Lots of great X-and-O stuff here from Matt Bowen as usual, including a couple Patriots mentions.

Thanks to @PatriotsSB49 for the find. These are always must-post in-season, but here Field Gulls (a Seahawks blog) put all of them in one place. Doesn’t get any better than this!

Good read for those out there like me who really enjoy scheme reads. I think the one thing I’d add to this is that essentially nickel is the new base defense. If you’re talking about 3-4 or 4-3, an outdated conversation regardless, you’re really only referring to a team’s run-stopping defense.

The Patriots have been in the so called “base” around 36% of the time the last four seasons. The “sub” package, with five or more defensive backs? 61% of the snaps.

With this in mind, the interesting evolution to look at is away from nose tackles and run-stuffing middle linebackers (hi Brandon Spikes) and toward designated pass rushing defensive ends and slot cornerbacks. These are essentially starters now.

This is also what made/makes Vince Wilfork so special. He can two-gap as a zero-technique nose tackle, but he’s also quick enough to be a traditional one-gap defensive tackle. It’s also why Dominique Easley is now worth a first-round pick in the Patriots’ eyes, whereas in the mid-2000’s he wouldn’t have been.

Another player who is a modern defensive specimen is Jamie Collins, who has outside linebacker size but can run like a safety. In these new hybrid defensive fronts, the ideal players are hybrid defenders and I’d bet we’ll see the Patriots trying to acquire more and more of them.

In other words, receivers coming out of these systems are forced to learn a new way to speak about and learn the game. Instead of simply being told to run a slant or a go route, which makes learning a playbook much easier, they have to understand the concepts of each play and their assignment within in.

Great read here from Matt Bowen at B/R on the impact of Browner and Revis.

McCourty played at a Pro Bowl level last season from my perspective and has the range, plus the transition skills (hips, footwork, speed out of his pedal), to benefit greatly as a middle-of-the-field defender with Revis and Browner on the field.

Wow, I am both relieved and proud to have written a complimentary article to Andy Benoit, a football writer I have long respected, that makes a lot of the same points about the Pats and man coverage that I made in my piece. It’s times like this I almost feel like I know what I’m talking about when it comes to x’s and o’s.

Pats defensive adjustment vs. Browns

Love when Matt Chatham busts out the diagrams.

Instead of adding a fifth defensive back against all three-receiver packages, the Patriots sometimes subbed out a safety (Duron Harmon/Steve Gregory) in favor of a third cornerback (Kyle Arrington). So while they technically remained in a base defense with four players in the secondary, it had a sub-package element to it.

Good stuff from one of the best out there, Doug Farrar. Really the terms “slot corner” and “slot recevier” have changed and are more play-to-play than player-to-player.

Admit it — if I say “slot receiver,” you probably think of Wes Welker, and why wouldn’t you? Welker has redefined the position as it’s grown in importance throughout the NFL with his uncanny command of option routes and short-area concepts. But there’s more to the slot role than a bunch of seven-yard slants these days. Victor Cruz of the New York Giants has become a new kind of speed slot receiver, putting safeties to the test with elite speed up the seam. Other teams have followed that paradigm, but the really interesting thing about the slot position these days is how many teams are taking their star receivers and putting them inside to create matchups that are nearly impossible for defenses to win.