Pats defense: Ongoing discussion

Jungleland

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I’m not a smart defense watcher, really - others here will forget more about scheming and responsibilities than I’ll ever know. So perhaps I’m way off here, but I wouldn’t have put McCourty in the same degree of done as Hightower or even close. Hightower’s inability to close was on display almost every week. McCourty had a bad game Saturday and should have caught the pick last week, but he didn’t stand out as a weak spot to me most of the season. I can buy that retaining him will cost more than his play is worth at this point, but I don’t think even the 2021 version will be easily replaced in a single offseason.
 

BigSoxFan

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I’m not a smart defense watcher, really - others here will forget more about scheming and responsibilities than I’ll ever know. So perhaps I’m way off here, but I wouldn’t have put McCourty in the same degree of done as Hightower or even close. Hightower’s inability to close was on display almost every week. McCourty had a bad game Saturday and should have caught the pick last week, but he didn’t stand out as a weak spot to me most of the season. I can buy that retaining him will cost more than his play is worth at this point, but I don’t think even the 2021 version will be easily replaced in a single offseason.
It’s pretty tough to look as done as 2021 Hightower but McCourty was missing angles pretty consistently for a good chunk of the season. His decline isn’t as pronounced as Hightower’s and I don’t think he’s hit 2002 Milloy territory yet but the end is near for him. I wouldn’t mind having Devin back. I have zero interest in ever watching Hightower on this team, which hurts because he was one of my favorites the past decade and obviously made tons of huge plays for the franchise.
 

BaseballJones

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Joejuan Williams seems like a lost cause as a CB. But the Pats will have needs at S, and I wonder if he could make the transition there. He's got great size (6'3", 212 lbs), and I wonder if he could bulk up to 220 and be a Kam Chancellor type (6'3", 225 lbs). A guy who can cover backs and TEs, and could play run support, but isn't suited to cover WRs.

It's not like we have never seen CBs make a transition into effective safeties.

Or is JJW just a lost cause...period?
 

bunchabums

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Winovich seems like the lost cause... or just a ST guy at this point (although the casual eye didn't notice much in this area, either). Outside of the JAX blowout game, he hasn't gotten more than 7 plays on defense since October and in many of those games he had no snaps at all. The result of the limited action was 0 sacks and 1 QB hit.

That's not exactly what you hope for whose purported skill is getting to the QB.
 

Captaincoop

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Winovich seems like the lost cause... or just a ST guy at this point (although the casual eye didn't notice much in this area, either). Outside of the JAX blowout game, he hasn't gotten more than 7 plays on defense since October and in many of those games he had no snaps at all. The result of the limited action was 0 sacks and 1 QB hit.

That's not exactly what you hope for whose purported skill is getting to the QB.
They should have traded him once it was clear coming out of preseason that he wasn't a piece of the puzzle. Maybe there was no market.
 

Rico Guapo

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Joejuan Williams seems like a lost cause as a CB. But the Pats will have needs at S, and I wonder if he could make the transition there. He's got great size (6'3", 212 lbs), and I wonder if he could bulk up to 220 and be a Kam Chancellor type (6'3", 225 lbs). A guy who can cover backs and TEs, and could play run support, but isn't suited to cover WRs.

It's not like we have never seen CBs make a transition into effective safeties.

Or is JJW just a lost cause...period?
To me JJW doesn't read plays well and is slow to react when he does recognize whats happening so despite his good timed speed he plays slow and would be a terrible fit at S.
 

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I'm curious about Van Noy. I like him, I always have. Heck, his is the jersey I bought this year. But...he definitely faded along with the rest of them the last few weeks. I don't think quite as egregiously bad as Hightower, but his salary goes up quite a bit next year (his cap hit goes from 4.4 to 7.5 million). They'd free up about 5 million if they let him go. Gotta think he is more than 50/50 to go.
 

Harry Hooper

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They should have traded him once it was clear coming out of preseason that he wasn't a piece of the puzzle. Maybe there was no market.
The non-trades of Gilmore (previous season) and Winovich (this season) were both misses.
 
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My position on Wino from the preseason remains unchanged: I'm doubtful that the value they could have received in a trade was worth more than his value on the roster playing special teams and the depth he provided for injury insurance.
 

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My position on Wino from the preseason remains unchanged: I'm doubtful that the value they could have received in a trade was worth more than his value on the roster playing special teams and the depth he provided for injury insurance.
I think Wino contributes a decent amount on STs. Maybe he can replace Brandon King's spot on the roster, with a bit more upside for regular defense.
 

Super Nomario

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I'm curious about Van Noy. I like him, I always have. Heck, his is the jersey I bought this year. But...he definitely faded along with the rest of them the last few weeks. I don't think quite as egregiously bad as Hightower, but his salary goes up quite a bit next year (his cap hit goes from 4.4 to 7.5 million). They'd free up about 5 million if they let him go. Gotta think he is more than 50/50 to go.
They save money, but that's a lot of snaps to replace. That's the issue with almost all their easy paths to cap savings.
 

bsj

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They save money, but that's a lot of snaps to replace. That's the issue with almost all their easy paths to cap savings.
I get ya. I think Hightower and DMac's dropoffs were significant enough that it is worth it, but Van Noy have have just enough left in the tank to keep him around.
 

Shelterdog

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Having younger ST players who have even a hint of a chance to develop into regulars...that would be refreshing.
This is my hobby horse but it really is the case in today's league that most teams now do what the Pats used to do and have 3, 4, sometimes even 5 guys, often older, who play almost exclusively on special teams. It's obviously not a negative if a fourth round pick at safety or whatever plays a ton of teams before earning defensive time (or a late round picks earns a spot on a team and grows into something more) but it's far from the norm.
 

Harry Hooper

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Bedard's latest on the defense:

I've asked around One Patriot Place since the loss and, before we get into video breakdowns, unit grades and zero up/seven downs, this is what I've learned:

There was a disconnect between the coaches and players. I don't have specifics and I doubt there was one seminal moment. At some point, the defense did not believe in the plan or the coaching, and that was reflected on the field. The final five games were littered with undisciplined play that showed some players just doing what they wanted. They stopped just doing their job. The film shows this. It was clear to anyone who wanted to be honest.
...
From what I've been told, the players and even the position coaches didn't know who to follow on defense. There was no unifying strong voice on that side at the end of the season. That must be addressed by Bill Belichick in the offseason. Should have been addressed earlier. In 2019, there were the same issues. But that felt like a one-off. This is no longer that.
 

Bowhemian

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That stuff tends to happen when you have no clear defense coordinator. The “defacto” coordinator stuff needs to be fixed.
 

Ralphwiggum

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I have no idea who this person is and no reason to question her credibility, but I don’t understand, without a name and receipts, the purpose of the Tweet (other than the fact that barstool ran with it) or posting this here. An unnamed Pats player was being overly persistent trying to persuade a porn star to meet him. This may or may not be a bad look depending on what was actually said, whether said player was married or not, and other variables, but based on this Tweet alone who cares?
 

Shelterdog

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That stuff tends to happen when you have no clear defense coordinator. The “defacto” coordinator stuff needs to be fixed.
Im not a hundred percent sure this stuff is happening. Bedard says this stuff and I’m sure some random area scout or whatever agrees with Bedard but honestly I didn’t see a confused defense, I saw a shitty
Old injured one.
 

BigSoxFan

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Im not a hundred percent sure this stuff is happening. Bedard says this stuff and I’m sure some random area scout or whatever agrees with Bedard but honestly I didn’t see a confused defense, I saw a shitty
Old injured one.
Yeah. Watch the Pats and then watch teams this weekend. The speed difference is jarring. We’re slow and unathletic outside of a few exceptions.
 

k-factory

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I have no idea who this person is and no reason to question her credibility, but I don’t understand, without a name and receipts, the purpose of the Tweet (other than the fact that barstool ran with it) or posting this here. An unnamed Pats player was being overly persistent trying to persuade a porn star to meet him. This may or may not be a bad look depending on what was actually said, whether said player was married or not, and other variables, but based on this Tweet alone who cares?
Doesn’t really matter who it is. The purpose is to show the D has lost all their street cred which is an unusual place to be for the Pats.
 

Ralphwiggum

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Doesn’t really matter who it is. The purpose is to show the D has lost all their street cred which is an unusual place to be for the Pats.
Maybe I'm just old but I don't get this. If she's just making an easy joke at the expense of the Pats (which seems likely) then who gives a shit? Have we cared about the Pats street cred as measured by the number of times they’ve been the subject of a joke tweet by a barely famous person before this?
 

Shelterdog

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Yeah. Watch the Pats and then watch teams this weekend. The speed difference is jarring. We’re slow and unathletic outside of a few exceptions.
When folks say a team looks slow it usually reflects on the linebackers and that’s true here-the Pats secondary is reasonably fast but a clearly injured Hightower, a likely injured Judson, Bentley and Van Noy is a very slow unit
 

lexrageorge

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I have to imagine that a defensive player getting beat consistently could easily lead to missed assignments and more freelancing as players start pressing to try to make a play. And that only exacerbates matters when the defense is old and slow to begin with (as shelterdog noted, applies mostly to the LB's).

There could very well be jealous scouts or lower-level assistants that have it out for Steve Belichick and would therefore have no issue with anonymously dunking on him to Bedard. If assignment communication was such a problem, why did it only show up at the end of the season? Did the defensive coaches stop doing what was working for the hell of it? Or did the grind of the regular season catch up to the older players, much like it did to the 2009 squad, and often does to other teams with older players? We know that Collins has faded badly down the stretch in 2019, as just one example.
 

Mystic Merlin

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‘I don’t have specifics’ is a tough look if you wanna report on a ‘disconnect’ between players and coaches. It would shock no one if it was true, but if you report on the team you should probably have more to offer than what we could potentially glean through mere inference. It also doesn’t explain, if we accept that theory as true, why things went off the rails after the bye.

It’s weird he doesn’t state the conclusion he is begging, too.
 

k-factory

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Maybe I'm just old but I don't get this. If she's just making an easy joke at the expense of the Pats (which seems likely) then who gives a shit? Have we cared about the Pats street cred as measured by the number of times they’ve been the subject of a joke tweet by a barely famous person before this?
No need to overthink it. It’s just trolling the embarrassing loss with the sexual sideshow NFL underbelly trope. Classic click bait.
 

rodderick

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I have to imagine that a defensive player getting beat consistently could easily lead to missed assignments and more freelancing as players start pressing to try to make a play. And that only exacerbates matters when the defense is old and slow to begin with (as shelterdog noted, applies mostly to the LB's).

There could very well be jealous scouts or lower-level assistants that have it out for Steve Belichick and would therefore have no issue with anonymously dunking on him to Bedard. If assignment communication was such a problem, why did it only show up at the end of the season? Did the defensive coaches stop doing what was working for the hell of it? Or did the grind of the regular season catch up to the older players, much like it did to the 2009 squad, and often does to other teams with older players? We know that Collins has faded badly down the stretch in 2019, as just one example.
This was Slater after the regular season loss to the Bills. I can't interpret this any other way than there being a disconnect between players and coaches.IMG_20220120_065140.jpg
 

Eddie Jurak

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Im not a hundred percent sure this stuff is happening. Bedard says this stuff and I’m sure some random area scout or whatever agrees with Bedard but honestly I didn’t see a confused defense, I saw a shitty
Old injured one.
The reason to not believe it is sort of the same as the reason to believe it. The team was 9-4 with the one seed and then tanked. Hard to believe the players would check out on the team, the coaches, and themselves starting from there. Then again, hard to believe the terrible post-bye play would happen for any reason, yet it did.
 

Bowhemian

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Im not a hundred percent sure this stuff is happening. Bedard says this stuff and I’m sure some random area scout or whatever agrees with Bedard but honestly I didn’t see a confused defense, I saw a shitty
Old injured one.
A. Why can't it be both?
B. There were a lot of times, particularly late in the season, that it looked like the D just couldn't get themselves lined up right. There was a lot of last second moving around-and it didn't look like the intentional moving around to try to mess with the offense. It looked to me like the can't get our shit together moving around.
 

lexrageorge

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This was Slater after the regular season loss to the Bills. I can't interpret this any other way than there being a disconnect between players and coaches.
After sleeping on it, I will not completely dismiss the idea that there was something going on behind the scenes. Belichick was exceptionally frustrated in his presser after the Colts loss, far more than usual. He even later apologized for his comments from that evening, explicitly admitting frustration as the root cause. So, it would not surprise if the person who has been coaching professional football at an exceptionally high level longer than many of us have been alive did see something that went beyond a bad day on the gridiron.

We did see similar frustrations boil over with the 2009 team, caught on film.

I'm just pushing back on Bedard's thesis that such issues, assuming they did exist, are the root cause. The reality is that the defense looked slow, and that several players that the Pats counted on were well past their prime. There is a serious talent issue on the defensive roster, and hiring a new defensive coordinator will not change that. And I believe both Belichick the GM and Belichick the coach know that as well.
 

Shelterdog

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The reason to not believe it is sort of the same as the reason to believe it. The team was 9-4 with the one seed and then tanked. Hard to believe the players would check out on the team, the coaches, and themselves starting from there. Then again, hard to believe the terrible post-bye play would happen for any reason, yet it did.
Injuries were definitely a big part of the prblem--key players got hurt late. Judon's snap counts and play declined a lot after the first Buffalo game and I think something physical happened to him there, Hightower clearly had issues with his knee at the end of the season missing most of Jacksonville and all of Miami and being even slower than normal, Dugger had his hand injury near the end of the season and missed Miami and had the club on for the playoff game, and Mills may be hated by all of us but he'd played essentialy full time until missing the bills game. Oh and Barmore got carted off in Miami and didn't flash (in my eyes) against Buffalo. (Phillips didn't miss time but had some knee issues as well late in the season).


A. Why can't it be both?
B. There were a lot of times, particularly late in the season, that it looked like the D just couldn't get themselves lined up right. There was a lot of last second moving around-and it didn't look like the intentional moving around to try to mess with the offense. It looked to me like the can't get our shit together moving around.
It can be both and Bedard could be right. There were times the defense had problems adjusting but I certainly didn't see the degree of chaos Bedard is talking about and his speculation and ultra vague reporting isn't enough for me to think there's a problem. Also some of the adjustment issues. could also relate to shifting playing time etc because of injuries.

Based on the slate quote, some of the comments about bad practice, some of BB's frustration it's pretty clear that there were some internal issues on the team. I just haven't seen anything that makes me thing the Bedard hypothesis--essentially that the Pats played like garbage because there was confusion about whether Mayo or Steve was the defensive coordinator and by the way Steve is in over his head--a particularly compelling one. As an outsider I don't love seeing Steve B in a leading role but nepotism is a thing in the NFL and as outsiders we don't know whether Steve B is actually good at his job aor not.

EDIT: TLDR: The defense sucked at the end of season and injuries was a big part. Maybe there was a leadership schism but Bedard is a troll and I'm not going to assume he's even partially right without hearing more info.
 
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Shelterdog

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Changing topics--turns out that I forgot about Rae. Raekwon McMIllan was allegedly having a pretty decent pre season before he busted his ACL, and right after he got hurt they signed him for a one million dollar one year extension. Honestly is it too much to hope that he could be a pretty decent Bentley replacement
 

Super Nomario

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Changing topics--turns out that I forgot about Rae. Raekwon McMIllan was allegedly having a pretty decent pre season before he busted his ACL, and right after he got hurt they signed him for a one million dollar one year extension. Honestly is it too much to hope that he could be a pretty decent Bentley replacement
McMillan actually got hurt before we got to see him in preseason, so all we have to go on is camp reports. I don't think we'd want to pencil him in for as many snaps as Bentley's role; maybe he works his way up to more playing time, but ideally he's a LB3/4 to start the year.
 

Shelterdog

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McMillan actually got hurt before we got to see him in preseason, so all we have to go on is camp reports. I don't think we'd want to pencil him in for as many snaps as Bentley's role; maybe he works his way up to more playing time, but ideally he's a LB3/4 to start the year.
Right--should have been more specific, I never saw him play but it sounded like he was getting a reasonable amount of runs with the "top" unit in the two weeks or so of camp before he got hurt which is a decent sign. HOpefully he can be a first down MLB/ILB to start and grow from there.

I'm just looking for rays of hope at LB but honestly I don't think we've seen enough from any of Jennings, Winovich, or Uche to be particularly comfortable that they will be trusted to play a bunch of snaps and also be, well, good. There's some precedent (Ninkovich, Van Noy, going way back Banta Cain) for LBs to not begin playing well until they'd been in the system a year or two and in same cases in the league even longer but with the exception of Uche I have virtually no optimism--and Uche is a man without a home until he gets better at the off the ball stuff because BB will have a stroke if he has to see a guy Uche's size got run over too many times while trying to hold the edge.
 

DJnVa

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Wait, so the defense, which was playing great, comes out of the bye week and suddenly didn't know who to follow? I don't get that,
 

BaseballJones

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Wait, so the defense, which was playing great, comes out of the bye week and suddenly didn't know who to follow? I don't get that,
I don't get that either. In the five games leading up to the break:

6 points, 240 yds, 3 turnovers vs Carolina
7 points, 217 yds, 1 turnover vs Cleveland
0 points, 165 yds, 4 turnovers vs Atlanta
13 points, 355 yds, 4 turnovers vs Tennessee
10 points, 230 yds, 1 turnover vs Buffalo

AVG: 7.2 points, 241.4 yds, 2.6 turnovers a game

I know that Ten was playing without their best WRs, but that's a hell of a five game run. Obviously they had figured SOMETHING out. Then they go on the bye and suddenly they have no idea what they're doing, and aren't on the same page at all? That makes no sense.

Though clearly there has to be SOME explanation.
 

tims4wins

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I don't get that either. In the five games leading up to the break:

6 points, 240 yds, 3 turnovers vs Carolina
7 points, 217 yds, 1 turnover vs Cleveland
0 points, 165 yds, 4 turnovers vs Atlanta
13 points, 355 yds, 4 turnovers vs Tennessee
10 points, 230 yds, 1 turnover vs Buffalo

AVG: 7.2 points, 241.4 yds, 2.6 turnovers a game

I know that Ten was playing without their best WRs, but that's a hell of a five game run. Obviously they had figured SOMETHING out. Then they go on the bye and suddenly they have no idea what they're doing, and aren't on the same page at all? That makes no sense.

Though clearly there has to be SOME explanation.
Plus in the Indy game they played pretty well overall until the fateful Taylor run. Only 208 yards allowed to that point including 28 carries for 103 yards (3.67 per carry) for Taylor. The Colts had 14 first downs to that point. The D played well in totality that game at least prior to the last TD.
 

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Defensive performance year to year varies and it most definitely happens during seasons. After watching the 2020 Dallas and Titans' defenses who would have predicted how much better they would be in 2021? The Chiefs' defense was horrendous to start the year, now they are more than competent.

This defense was solid and then disintegrated. Buffalo destroyed them and the Dolphins who legitimately have a bottom 5 offensive line pushed them all over the field. I think this was a perfect marriage of poor coaching, COVID, injuries, lack of speed, and getting old. The CB depth was bottom of the barrel at the end of the year, and the pass rush besides Barmore was anemic. They have good pieces under contract in Barmore, Dugger, Phillips, Mills, Jones, Van Noy, and Judon. This is the third year in a row when the defense was weaker at the end of the season than at the start. The old guys have to go.
 

tims4wins

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Defensive performance year to year varies and it most definitely happens during seasons. After watching the 2020 Dallas and Titans' defenses who would have predicted how much better they would be in 2021? The Chiefs' defense was horrendous to start the year, now they are more than competent.

This defense was solid and then disintegrated. Buffalo destroyed them and the Dolphins who legitimately have a bottom 5 offensive line pushed them all over the field. I think this was a perfect marriage of poor coaching, COVID, injuries, lack of speed, and getting old. The CB depth was bottom of the barrel at the end of the year, and the pass rush besides Barmore was anemic. They have good pieces under contract in Barmore, Dugger, Phillips, Mills, Jones, Van Noy, and Judon. This is the third year in a row when the defense was weaker at the end of the season than at the start. The old guys have to go.
While I think KVN has some productive football left, he is much closer to the end than the beginning and may be more of a liability than an asset going forward. He’s been part of the collapse in 2019 and 2021.
 

BaseballJones

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NE when allowing 25+ points: 0-6 (including playoffs)
NE when allowing 0-24 points: 10-2

NE when scoring 25+ points: 8-1
NE when scoring 0-25 points: 2-7

Obviously most teams' records are going to be skewed in a similar manner.
 

Cellar-Door

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NE when allowing 25+ points: 0-6 (including playoffs)
NE when allowing 0-24 points: 10-2

NE when scoring 25+ points: 8-1
NE when scoring 0-25 points: 2-7

Obviously most teams' records are going to be skewed in a similar manner.
Not a single win when allowing 25+ points is rough, 14 teams averaged 25+ per game
 

Shelterdog

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While I think KVN has some productive football left, he is much closer to the end than the beginning and may be more of a liability than an asset going forward. He’s been part of the collapse in 2019 and 2021.
Man looking at next year's roster you kind of see what a predicament they're in when it comes to making the team faster/younger/better at linebacker.

Last year Van Noy was on the line for about 480 snaps and off it for about 340. Looking at likely free agent losses you're losing about 700 defensive snaps with Bentley (virtually all as an off the line linebacker) the same with hightower (200 on the DL alost 500 off the ball), 300 with Collins (130 on the line 180 off the ball). [Judon played 800 or so snaps as a LB but essentially all on the line/as an edge]. I wouldn't mind reducing Van Noy's role especially off the line but that means you have to find ball park 1600-1800 snaps of off the line backer.

Where do you get that? I thought that BB was going to try and get Uche and Winovich on the Bruschi/Vrabel plan and have them play more off the line as they developed but he's shown basically no willingness to do so; both have played almost exclusively on the line. Raekwon can maybe handle some snaps especially as an early down thumper but he's coming off of an ACL. Jennings actually played more as a rookie than I thought he had split pretty evenly on the line/off the line (130 each), so maybe he can help? But in an ideal world he's a poor man's hightower, big strong long armed but zipping around the field or anything. McGrone would be a fit although who knows if he can play. Tavai played a little and has impressed me not at all. So finding 1600-1800 of high quality off the line linebacker snaps from Uche/Winovich/McGrone/McMillian/Jennings/Van Noy/Tavaiis going to be a challenge. [They also already play Dugger and Phillips at LB a bunch so that's not a solution either]. Hard to find a good quick cheap off the line backer with some size and cap space might be tight. Maybe you draft someone like Christian Harris from Bama in the second and count on him for 800 snaps? You could also resign Bentley to a deal that's team friendly in year one, but that's not solving the speed problem at all.

[The on the line numbers aren't as hard to fill--Van Noy had 480 snaps, hightower and Collins combine for 330, Uche and Winovich another 300, so some combination of Van Noy, Uche, Winovich, and Jennings should be able to cover that--but that's not a group giving you confidence that you're going to get a very good 1100 snaps].

So in short, yuck.

EDIT: This analysis no longer applies if they listen to @SMU_Sox and draft darrian beavers who seems like a perfect fit.
 
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