Pats defense: Ongoing discussion

Rico Guapo

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I like KVN the person, and he played lots of good football for the Patriots, but father time is still undefeated and he clearly lost a few steps. Wish him well wherever he winds up next be it in or out of football.
 

snowmanny

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I like KVN the person, and he played lots of good football for the Patriots, but Father Time is still undefeated and he clearly lost a few steps. Wish him well wherever he winds up next be it in or out of football.
59,000-1 actually.
 

Over Guapo Grande

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Reese speculated this weekend that Bailey could be extended to lower the cap hit.
It wouldn't be surprising to learn the sides are exploring the possibility of an extension, something that wouldn't have been as time-sensitive had Bailey not earned the proven performance bonus.
 

ShaneTrot

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When the defense was playing really well in the middle of the season, KVN was making plays all over the place. I will miss him. He was really steady and reliable.
 

Shelterdog

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The cost and uncertainty associated with replacing those guys may not be worth it.
I think the biggest gap between how NFL teams behave and how many fans think NFL teams should behave behave is with average to below average players who make in that 1-5 million a year range. Come cap season fans in essence say cut every mediocre DT, sixth and seven lineman, special teams gunner, long snapper, third tight end and dime back --but teams essentially never follow that model. I kind of take it on faith that just because I can't tell how much better Ted Karras and Brandon King are than sixth round rookies there is a big difference and more or less every team sees it that way in general even though they can certainly differ on particular players.

The tl;dr--good chance that a cheap Guy replacement gets run over and a cheap Bailey replacement shanks a few so I agree with MM.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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So the off ball LB depth chart right now is basically Jahlani Tavai, Anfernee Jennings, Raekwon McMillan, and Cam McGrone? I'm glad we're rebuilding the position but damn.

Add that to the situation in the secondary and there is a lot of work to be done on this defense.
 

Super Nomario

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I'm surprised. The D was very good last year (last two Buffalo games notwithstanding) but is down 5 of the top 9 in snaps played last year: DMac (1st), JCJ (2nd), KVN (6th), Bentley (8th), and Hightower (9th).
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Big picture, it kind of looks like this team is building toward 2023-24 as a true window to possibly contend.

Given the salary cap constraints for 2022 and the fact that drafted players are unlikely to be huge contributors as rookies, its hard to see this team - especially the defense - being much better in 2022 than they were in 2021. But things open up a lot salary cap wise in 2023 and if we have another good draft in 2022 that's when its going to really start paying off.
 

BaseballJones

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Ok so with Wagner now available, would he be worth signing? He's 32 but here's his last three years' stats:

2019: 159 tackles, 86 solo, 72 targets, 58 comp, 80.6%, 9.1 yds/tgt, 108.2 rating, 6 passes defended
2020: 138 tackles, 81 solo, 81 targets, 52 comp, 64.2%, 6.0 yds/tgt, 88.9 rating, 8 passes defended
2021: 170 tackles, 93 solo, 87 targets, 71 comp, 80.6%, 6.8 yds/tgt, 97.9 rating, 5 passes defended

The guy can still play at a very high level. For how long, though? Who knows. His pay the last three seasons:

2019: $16.5m
2020: $19.0m
2021: $13.4m

Van Noy, who just got released by NE, made $7m last year. Let's say that the Pats could get Wagner for 3 years at an average of $10m per season. For a guy of his production, that's cheap. For a guy his age, that's not so cheap. So combine his production and his age, maybe that's just about the right contract for him.

It would be an increase of $3 million to go from Van Noy's $7m to Wagner's $10m. But the quality of the player is MUCH higher. Now, Hightower made $8.6m last year. So...

Van Noy + Hightower = $15.6m

You could sign Wagner plus a decent vet for probably less money than what Van Noy and Hightower made last year. The vet becomes useful or fungible, and Wagner anchors the LB corps while they get the young'uns up to speed. Surround the all pro Wagner with younger, faster guys and it could be a pretty nice LB group.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Big picture, it kind of looks like this team is building toward 2023-24 as a true window to possibly contend.

Given the salary cap constraints for 2022 and the fact that drafted players are unlikely to be huge contributors as rookies, its hard to see this team - especially the defense - being much better in 2022 than they were in 2021. But things open up a lot salary cap wise in 2023 and if we have another good draft in 2022 that's when its going to really start paying off.
But if they don’t draft well….and then Mac gets expensive shortly thereafter. We were spoiled to not have to deal with this for the past two decades, but this is the life of a middle of the pack nfl team.
 

BigSoxFan

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Ok so with Wagner now available, would he be worth signing? He's 32 but here's his last three years' stats:

2019: 159 tackles, 86 solo, 72 targets, 58 comp, 80.6%, 9.1 yds/tgt, 108.2 rating, 6 passes defended
2020: 138 tackles, 81 solo, 81 targets, 52 comp, 64.2%, 6.0 yds/tgt, 88.9 rating, 8 passes defended
2021: 170 tackles, 93 solo, 87 targets, 71 comp, 80.6%, 6.8 yds/tgt, 97.9 rating, 5 passes defended

The guy can still play at a very high level. For how long, though? Who knows. His pay the last three seasons:

2019: $16.5m
2020: $19.0m
2021: $13.4m

Van Noy, who just got released by NE, made $7m last year. Let's say that the Pats could get Wagner for 3 years at an average of $10m per season. For a guy of his production, that's cheap. For a guy his age, that's not so cheap. So combine his production and his age, maybe that's just about the right contract for him.

It would be an increase of $3 million to go from Van Noy's $7m to Wagner's $10m. But the quality of the player is MUCH higher. Now, Hightower made $8.6m last year. So...

Van Noy + Hightower = $15.6m

You could sign Wagner plus a decent vet for probably less money than what Van Noy and Hightower made last year. The vet becomes useful or fungible, and Wagner anchors the LB corps while they get the young'uns up to speed. Surround the all pro Wagner with younger, faster guys and it could be a pretty nice LB group.
Pats don't have a lot of cap space so I think Wagner is highly unlikely but I would absolutely take him on a short 2-3 year deal. Depends on what he wants though. Plenty of other teams offer better chance at a ring. If he wants cash, Pats would easily get outbid.
 

ehaz

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Obviously Wagner is still a really good player, but is he a BB scheme fit?
 

Cellar-Door

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Obviously Wagner is still a really good player, but is he a BB scheme fit?
Well it depends what you mean... and also what Bill wants to do, which isn't clear.

Skill wise... sure, he's one of the best all-around ILB of the last 10 years.

Body type... not as clear. He's 1-3 inches shorter and 5-20 lbs ligther (mostly 10-15) than most of the guys we usually use.

However... he's the same size as Roberts who started 33 games over 4 years here, he's the same size as McGrone who Bill drafted last year. Same size as James Harrison who we brought in.

So I'd say he's in the mold of guys Bill is willing to play, if not the exact physical prototype he prefers. On the other hand, it's not clear if Bill is going to shift to smaller LBs (I doubt he every goes truly "small" in the 225-232 range, but 240... maybe) to increase speed and coverage skills.
 

SMU_Sox

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Right now a lot of the assumptions I have are that their defense is schematically going to be similar to last year, 2020, and 2019. If they go more zone on the back end or free agency brings some slight or major philosophical changes that would change a lot of the guys I think are prototypes vs ruling out in the draft.
I’m skeptical that they make major shifts but you never know. The good news is there are 5-6 ILBs in the draft who are all around 240 and tested off the charts. You won’t have an athleticism problem with those big guys. There are also multiple edges and NTs that would eat in their system. It’s a good defensive (and offensive to a lesser degree) draft class for them. More guys than usual who fit their profile vs the last 3-4-5 years since I’ve been tracking it.
 

leftfieldlegacy

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Right now a lot of the assumptions I have are that their defense is schematically going to be similar to last year, 2020, and 2019. If they go more zone on the back end or free agency brings some slight or major philosophical changes that would change a lot of the guys I think are prototypes vs ruling out in the draft.
I’m skeptical that they make major shifts but you never know. The good news is there are 5-6 ILBs in the draft who are all around 240 and tested off the charts. You won’t have an athleticism problem with those big guys. There are also multiple edges and NTs that would eat in their system. It’s a good defensive (and offensive to a lesser degree) draft class for them. More guys than usual who fit their profile vs the last 3-4-5 years since I’ve been tracking it.
Do you think this creates a situation where BB would be inclined to trade down for additional picks?
 

SMU_Sox

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Do you think this creates a situation where BB would be inclined to trade down for additional picks?
That probably depends on who is available at 21. It’s also way too early for speculation not just because it’s hard to say who is available at 21 (that’s somewhat clear right now) but also because we don’t know what their needs are. About a week or so before the draft (or two) we might get wind of some of the guys they covet. We also need to see free agency for how big some of their holes or positions that could use some love are. Right now though my thinking is if you can get either a trade back for an early 2nd and a 3rd that’s the operative move. There are so many potential upgrades. I could see a draft where they take FS (Hill/Pitre/Cine), ILB (Chenal, Beavers, Clark, Muma, Walker), NT (Travis Jones), and maybe X (Christian Watson/Alec Pierce) but you’d need 4 day 2 picks for that haul.
 

SMU_Sox

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New in town?
Seems like it every year around this time I’m just a tourist. Seriously though we have a week or two and we will know what direction they are heading in. Hope JCJ enjoys all the money he’s going to haul in.
 

leftfieldlegacy

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That probably depends on who is available at 21. It’s also way too early for speculation not just because it’s hard to say who is available at 21 (that’s somewhat clear right now) but also because we don’t know what their needs are. About a week or so before the draft (or two) we might get wind of some of the guys they covet. We also need to see free agency for how big some of their holes or positions that could use some love are. Right now though my thinking is if you can get either a trade back for an early 2nd and a 3rd that’s the operative move. There are so many potential upgrades. I could see a draft where they take FS (Hill/Pitre/Cine), ILB (Chenal, Beavers, Clark, Muma, Walker), NT (Travis Jones), and maybe X (Christian Watson/Alec Pierce) but you’d need 4 day 2 picks for that haul.
Great information. Thanks.
 

ZMart100

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I feel like I read somewhere, probably here on SOSH, but possibly TheAthletic or BSJ, that the voidable years could conceivably lower his cap hit under $5M.
The additional cap hit could easily be under $5m. But an extremist approach could only get below 6. He carries 2.1m for this year, ~1.2m needs to be salary so 7.8m could be bonus, which would be 2.6m in bonus this year. 2.6m + 2.1m + 1.2m = 5.9m. I doubt they would structure it that way. I wrote in January what I think is more likely.

The structure I proposed- 1 year, $9m with 3m bonus, 3 m guaranteed, and 3m in nonguaranteed/LTBE bonuses would pay him the same cash he earned last year. It would keep his cap hit at $6m this year if cut/retires after Jun 1, so there would be no harm there. It would also increase the cap this year by $3m, but make the remaining 2 void years $3m each so the Pats would be in the same situation with a $6m void hit next offseason- though apparently they can live with a $6m void hit for McCourty. Back to back 6m hits in the case of cut/retirement would be pretty painful though.
 

Saints Rest

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The additional cap hit could easily be under $5m. But an extremist approach could only get below 6. He carries 2.1m for this year, ~1.2m needs to be salary so 7.8m could be bonus, which would be 2.6m in bonus this year. 2.6m + 2.1m + 1.2m = 5.9m. I doubt they would structure it that way. I wrote in January what I think is more likely.
Thanks. I should have known I read it here!
 

BaseballJones

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Mack's starts have gone down each year.

2019: 16 games, 14 starts
2020: 13 games, 8 starts
2021: 14 games, 6 starts

Of course, Wino wasn't playing much either. Seems like dealing reserve type players, but the Pats get one at more of a position of need - LB, instead of edge rusher.
 

Saints Rest

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Some more info on Mack Brown:
Alabama grad
As with other LBs on roster, he’s on the smaller side 6-1, 233.
Was on trading block last year at end of preseason, due to being blocked at Will LB.
Did not play much ST for CLE (unlike Wino).
Not considered a cover guy, more of a run stopper.
 

DJnVa

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Did not play much ST for CLE (unlike Wino).
Eh? He played more ST snaps than Wino and he led the Browns in ST tackles.

He was also the Browns emergency punter and long snapper.


Not considered a cover guy, more of a run stopper.




I think your google may be broken. Definitely on the ST things, but the coverage thing---source?
 
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Super Nomario

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Mack's starts have gone down each year.

2019: 16 games, 14 starts
2020: 13 games, 8 starts
2021: 14 games, 6 starts

Of course, Wino wasn't playing much either. Seems like dealing reserve type players, but the Pats get one at more of a position of need - LB, instead of edge rusher.
Snaps down each year for Wilson, too. They have about 7 guys at LB now who are interesting for a variety of reasons: Wilson, McGrone, McMillan, Tavai, Langi, Uche, Jennings, but no one you can really count on for 600 snaps.
 

Cellar-Door

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Worth noting, his coverage grades were absolute garbage every other year, so that could just be a case of a smaller sample size. He defender 8 whole targets last year vs 97 his first 2 years.
He was supposed to be a cover capable guy coming out of Alabama (though his speed was poor, and lateral agility was a question mark), but he did not cover well at the NFL level when he was playing consistently
 

Saints Rest

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I'm not offended. Here was my source, si.com

Pertinent quotes from the article:
The potential issue for Wilson is that he plays weak side linebacker and the Browns have both Malcolm Smith, who was good for the Browns last year and second round pick Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who may have more of a niche role initially, but one that will likely keep growing.
Wilson is more physical than either right now, which may be his appeal to the Browns at this point, but they offer more range and athleticism in coverage.
The other problem for Wilson with the Browns is that he does not contribute on special teams. That's not to say he can't, but he simply hasn't. He only appeared on three special teams snaps in 2020 and at least in preseason games, he has not been on special teams this year.
 

SMU_Sox

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Phil Perry’s pod: someone in the building told him they want to trade size for athleticism at ILB. They don’t want to lose too much power and still want guys willing to attack guards downhill but they are willing to trade 250-260 pound ILBs for guys who are in the 230’s+ or so if they have that plus power and speed. “There is willingness to bend”.

What else would that mean for the rest of the defense? My immediate thoughts are more cover-3 instead of single high man is a possibility with Mills, JJW, and DMC. Dionte Lee, his guest, also thinks they will play more cover-3 and zone, still run a 3-4 but not the okie front, and play in big nickel all the time. They will be lining up over guards with their DTs in the new front to protect the smaller ILBs. This means less simulated pressure and more of a reliance on a pure pass rush. That heightens the importance of edge. It also makes some sense (and they didn't bring this up on the pod) that KVN, not a pure edge rusher might not fit well if they want to move that way. Uche might have a chance at a second life in a more pin-back-the-ears scheme. You can still have stunts and twists but less of the who is rushing vs who isn't in the new front. This combines zone defenses and still preserves single high looks as your base defense with cover-3. Speaking of cover 3 JJW might also have some life in a cover 3 scheme. Shaun Wade is also someone who would probably be best if he is an outside corner in a cover 3 scheme.

Phil goes onto say that it's possible that they are going to be open to either possibility but if they can get bigger guys who are also athletic they could go that way anyway and it's a moot point.

They still want size in their DTs.

If they had to run a defense with the roster they have right now they could run the above. This might not happen but I can see it making sense right now.

This could be smoke but I trust Phil - something might be brewing.

Quick edit: Phil isn’t sold on Uche’s role in the pros posed new defense. He might be too small.
 
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Super Nomario

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Phil Perry’s pod: someone in the building told him they want to trade size for athleticism at ILB. They don’t want to lose too much power and still want guys willing to attack guards downhill but they are willing to trade 250-260 pound ILBs for guys who are in the 230’s+ or so if they have that plus power and speed. “There is willingness to bend”.

What else would that mean for the rest of the defense? My immediate thoughts are more cover-3 instead of single high man is a possibility with Mills, JJW, and DMC. Dionte Lee, his guest, also thinks they will play more cover-3 and zone, still run a 3-4 but not the okie front, and play in big nickel all the time. They will be lining up over guards with their DTs in the new front to protect the smaller ILBs. This means less simulated pressure and more of a reliance on a pure pass rush. That heightens the importance of edge. It also makes some sense (and they didn't bring this up on the pod) that KVN, not a pure edge rusher might not fit well if they want to move that way. Uche might have a chance at a second life in a more pin-back-the-ears scheme. You can still have stunts and twists but less of the who is rushing vs who isn't in the new front. This combines zone defenses and still preserves single high looks as your base defense with cover-3. Speaking of cover 3 JJW might also have some life in a cover 3 scheme. Shaun Wade is also someone who would probably be best if he is an outside corner in a cover 3 scheme.

Phil goes onto say that it's possible that they are going to be open to either possibility but if they can get bigger guys who are also athletic they could go that way anyway and it's a moot point.

They still want size in their DTs.

If they had to run a defense with the roster they have right now they could run the above. This might not happen but I can see it making sense right now.

This could be smoke but I trust Phil - something might be brewing.

Quick edit: Phil isn’t sold on Uche’s role in the pros posed new defense. He might be too small.
They could run this D right now, but it would probably be bad as present constituted. Some of the LB are somewhat smaller and somewhat more athletic, but it's a suspect / unproven group. They haven't really replaced KVN at this point and the young guys who would be candidates to do so (Uche, Perkins, Jennings, Tavai, Langi) are similarly suspect / unproven. It goes without saying the secondary is a lot worse minus JCJ.

Whatever direction they go, there are a lot of moves left to turn this into a viable defense.
 

BaseballJones

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So gone are JC Jackson, Van Noy, Collins, among others.

But they've brought in Mack Wilson, Jabrill Peppers, and Malcolm Butler. Also, I think we can think of McGrone and Perkins as having essentially redshirted last year, so consider them to be talented rookies with a little experience that they're adding.

I hope they go defense, defense, defense all day long today. Take as many swings as you can with the highest upside guys possible and hope a couple of them pan out. Right now the starting defense looks like this:

DE Wise
DT Barmore
DT Guy
DE Judon
LB Bentley
LB Wilson
CB Butler
CB Mills
S McCourty
S Dugger
DB Phillips

Top other defenders include Godchaux, Peppers, Jonathan Jones, Anderson, Cowart. Marcus Jones obviously fits in here as well.

They really could stand to have Perkins and McGrone arrive on the scene this year in a major way. Jennings as well. Plus, I'd like them to add Flowers at DL.

It's got some talent, but they sure could use help at LB and CB.
 

Eddie Jurak

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So gone are JC Jackson, Van Noy, Collins, among others.

But they've brought in Mack Wilson, Jabrill Peppers, and Malcolm Butler. Also, I think we can think of McGrone and Perkins as having essentially redshirted last year, so consider them to be talented rookies with a little experience that they're adding.

I hope they go defense, defense, defense all day long today. Take as many swings as you can with the highest upside guys possible and hope a couple of them pan out. Right now the starting defense looks like this:

DE Wise
DT Barmore
DT Guy
DE Judon
LB Bentley
LB Wilson
CB Butler
CB Mills
S McCourty
S Dugger
DB Phillips

Top other defenders include Godchaux, Peppers, Jonathan Jones, Anderson, Cowart. Marcus Jones obviously fits in here as well.

They really could stand to have Perkins and McGrone arrive on the scene this year in a major way. Jennings as well. Plus, I'd like them to add Flowers at DL.

It's got some talent, but they sure could use help at LB and CB.
Failing on so many LB/edge types has really hurt them: Winovich, Jennings, Uche, Perkins so far (I get the redshirt thing, but healthy and not able to get in the field does not speak well of anyone). Not too late for some of those guys but those far that is a lot of draft capital invested at minimal return. Winivich turned into Wilson, which is sort of a return, but he was a situational guy who was seeing his playing time decline.
 

twibnotes

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Failing on so many LB/edge types has really hurt them: Winovich, Jennings, Uche, Perkins so far (I get the redshirt thing, but healthy and not able to get in the field does not speak well of anyone). Not too late for some of those guys but those far that is a lot of draft capital invested at minimal return. Winivich turned into Wilson, which is sort of a return, but he was a situational guy who was seeing his playing time decline.
Uche has the kind of athleticism many pats fans are clamoring for at the LB spot. Will be interesting to see if he was held back bc they were giving some vets too much rope or if he’s just missing things they need.

In short, I’m hopeful that it’s too soon to give up on him.
 

Granite Sox

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Don’t forget about McMillan, who it seems the Pats viewed favorably before he got hurt last August. At ILB, they need two of Bentley/Wilson/McGrone/McMillan to show. I think they’re okay there. I think at any given time two of Phillips/Dugger/Peppers will be on the field as well at Strong/Box safety. Jon Jones and M. Jones seem to have the slot covered, so now Jack Jones goes in the mix with Butler, Mills, and Wade at corner. Bledsoe can back up McCourty at FS. Fire Williams and Bryant into the sun. That’s a step up in speed relative to 2021.

Sorting out the D-line outside of Judon and Barmore is a challenge, IMO. Hopefully Uche or Jennings can show well, and the interior can sort itself out. Will be interested to see if Roberts can have an impact.
 
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RG33

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There are so many questions on defense with Uche / Jennings / Perkins / Mack Wilson / Macgrone / Mcmillan — so I get why there is consternation, but I would think that BB et al have a good handle on what these guys are capable of. I think it is really interesting that there has been zero effort so far to bring Hightower back — I know he was toast — but BB has traditionally valued the leadership that a player like Hightower brings. To me, that is further evidence (so far at least) that they are fairly confident with the folks in the room. The other component here is the Dugger / Phillips / Peppers triumvirate of safteies who play in the box quite a bit in the BB defense.

I’m definitely concerned more about the CB situation than the DL / LB situation at this point — but hopefully the Butler addition coupled with Jonathan Jones coming back healthy and one of Mac / Jack Jones contributing helps things.
 

Eddie Jurak

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I’m definitely concerned more about the CB situation than the DL / LB situation at this point — but hopefully the Butler addition coupled with Jonathan Jones coming back healthy and one of Mac / Jack Jones contributing helps things.
When was the last time we saw a QB/CB in the NFL? Probably in the days of the old single wing offense. :)
 

rodderick

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There are so many questions on defense with Uche / Jennings / Perkins / Mack Wilson / Macgrone / Mcmillan — so I get why there is consternation, but I would think that BB et al have a good handle on what these guys are capable of. I think it is really interesting that there has been zero effort so far to bring Hightower back — I know he was toast — but BB has traditionally valued the leadership that a player like Hightower brings. To me, that is further evidence (so far at least) that they are fairly confident with the folks in the room. The other component here is the Dugger / Phillips / Peppers triumvirate of safteies who play in the box quite a bit in the BB defense.

I’m definitely concerned more about the CB situation than the DL / LB situation at this point — but hopefully the Butler addition coupled with Jonathan Jones coming back healthy and one of Mac / Jack Jones contributing helps things.
All I wanted the past two years was for them to give more run to those guys at linebacker and they didn't, choosing to go with older players at the position. Now apparently I got my wish and they're counting on all of those players to play huge roles, which is exciting. On the other hand, I don't know how confident they can be in guys like Uche, Jennings and Perkins considering they got very little playing time when healthy.
 

twibnotes

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All I wanted the past two years was for them to give more run to those guys at linebacker and they didn't, choosing to go with older players at the position. Now apparently I got my wish and they're counting on all of those players to play huge roles, which is exciting. On the other hand, I don't know how confident they can be in guys like Uche, Jennings and Perkins considering they got very little playing time when healthy.
I’m clinging to the hope that some of those guys were indeed ready to start contributing, but Bill had too much faith in the vets to bounce back and make us a real contender
 

Granite Sox

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Is it possible they’re letting Hightower see what’s out there for a market at HIS preferred position, and if not bring him back at a reduced salary and role (i.e. rotational edge setter only)?
 

Harry Hooper

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Is it possible they’re letting Hightower see what’s out there for a market at HIS preferred position, and if not bring him back at a reduced salary and role (i.e. rotational edge setter only)?
There might be a price point for any of Hightower, Van Noy, and Collins where the team would take them for another go.