I thought he was good during his time. I'd like them to invest some draft capital in another rusher.

Linebacker: To me, the single biggest area of need for the team. Hopefully Hightower comes back healthy - not having him against Philly was enormous. Van Noy is perfectly fine, but it's not a good thing if he's by far your best LB. What they lack is speed at LB. They cannot keep up with RBs in coverage, though Marquise Flowers showed some promise. I'd love for them to draft a couple of fast, coverage LB types.

Cornerbacks: Adios to Butler, which saddens me greatly. Loved that guy. Gilmore proved to be a true, #1 stud corner. Rowe is decent - not a bad depth guy but not someone I'm super comfortable with as the #2 opposite Gilmore. To me, Jonathan Jones is the wild card. He showed real promise to me, and if he was playing on Sunday, I think it changes things, as he's much better than Bademosi. Bademosi is fine as a special teams/last resort CB, but the problem was him playing significant snaps in the biggest game of the year. That's not what's supposed to happen. Recall that the Pats torched Seattle's backup backup corner in SB 49 - even a defense as great as theirs is going to get roasted if a special teams/depth guy is playing significant snaps. I want the Pats to get another quality corner, or maybe J. Jones can be that guy.

Safety: Getting up there in age. Richards needs to go, even if he's solid on special teams. They should be able to find a better version of him. I like Harmon, and obviously Chung and McCourty are both terrific when used properly. But there needs to be some young blood in the mix. I expect draft capital to be used at safety.

Special Teams: As much as I like him, I'd be fine cutting Ghost, replacing him with a regular kicker that will do just fine, and using that money to address the defense. Allen is fine, but I think they would have no problem finding another useful punter. Ghost makes $5m and Allen $2m, and I know they'd end up with some dead money, but they'd certainly save some, and I'd rather upgrade elsewhere.


So to me, the priorities are (assuming Solder and Gronk stick around):

1. Speed at LB (need 2 of these guys)
2. CB (#2 CB)
3. Safety (youth)
4. QB (Brady's successor?)
5. RB (try to re-sign Lewis and Burkhead)
 

Super Nomario

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1. Speed at LB (need 2 of these guys)
2. CB (#2 CB)
3. Safety (youth)
4. QB (Brady's successor?)
5. RB (try to re-sign Lewis and Burkhead)
#3 could also be a partial solution for #1. The idea of using an extra safety as a sub-package LB makes sense, it's just that Jordan Richards has been a flop in the role.

I think DL has to be part of the equation, too. Are we sure Valentine will slot in seamlessly for Branch? How sold are we on Butler as the penetrator-type of the future? And pass rush has been an issue, obviously. It's not a great sign that they had to pluck guys like Harrison and Jean-Francois off the street to fill key roles, and I'm not sold that they have the solution in-house.

CB is really interesting to me. I think Rowe could be fine as the #2 CB and Jon Jones could be fine as the #3, but there's risk there, and there's not much depth behind them (I liked Cyrus Jones coming out but at this point anything they get from him is gravy). On the other hand, it's tough to draft a guy and slot him in as a starting CB, and I'm not sure about spending the $7-8 MM or more it would cost to sign a legit starting CB. On the other other hand, can they really afford to downgrade in the secondary with the struggles they have in the front seven? Maybe we get a buy-low signing like they did with Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs whenever that was, or Tarell Brown and Bradley Fletcher.
 

Shelterdog

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#3 could also be a partial solution for #1. The idea of using an extra safety as a sub-package LB makes sense, it's just that Jordan Richards has been a flop in the role.

I think DL has to be part of the equation, too. Are we sure Valentine will slot in seamlessly for Branch? How sold are we on Butler as the penetrator-type of the future? And pass rush has been an issue, obviously. It's not a great sign that they had to pluck guys like Harrison and Jean-Francois off the street to fill key roles, and I'm not sold that they have the solution in-house.

CB is really interesting to me. I think Rowe could be fine as the #2 CB and Jon Jones could be fine as the #3, but there's risk there, and there's not much depth behind them (I liked Cyrus Jones coming out but at this point anything they get from him is gravy). On the other hand, it's tough to draft a guy and slot him in as a starting CB, and I'm not sure about spending the $7-8 MM or more it would cost to sign a legit starting CB. On the other other hand, can they really afford to downgrade in the secondary with the struggles they have in the front seven? Maybe we get a buy-low signing like they did with Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs whenever that was, or Tarell Brown and Bradley Fletcher.
I'm kind of in the supposed Gettlemen/Accorsi school that if you don't have a glaring need just go pick a big boy, preferably on the DL/Edge Rusher. The Pats' line and edge players are ok (and with a healthy hightower maybe even collectively an NFL average group) but it's hard to say they're better than that,particularly in pressuring the quarterback. Butler and Wise are good pickups, but I'll bet Taven Bryanwould be a lot better.
 

BaseballJones

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#3 could also be a partial solution for #1. The idea of using an extra safety as a sub-package LB makes sense, it's just that Jordan Richards has been a flop in the role.

I think DL has to be part of the equation, too. Are we sure Valentine will slot in seamlessly for Branch? How sold are we on Butler as the penetrator-type of the future? And pass rush has been an issue, obviously. It's not a great sign that they had to pluck guys like Harrison and Jean-Francois off the street to fill key roles, and I'm not sold that they have the solution in-house.

CB is really interesting to me. I think Rowe could be fine as the #2 CB and Jon Jones could be fine as the #3, but there's risk there, and there's not much depth behind them (I liked Cyrus Jones coming out but at this point anything they get from him is gravy). On the other hand, it's tough to draft a guy and slot him in as a starting CB, and I'm not sure about spending the $7-8 MM or more it would cost to sign a legit starting CB. On the other other hand, can they really afford to downgrade in the secondary with the struggles they have in the front seven? Maybe we get a buy-low signing like they did with Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs whenever that was, or Tarell Brown and Bradley Fletcher.
Good points. I don't mind Chung in a LB type role in some capacity. They could use upgrades in lots of places but I'm not sure they have the ability to address everything. I think pass rusher is important but I'm ok with the interior of the defensive line. They always seem to find guys to do the job there. It would be nice if Malcolm Brown went from solid NFL player to...dominator. He's not there and maybe never will be, but that sure would be nice.

CB I see as a necessity. I'd LOVE it if J Jones is the answer, because I think the kid has talent. But that is an open question still. Either way, capital needs to be put into this position, either for a true #2 or quality depth.
 

slamminsammya

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No mention of the cap details yet? Slotting in the expected $5 mil for their draft picks, the Pats are currently looking at around $11 million in cap space for next year, which is probably not enough to resign Solder. But they can easily create an extra $20 in room by some obvious cuts like Bennett, Allen, Branch, Harris, and McClellin. With restructuring they can wiggle in some more room I am sure. A lot depends on what Brady does.

Lets say that leaves them $30 million in space with Solder and Dion Lewis the big money UFA's. That still leaves them some room to make a couple solid moves if they want, but things are going to be pretty tight! Even more so since after next year they have Cooks and Shaq Mason hitting free agency. I assume they will want to keep both since they've been good. Signing Cooks to an extension this offseason would probably lower his number next year.

Please find someone better than Jordan Richards, Bill.
 

BigJimEd

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Yes, not a ton of room but they should have enough to add a potential starting piece and some depth.

I agree LB is their biggest need but plenty of areas they can upgrade
 

Super Nomario

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No mention of the cap details yet? Slotting in the expected $5 mil for their draft picks, the Pats are currently looking at around $11 million in cap space for next year, which is probably not enough to resign Solder. But they can easily create an extra $20 in room by some obvious cuts like Bennett, Allen, Branch, Harris, and McClellin. With restructuring they can wiggle in some more room I am sure. A lot depends on what Brady does.

Lets say that leaves them $30 million in space with Solder and Dion Lewis the big money UFA's. That still leaves them some room to make a couple solid moves if they want, but things are going to be pretty tight! Even more so since after next year they have Cooks and Shaq Mason hitting free agency. I assume they will want to keep both since they've been good. Signing Cooks to an extension this offseason would probably lower his number next year.
Yeah, the cap room is one piece of it, but who's under contract is the other. In addition to Solder being a FA, backup OTs Waddle and Fleming are, too. It's hard to imagine Tony Garcia or Cole Croston are going to be able to step into LT. Gillislee seems a likely cut, but then James White is the only RB under contract. If they cut Dwayne Allen and Bennett, they're left with just Gronk and Hollister and need another TE. Branch is a likely cut, but Jean-Francois is a FA as well. And ST is another need with Slater, Ebner, Bolden, Bademosi, Marquis Flowers, and King (who I believe will be a RFA) all FAs. So they can free up some money, but they're going to need it just to patch holes.