Cornerback Kyle Arrington started the game on the right side, then moved to the slot in nickel/dime packages. Nothing unusual there, but after only a few plays (and a very poor start), he was supplanted in the base defense at right corner by rookie Alfonzo Dennard. Later, Arrington was replaced by Marquice Cole as the slot corner. We saw this happen once before this season, at Seattle, where Arrington was gradually phased out of the lineup.
Belichick and the Patriots continue to swing and miss with alarming regularity when it comes to drafting defensive backs. In the last decade, they’ve picked up some very good free-agent defensive backs — both high-profile guys like Rodney Harrison and unheralded guys off the street like Randall Gay. But of the 17 corners or safeties they’ve selected on draft weekend over the last 10 years, they’ve found one player of impact (Asante Samuel) and a few respectable additions (Devin McCourty, Ellis Hobbs and James Sanders).
In 7-on-7′s, there were several different combinations utilized in the secondary, but it is worth noting that for the second consecutive week, McCourty appeared to take the bulk of the reps at cornerback. (It looked like McCourty and Ras-I Dowling were paired as the starting corners.) There were several different pairings at safety, including Nate Ebner and Pat Chung, Ebner and Ross Ventrone and Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown. Steve Gregory rotated into the mix as well. Ebner made a nice pass breakup on a pass from Brian Hoyer that was intended for Brandon Lloyd.
Patriots Defensive Back Snap % Graph
Interesting trends to note…
Butler and Page get increased playtime against Jets, eats into Sanders and Chung’s snaps. Chung had been the nickelback replacement for Jonthan Wilhite but Butler was inserted against the Jets and did a pretty good job. We’ve noticed all along that straight up coverage is not Chung’s strength and he was picked on against the Colts and Lions.
Meriweather, Arrington and McCourty remain the ironmen of the defensive backs, playing almost every snap.
Chung and Page’s return to health has also taken every snap from Sergio Brown.