Pats defense: Ongoing discussion

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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I'll be interested to see what Gilmore looks like whenever he takes the field. If he is anywhere near the player he once was, that decision is just a massive headscratcher. Our CB depth behind JC just sucks. We couldn't cover Lamb all night and their 3rd/4th WRs made several massive plays against us as well.
 

Cellar-Door

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I'll be interested to see what Gilmore looks like whenever he takes the field. If he is anywhere near the player he once was, that decision is just a massive headscratcher. Our CB depth behind JC just sucks. We couldn't cover Lamb all night and their 3rd/4th WRs made several massive plays against us as well.
The decision had nothing to do with his talent and everything to do with his willingness to play for us.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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The decision had nothing to do with his talent and everything to do with his willingness to play for us.
Definitely could be the case. I just think there are some variables that aren't completely visible, whether that is his physical condition or some kind of bad blood that developed over the course of the last year. The whole thing doesn't really add up because (a) he says he is willing to play for Carolina without a new contract (b) if he was really completely healthy and willing to play out his deal, then its surprising that nobody offered more than a 6th for him.
 

SMU_Sox

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LBs in coverage vs Dallas (a topic a few of us talked about here in the pre-game thread) were a problem: 8/8 for 82 yards and a TD. Kyle Dugger had some good reps in coverage. I think he has the potential still to be special. His run defense is always good and he is getting stickier when he matches routes. He still has some things to clean up at the catch point but his closing speed is ridiculous. He also sometimes waits a little too long before tightening up coverage on checkdowns. They are using him against slots and in the box primarily but he has done some split zone stuff or been the 2nd safety with 2 high.

The issue with them right now is while they started off the season red hot generating pressure the last 3 games they've only pressured the passer at a 22% or so rate. League average is around 34%. They mush rushed Dak which is when you try and collapse the pocket on a QB not allowing him to escape. They didn't blitz a lot but when they did it didn't work - all 3 TDs came against the blitz. Mills and Jones aren't playing at 100%. Defensively coverage can only last for so long. When your outside corners are Mills and JCJ for the defense to be elite you need pressure. This isn't JCJ and prime Gilmore.

Here are some current issues I see. NT. Godchaux is fine as a 3 tech or even a 1 against the run. He has struggled as a true NT soaking up combo blocks against the run. He has done it but it isn't always consistent. Carl Davis had his worst day at the office last week. It would be awesome if they had a Vea to pair with Barmore. Draft wise I am looking at Jordan Davis as a prototypical Patriot.

Outside CB depth: JJW can't play the position. He's a dud. Shaun Wade is injured, a rookie, and they got him for cheap. Bryant and Jones are more slot/safeties than outside guys. Long term they need 2-3 outside corners for next year.

Pressure. They need to generate more pressure. KVN has been ok vs the run but he's not getting it done as a pass rusher anymore. They don't think of Uche and Wino as early down guys but if they want to be a rush 4 drop back 7 team they need someone aside from Judon to consistently win. I'd like to see Uche getting more reps.

Hightower has never been great in coverage but he used to be average. This year he's been dreadful. 8/8 for 69 yards and a TD. NFL Passer Rating (dumb stat but it serves a purpose here) of 142.2. He's been a good run defender. He's not elite there though. He's had a lot of trouble this year shedding blocks.

DMC has been super inconsistent this year in coverage. He's had some above average to good games but also two awful games vs Dallas and Houston. I thought he took a step back last year and I wonder how much left he has in the tank. However, when corners struggle that makes safeties look worse so it could be some of that too.



Long term they have issues at one of the OLB/edge positions, FS, ILB, and outside corner. As much as the offense turned over this year the defense is up next.
 

Garshaparra

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Long term they have issues at one of the OLB/edge positions, FS, ILB, and outside corner. As much as the offense turned over this year the defense is up next.
This has been the only dim light of hope going into 2022 for me. The team's cap space is estimated at $31M, and that's taking into account a top 10 draft pick (right now, they'd be picking 7th - wow). They'll have to fill the starting spots of McCourty and Hightower (thanks for the rings, enjoy retirement) and JC Jackson. Obviously, Jackson is the bigger need, unless they decide to spend that top 10 pick on a CB rather than WR, and there are a pair worthy of top 10 consideration.
 

SMU_Sox

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I asked Coach Vass about the 3rd and 25 play. For those who don’t know or follow him Coach Vass is a defensive coach who does a ton of content on the NFL, NCAA, and high school.

View: https://twitter.com/JohnALimberakis/status/1450634358700838917?s=20


If you look at my thread he answers both questions. He said the coverage call was good but JCJ messed up his assignment. It’s 1 Cross so single high, rat defender and the outside CB has to replace the single high safety over the middle of the field if the single high safety is taken away from his post. DMC had to vacate the middle. JCJ gets distracted with Dugger’s coverage on a tight end (Dugger was in the guys hip pocket with some very good coverage FWIW) probably because Dak was using his eyes to manipulate him. Because JCJ doesn’t cross over to the middle of the field it leaves Lamb’s dig route wide open. He also said in this case it’a difficult for JCJ to come from the sideline back to the middle but once he doesn’t it’s game over if Dak hits the dig. Dak makes the right read and the rest is history.

You want to know why I have so many issues with PFF? From reading their coverage responsibilities they assigned blame on this play to Mills. But on an in-breaking route in this coverage the responsibility should have been on JCJ.
 

cshea

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I'm a dummy when it comes to X's and O's, so pardon if this is a stupid question...but was that really a good call? Is a prevent defense more appropriate in that situation? Some kind of soft-ish zone that defends the first down line, makes the Cowboys dump it off short and rally to tackle? Keep the play in front of you type of thing? Even if, worst case, they allow 15 yards on a check down it forces the Cowboys into either attempting a 57-yard FG or a 4th and 10.
 

SMU_Sox

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That's a tough one, @cshea. On the one hand if JCJ gets over and can contest the throw then Dak doesn't have a lot of good options and maybe it's 4th and 25. Some of these are probably route conversions too so had they lined up in like cover 6, cover 7, or quarters I think the Go route turns into a post and once again the dig route is going against an outside leveraged corner with no inside help. Dagger and Mills were invented in part to beat quarters. What about prevent? Well you can assume the Cowboys would have picked up some yards against prevent and probably put them in the 4th and 10 or less category. Or maybe they call something to flood one side of the prevent. Do they dial this one up against a true prevent defense? I am not sure. This particular concept they called stressed the defense horizontally as well as vertically. It would have created issues for most coverages. If your guys aren't going to pass off routes correctly or get into the right position after no coverage is going to work. Not sure what happens vs a true 5-6 guys back by the sticks prevent defense other than it most likely allows for a 15 yard or so underneath completion at the minimum.
 

cshea

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That's a tough one, @cshea. On the one hand if JCJ gets over and can contest the throw then Dak doesn't have a lot of good options and maybe it's 4th and 25. Some of these are probably route conversions too so had they lined up in like cover 6, cover 7, or quarters I think the Go route turns into a post and once again the dig route is going against an outside leveraged corner with no inside help. Dagger and Mills were invented in part to beat quarters. What about prevent? Well you can assume the Cowboys would have picked up some yards against prevent and probably put them in the 4th and 10 or less category. Or maybe they call something to flood one side of the prevent. Do they dial this one up against a true prevent defense? I am not sure. This particular concept they called stressed the defense horizontally as well as vertically. It would have created issues for most coverages. If your guys aren't going to pass off routes correctly or get into the right position after no coverage is going to work. Not sure what happens vs a true 5-6 guys back by the sticks prevent defense other than it most likely allows for a 15 yard or so underneath completion at the minimum.
Thanks, insightful as always.

I'm typically loathe to play conservative, but I just feel like in that situation they should've called something that better protected the 20-25 yard range downfield. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but I would've preferred conceding 15-18 yards and forcing Dallas into a decision on a 55+ yard FG attempt (maybe he makes it anyway) or trying to pick up a do-or-die 4th and 8.

Maybe I'm over thinking it. I guess if JC drops to the middle and Dak hits the TE on the outside they're in that 4th and 10/long FG range anyways.
 

SMU_Sox

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I know Dugger gave up some completions but he was glued onto the tight end on a lot of other snaps. I was really impressed with his coverage on Sunday. On that route I think he had his man shut down.

edit: not debating you there more just calling Dugger out for a good game.
 

Eddie Jurak

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Evan Lazar had an article about how the Pats defense has gone a lot more zone heavy than Bill has tended to do over the past decade.

https://www.clnsmedia.com/lazars-film-review-is-the-patriots-defense-shifting-to-more-zone-coverage/

The Pats’ best attribute as a secondary now isn’t their man coverage prowess but rather their versatility (see Phillips, Dugger, Bryant, DMac, Mills) and ball-hawk ability (J.C. Jackson).

Since Texans rookie Davis Mills carved up the Patriots’ man coverage schemes, Belichick has adapted, playing zone coverage on 56% of passing downs in the last three weeks. For comparison, in the first five games, they were in zone on just 38% of their defensive snaps.

The statistical transformation isn’t complete yet, but new additions Matt Judon and second-rounder Christian Barmore are leading a resurgent pass rush that’s now allowing the Pats to generate pressure while keeping their zone structure intact (mostly four-man rushes).

In their best win of the season against the Chargers on Sunday, the Patriots played zone coverage on 76% of their coverage snaps.
Some of this seems to be specific to the game plan against the Chargers and their plan to stop Herbert. But as Lazar notes, the there is a trend that goes beyond the one game.
 

tims4wins

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Evan Lazar had an article about how the Pats defense has gone a lot more zone heavy than Bill has tended to do over the past decade.

https://www.clnsmedia.com/lazars-film-review-is-the-patriots-defense-shifting-to-more-zone-coverage/

Some of this seems to be specific to the game plan against the Chargers and their plan to stop Herbert. But as Lazar notes, the there is a trend that goes beyond the one game.
Well Wilson has a similar (albeit shittier) skill set as Herbert. And prior to that, Dak is mobile too. So it’s kind of hard to say whether this is more game plan specific.
 

Saints Rest

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I feel like the defense against the run has really turned It around.

For whatever reason(s), this season has seen a number of Patriot players, on both sides of the ball, start the season with a level of play well below what most of us, including pundits, and I would dare say, Patriot management, expected: Jonnu, Guy, Godchaux, Van Noy, Hightower, and Wynn. Most of those, with the glaring exception of Wynn and DHT, seemed to have turned their seasons around and returned to levels much closer to what he had hoped/expected. I have no idea why so many started so poorly, and I have no idea how most of them turned it around while Wynn has not. (I think DHT is simply done.)

Whatever the reasons, I think the Pats D has really played well, with the glaring exception of the Dallas game. Judon has been a beast all season, and Barmore has been unleashed as the best interior DL for the Pats since Vince Wilfork. But Guy, Godchaux and Van Noy have all improved notably over the last 2-3 games while Jamie Collins seems to be doing the things we had hoped that Wino or Uche would have done. Finally a huge shoutout to Miles Bryant for making me not miss Jonathan Jones who I think has been one of the Pats most under-appreciated players for the last few years.
 

54thMA

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But Guy, Godchaux and Van Noy have all improved notably over the last 2-3 games while Jamie Collins seems to be doing the things we had hoped that Wino or Uche would have done.
Speaking of Wino, I was in the post office yesterday and he came in, he was mailing a bunch of signed jerseys for some charity.

Holy smokes he's a large man............I'm 6'2", he's listed at 6'3", but he looks a lot taller, I'm about 230, he's all of 250 too, huge upper body.

Pro athletes are just on another level than the rest of us, you really can appreciate that when you're in the same room as one of them.

He filled out most of the door frame when he left too...............
 

BaseballJones

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Points, Yards allowed by the Pats' D this season, by game:

vs Mia: 17 points, 259 yards
at NYJ: 6 points, 336 yards
vs NO: 21 points, 252 yards
vs TB: 19 points, 381 yards
at Hou: 22 points, 360 yards
vs Dal: 28 points, 567 yards (OT): 22 points, 487 yards in regulation
vs NYJ: 13 points, 299 yards
at LAC: 24 points, 369 yards
at Car: 6 points, 240 yards

AVG: 17.3 points, 340.3 yards
AVG (Regulation only): 16.7 points, 331.4 yards

Current NFL ranks: #4 in points allowed, #9 in yards allowed

Not exactly facing a murderer's row lineup of opposing offenses, but obviously Tampa and Dallas are great offensively, and the Chargers are really good against basically everyone else but New England. And New Orleans is #12 in points scored so they're not terrible offensively.
 

tims4wins

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Points, Yards allowed by the Pats' D this season, by game:

vs Mia: 17 points, 259 yards
at NYJ: 6 points, 336 yards
vs NO: 21 points, 252 yards
vs TB: 19 points, 381 yards
at Hou: 22 points, 360 yards
vs Dal: 28 points, 567 yards (OT): 22 points, 487 yards in regulation
vs NYJ: 13 points, 299 yards
at LAC: 24 points, 369 yards
at Car: 6 points, 240 yards

AVG: 17.3 points, 340.3 yards
AVG (Regulation only): 16.7 points, 331.4 yards

Current NFL ranks: #4 in points allowed, #9 in yards allowed

Not exactly facing a murderer's row lineup of opposing offenses, but obviously Tampa and Dallas are great offensively, and the Chargers are really good against basically everyone else but New England. And New Orleans is #12 in points scored so they're not terrible offensively.
#5 in defensive DVOA
 

Bowhemian

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As frustrating as they were in the first several games, the run defense has really improved. Which, as we all know, really helps the passing defense. I don't know how good CLE's running game is if Chubb is out with the 'vid, but I do hope that the trend continues. If Chubb is active, I expect the Pats to play heavy up front (take away their strength) and put the ball in Mayfield's hands.
 

tims4wins

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And in turn, Wino back

Edit as an aside I hope these new IR rules stick permanently. I think this type of roster manipulation is right in BB’s wheelhouse. He can take advantage of the rules like no one else due to the depth he builds each year. So naturally because of that the NFL will kill the rule because it is a competitive advantage for the Pats.

View: https://twitter.com/fieldyates/status/1461081760066949120?s=21
 

BaseballJones

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And in turn, Wino back

Edit as an aside I hope these new IR rules stick permanently. I think this type of roster manipulation is right in BB’s wheelhouse. He can take advantage of the rules like no one else due to the depth he builds each year. So naturally because of that the NFL will kill the rule because it is a competitive advantage for the Pats.

View: https://twitter.com/fieldyates/status/1461081760066949120?s=21
This is how it SHOULD be. It's insane that if you have a player that gets hurt in week 3 but could be back by week 10, say, that you automatically lose him for the year by putting him on IR. (the old rules you're worried they'll go back to)
 

tims4wins

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This is how it SHOULD be. It's insane that if you have a player that gets hurt in week 3 but could be back by week 10, say, that you automatically lose him for the year by putting him on IR. (the old rules you're worried they'll go back to)
It feels like the new rule is better for the players, the fans, the teams, the coaches... who loses out in this situation? Is it the owners because they have to pay more players?
 

BaseballJones

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It feels like the new rule is better for the players, the fans, the teams, the coaches... who loses out in this situation? Is it the owners because they have to pay more players?
Great question. Maybe $$ is the answer, I don't know. It's gotta be, right? Because you're right - the current way works WAY better for everyone.
 

tims4wins

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Great question. Maybe $$ is the answer, I don't know. It's gotta be, right? Because you're right - the current way works WAY better for everyone.
Right. But even the $$ difference has to be small. Anyone who goes on IR is still paid in both systems. Maybe in the current system you have to pay a couple more players, but almost by definition we are talking about the bottom of the roster anyway, like $500K per player. So you have to roster 4 more players at $500K each? I can't imagine the $2m would be a huge issue to the owners, especially when you consider that hosting a playoff game alone means millions more in potential revenue.
 

BaseballJones

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Right. But even the $$ difference has to be small. Anyone who goes on IR is still paid in both systems. Maybe in the current system you have to pay a couple more players, but almost by definition we are talking about the bottom of the roster anyway, like $500K per player. So you have to roster 4 more players at $500K each? I can't imagine the $2m would be a huge issue to the owners, especially when you consider that hosting a playoff game alone means millions more in potential revenue.
As always, you raise excellent points. I can't fathom why the current system wouldn't be adopted permanently over the old one.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Great question. Maybe $$ is the answer, I don't know. It's gotta be, right? Because you're right - the current way works WAY better for everyone.
Right. But even the $$ difference has to be small. Anyone who goes on IR is still paid in both systems. Maybe in the current system you have to pay a couple more players, but almost by definition we are talking about the bottom of the roster anyway, like $500K per player. So you have to roster 4 more players at $500K each? I can't imagine the $2m would be a huge issue to the owners, especially when you consider that hosting a playoff game alone means millions more in potential revenue.
Right, it all still counts against the cap, yes? There's no LTIR cap loophole like in hockey where you can stash injured guys then trade for a highly-paid replacement and pull the IR guy back for the playoffs with no cap ramifications for that season.
 

Super Nomario

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It feels like the new rule is better for the players, the fans, the teams, the coaches... who loses out in this situation? Is it the owners because they have to pay more players?
They pay more players, but they don't pay any more money, because it's constrained by the salary cap anyway. Probably there are some extra costs in terms of benefits or whatever.
 

Super Nomario

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So are there any good / real reasons to not make this permanent?
It should be noted, it's not necessarily great for the players depending on their situation. Under the old rules, teams might decide to keep a player on the active roster rather than IR. And / or they might decide to waive him with an injury designation, perhaps giving him a better opportunity elsewhere. And some players have "split contracts" where they get paid less on IR.

The good of the new IR rules outweighs the bad considerably in my estimation, but anything that's giving teams control over more players is through some lens giving players less control. Still, I'm all for it.

EDIT: players on IR do count towards credited seasons, which helps with vesting for pension, health insurance, disability benefits, etc. So that's another cost for the team / league but that's great for the players - a guy goes on IR and maybe someone else who wouldn't have gotten a credited season will now.
 

lexrageorge

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The IR rules have been slowly relaxing over the years. Started with IR being automatically season ending. The NFL briefly adopted a rule where IR was limited to a fixed number of weeks, but apparently some small market teams complained when Dallas supposedly kept some healthy players on IR in order to use it as a taxi roster, and so IR once again became season ending.

But since that silliness, we first had IR-DTR being allowed for one player after an 8 week break; then 2 players; then as many as needed as long as the player missed 8 weeks; and now unlimited with a 3 week mandated break. I really do hope the NFL is smart enough to realize that the benefits of the current system outweigh the drawbacks, but owners are not known for having a ton of foresight if they perceive they are losing an additional 0.0001% for some reason.
 

tims4wins

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#2 in the league in points allowed - but they’re the only team to play 11 games. Bills have given up 40 fewer in 2 fewer games. Their next 4 are Indy, NO, the Pats, and TB. Entirely possible the Pats catch them during the next month.
 

Over Guapo Grande

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Is this good?
Over the last four games, the #Patriots defense has pressured opposing quarterbacks on 48.5% of their drop-backs. Matt Ryan was under pressure on 19-of-32 (59.4%) of his drop-backs last night, per @PFF.
I would be curious to see what fraction of that 48.5% was from sending pressure. It sure seems like they are getting there with 4 a lot more than any time in recent memory.
 

m0ckduck

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How has Stephon Gilmore looked (or graded out) in his first two appearances with Carolina?
 

Cotillion

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They seem to be really getting more pressure right up the gut with Barmore, Davis, Godchaux, etc... and not just against crappy o-lines. That is a recipe for great success (except against say a Mahomes, but if your edges are doing their jobs)...
 

Over Guapo Grande

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And another injured QB to the list, Matt Ryan didn't get out of the game but he was clearly limping.

By the way, not trying to say that they're dirty, but they're putting so much pressure on the opposing QBs that they're breaking.