In what has become an alarming trend, especially noticeable last week against the Bills, the Patriots are struggling more and more defending the middle of the field.
As evidenced by these rankings from Football Outsiders, the Patriots are ranked 11th and 3rd respectively covering #1 and #2 wide receivers. Those are obviously the guys who are usually lined up on the outside of the formation.
As for the other receivers they rank:
- vs. TE - 26th
- vs. 3rd/4th WR - 32nd
- vs. RB - 26th
The struggles of the linebackers in coverage are clear, and that should include the slot corners and box safeties somewhat as well.
But the linebackers are an easy place to focus on. Everyone was high on the all-SEC trio, and they are certainly skilled in a lot of areas, but coverage is certainly not their strength.
The only hope is that Jerod Mayo, the only one with enough speed to excel in coverage, suddenly elevates his game in this area, but given his history I’m not holding my breath.
Perhaps Dane Fletcher might’ve been of assistance in this area. The Pats should definitely look to bring him back next year. But I’d still put a sub-package coverage linebacker/special teamer as a personnel need to be addressed.
My current list of needs for Draft/Free Agency:
- Defensive Tackle (penetrator)
- Interior Offensive Lineman (center/guard)
- Safety (back end type)
- Wide Receiver
- Coverage Linebacker