I feel obligated to post any defensive scheme article even if it’s kind of missing the forest for the trees. When I started writing about football it was the defensive schematics that really interested me. Watching how Bill Belichick would rebuild his defense post-2007 was a huge impetus for me to follow and study the team.

Now, seven years later, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what Belichick does on defense. Around 2011 I realized that 3-4 or 4-3 is not really that big of a deal.

Here’s the simple facts…

1. From 2000 to 2009 the Patriots spent a good chunk of their defensive snaps in the Fairbanks-Bullough 3-4 defense. This 3-4 is a “read-and-react” defense, where the front three “build a wall” by two-gapping and allow the linebackers to make plays. (There are 3-4s like Wade Phillips’ and Dick LeBeau’s that are more “attacking”.)

2. As the game evolved, and passing offenses became more prevalent, the amount of time the Patriots spent in the 3-4 decreased. The pure Fairbanks-Bullough version of it slowly became a specialty package to stop the run. Since 2010 the Patriots are in “sub” defense, with five or more DBs, around 60-65% of the time.

In 2011, due to the lockout, there was limited time to teach the 3-4 defense, so Belichick just used the nickel front (which of course looks like a 4-3) as his teaching defense since that is what they would be in a majority of the snaps anyway.

3. However, the 3-4 remains Belichick’s teaching defense. So it’s what the Pats run in the preseason and training camp to help teach communication and responsibilities. The preseason defensive game plan is as vanilla as it can get, so seeing them in a 3-4 in the summer means little as to what we’re going to get in the fall.

4. The Pats will still run a 3-4 defense but it bears little resemblance to the Fairbanks-Bullough version. Instead of the three down linemen two-gapping, we now have a combination of guys playing single and double gaps. Read this article for more on this.

5. This current “base” defense (which really makes no sense now that we’re really talking only 30-40% of the snaps) is more of a 2-5. This is an effort to get more athletes on the field to stop the pass, instead of big bodies to build a wall and stop the run.

What matters most is gap responsibility, so whether you want to call Ninkovich and Chandler outside linebackers or defensive ends, it doesn’t really make a difference. They are end of the line players and their job remains basically the same whether they’re rushing the passer or dropping into coverage.

The ability to morph between fronts is where the Pats give themselves and advantage.

The game has evolved and so has Bill Belichick’s defense. What has been missing in my estimation is explosive one-gapping defensive tackles like Easley and Jerel Worthy. They had DT’s one-gapping, but often times they were more nose tackle-ish like Wilfork and Kyle Love or defensive end-ish like Tommy Kelly, Brandon Deaderick and Gerard Warren.

Now the Patriots defense has the personnel to literally play any front, or combination of fronts. Believe me when I say this is the first time they’ve EVER had this kind of flexibility. So there’s some truth to the linked Herald to the article.

But still wondering about the 3-4/4-3 debate is an extreme simplification about a minority of the defensive snaps.

(Low)lights: Patriots vs. Panthers 2013

This was a great game despite the results (i.e. the controversial finish). I try not to complain about losing a game on a non-call but this one was pretty blatant, as much as I love Kuechly as a player.

Should be a great test for the Pats tonight! But of course, most importantly, NO INJURIES!!!

New Patriots Pump-up Video mixes continue to pop up! I’m certainly not complaining, we’re just 17 days from the return of Pats football!!

NFL Films: 2013 New England Patriots Yearbook

Always a yearly must-watch. You know, if the NFL really wanted to make money, which of course is about all they want to do, they should package these yearbooks in DVD sets.

They’ve gotten it down to science - they can make a 1-15 team seem like they had one of the best years in the NFL, or maybe I’ve just been watching Patriots yearbooks for too long.

Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection (Preseason Week 2 Edition)

Here’s my latest stab at the 53-man roster. Lots of questions remain and this is far from a finished product. My biggest areas of question are at linebacker, where it’s hard to say how the special teams and back-up spots will play out and tight end, where depth is a joke there right now.

QB (3) Brady, Mallett, Garoppolo - High confidence rate here that all three will stick.

RB (4) Ridley, Vereen, White, Develin - Dropped Bolden this time around, think White is good enough to backup both base and 3rd down duties, while Develin will be an FB/H-back/TE.

WR (6) Edelman, Dobson, Amendola, LaFell, Thompkins, Slater - Haven’t seen enough out of Boyce while the starting spot seems wide open between Dobson/LaFell/Thompkins.

TE (2) Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui - Things are light here with injuries, will have to take a closer look at Maneri. Could be an addition here after the final cutdown.

C (2) Connolly, Stork - Connolly seems to have been the main guy at center, while Stork is on the road to recovery. Wendell’s lack of versatility spells his end.

G (3) Mankins, Halapio, Kline - Kline has been a standout in practices, can he lock down a starting role?

T (4) Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Fleming - Cannon can play any spot but center, that’s a huge help. They won’t carry more than 9 OL.

DE (4) Jones, Ninkovich, Smith, Buchanan - Moore goes to the practice squad while Bequette’s time is up. Not much depth here.

DT (6) Wilfork, Kelly, Easley, Siliga, Jones, Worthy - Big injury questions here, but once everyone is healthy and in game shape look out.

ILB(2) Mayo, Beauharnais - Would like to see more out of Beauharnais than we did in the first preseason game. He could very well be one injury away from playing time on defense.

OLB(4) Hightower, Collins, Anderson, White - Good group that should make a lot of plays.

CB (5) Revis, Dennard, Ryan, Arrington, Butler - Browner doesn’t count against the initial 53 so he’s off. Butler has been the surprise standout of camp.

SS (3) Chung, Wilson, Ebner - Forget traditional safety spots, Chung should see a lot of time in the box. I think he could revitalize his career this season.

FS (2) McCourty, Harmon - Two solid back end guys who can come up to the line of scrimmage as well.

ST (3) Gostkowski, Allen, Aiken - Same as it ever was.

Total players: 53
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Tweets of Note from Monday’s Patriots-Redskins Joint Practice

Pats should get some good work in this week going against another team and finally getting to hit someone else. The headline from the first joint practice? That Brady and the Pats offense was hot, carving up the Redskins’ defense. Must be a nice break for Brady to no longer have Revis et al on defense.

2014 New England Patriots Pump Up

Now this is how you start off a Monday! Thanks to @PatriotsSB49 for the find!

Regrouping after one week of Patriots training camp

We’re one week into training camp for the New England Patriots, and just one week away from their first preseason game, so it’s time to take a look at what we’ve learned so far about this edition of the Pats.

It’s hard not to be excited, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where the Pats are as healthy as we could’ve hoped headed into camp. Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Will Smith, all coming off major injuries, appear to be on track for the start of the season.

On the back end, the secondary has been as expected with Revis and Browner leading the way. Browner’s attitude and Revis’ high level of play have already seemed to bring a new swagger to the Pats defense that has been missing for a long time.

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Video: New England Patriots - 2014 SiriusXM NFL Radio Training Camp Tour