Belichick evolving Patriots defense?

Ty Warren’s quote below to Tom E. Curran after being released got me just as excited as another blockbuster free agent addition.

 ”I think the team was looking to do some things differently on defense and I wasn’t in the plan. It doesn’t have anything to do with the test or anything else or related with Bill. You can see by the acquisitions they made. Plan on doing different things I’m not in the plans for and with my salary, they weren’t going to keep me around as dead money.”

As those who followed this blog last season know, I’m a defense guy, and it seems pretty clear that Warren is insinuating the Pats are up to something on defense.

The Patriots defensive system in 2010 was pretty straightforward as far the dynasty Patriots is concerned. They were in a base 3-4 when they wanted to stop the run, and the rest of the time they were in some fairly basic forms of nickel or dime defense. They never even got as crazy as the Five and Dime defense from 2009. I do not recall seeing a legitimate 4-3 defense run once.

In 2009 we did see attempts at using a strange 4-3 defense that had six players along the line of scrimmage (OLBs at the ends standing up) and Jerod Mayo standing solo at MLB. But after Mayo went down the Pats put this alignment on the backburner.

It feels like every preseason we wonder if the Patriots would ever make a move to a base 4-3 defense if their personnel became more suited for it, and though they flirted with it a bit in 2009, it was pretty much out of the playbook in 2010. Plus it was a lot easier to go into a normal 4-3 when McGinest and Seymour were in the fold.

But Warren’s comment raises the question of where exactly is the defense going this year?

Clearly the struggles on third down had to be addressed. Warren’s pretty much the prototype LDE for the 3-4 defense the Patriots run and he’d probably be a pretty good traditional defensive tackle in a normal 4-3 defense if he needed to be.

So what can’t Warren do that the Patriots would need him to?

It’s impossible to know the answer until we see the scheme in a meaningful game (don’t expect to see it in preseason), but let’s speculate for a minute.

I look at the defensive linemen and I see a majority of guys who look like traditional 3-4 nose tackles. Wilfork, Brace and Love are massive men with low centers of gravity who can take on double teams. Mike Wright and Myron Pryor have also both played nose for the Patriots though it’s not the specialty for either of them.

Brandon Deaderick and maybe Kade Weston are the only two guys on the roster who resembles the physical example of a 3-4 defensive end. Obviously Haynesworth is something unto himself and, if motivated, can play any defensive line position in any scheme.

Could we perhaps be looking at a 2-4-5 double two-gapper defense that would be used on early run downs and be expected to stop the run consistently? A base nickel defense with only two down lineman and hand-up or hand-down defensive ends depending on the situation? Why not?

The Patriots weakness was clearly the passing game and runs against their subpackages. Would a formation like this allow them the improve in both areas?

Again, all speculation. But I’ve long wondered if Belichick would ever come up with his own innovation to the 3-4 defense to counter the way the game has evolved into a passing league. Just like Buddy Ryan and the 46 defense or Dick Lebeau with the zone blitz, the NFL has a long history of schematic adjustments to shut down offenses.

And with NFL teams being even more unprepared than ever this season, how much of an advantage would the Patriots have (especially early on) if they’re running a new twist on their defense?

Perhaps now, with a bounty of handpicked players who have experience in his system and with each other, Belichick feels comfortable enough to start innovating. I can’t wait to see what he’s come up with.

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