Hey Mike, can you talk a little bit about how a player like Darelle Revis empowers BB and the defensive coaching staff? "Revis Island" and "Shut Down Corner" cliches aside, what are some schemes and strategies that would have been unworkable, unwise, or even just uncharacteristic of the Patriots before they had Revis, but that are now possible or probable with him in the fold?

Good question and I think the answers are somewhat visible given what the defense evolved to with Aqib Talib in 2012. To really get a sense of the shift we need to go back to the late 2000’s.

Here’s the Pats D vs. Colts 2009.

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At the snap, the undersized corners (Wilhite and Bodden) will turn and run. The Pats have a third safety on the field to cover Dallas Clark.

Here’s the Pats D vs. Broncos in 2013 AFCCG.

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Now the corners attempt to jam and disrupt the timing right at the line of scrimmage. You can just tell by the difference in the corners presnap stances that they’re playing a different technique now - they’re lower, ready for contact, whereas before they’re getting ready to turn and run.

So that, in essence, is really what it is all about. The late-2000’s Pats were content to play more zone coverage and to use what they perceived as athletic and smart corners who could pattern-read and jump routes.

Asante Samuel was the perfect example of that kind of corner.

Whether it was quarterbacks getting too good or the rules allowing no contact downfield (or a little of both), zone coverage became easier and easier to pick apart. There’s still a place for zone coverage, you have to mix-and-match, but to play mostly zone will result in giving up more passing yardage than anyone else (like they did from 2010-2013).

Now you must take your chance to be physical with the wide receivers when you can be - within five yards of the line of scrimmage. That disrupts the timing of the offense and buys that extra second for the pass rush.

That also doesn’t mean that just because you’re pressing you have to play man. The Seahawks will press and then drop their corners into cover three. 

What Revis and Browner (and Dennard and Arrington and Ryan to other extents) allow the Pats to do is to win at the line of scrimmage.

If only we could stand Revis/Browner side-by-side to Samuel/Hobbs. That picture would be worth a thousand words.

This is a critical article if you want more insight into the Patriots pass rush. The Pats are ranked 25th overall in blitz percentage, obviously meaning that they really don’t blitz very much at all compared to the rest of the NFL.

When the Pats do blitz, they were fairly effective, ranking 13th in the NFL for pass rush productivity when sending more than four guys. But again, it didn’t happen very often.

Finally comes the real measure, and that is measuring the ability to get pressure with just their front four. In this the Pats were ranked 23rd.

I think in Bill Belichick’s world this is the most telling stat. When the Pats had a dominant defense this ranking would’ve been much higher because they had the ability to get pressure with just four guys, which would be their front three in the 3-4 and whichever LB they felt like sending on that play.

If you’re a conservative defensive team and you don’t blitz a lot, getting pressure with just four is critical to your defense. It might be the single most important element. This is why, for all the excitement the signings of Revis and Browner bring, it’s all about the front seven as I see it if this defense is going to be truly elite.

Also, here’s MMQB’s last pressure points ranking which similarly has the Pats in the early-20s for pass rush. Just not good enough. If Wilfork/Kelly can re-enter the rotation they will definitely help, but how limited will they be. Hopefully Armstead helps too.

New post up on Sportsblog, making the case that elite pass rush has become more important than the traditional “elite” quarterback.

Give me a mistake-free game manager and a consistent pass rush from the edges and interior and they’ll beat any team.

[E]xpect the Patriots to use man pressure often with the amount of depth they have at the cornerback position. Look for five- and six-man pressure schemes out of both nickel and dime packages.

Patriots’ Secondary Additions Prove Bill Belichick’s Ability to Adapt

I guess here’s one answer to my complaining about the lack of a defensive end signing thus far. Can two lockdown man corners like Browner and Revis push BB to send more blitzers in general?

Usually he’s pretty conservative, content to send only three or four and play coverage behind that. But if you have two corners eliminating two receivers it does open up options.

So maybe just maybe the Pats will be less reliant on getting to the QB with fewer guys this year, i.e. winning one-on-one matchups.

Let’s not forget that both Arrington and Ryan are pretty good off the edge. Might be on answer to the “no DE depth problem”, though things can change quickly with a couple signings.

Sack numbers can often mislead. Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Chris Jones are great examples of this. Their comparatively low pressure totals, combined with the fact that they rarely come off the field, reveal that these are three guys who spend a lot of time producing a whole lot of nothing. The solution is more simple than it seems, if the team just rotates more along the defensive line and finds some guys who can fill situational roles.

Another good summation for the defensive side of the ball from Doug Kyed.

Really good read from Doug Kyed and I very much agree with him. And I don’t think the Pats are really that far off. After this season, they have developed some new guys on the defensive line and everyone will be a whole lot better with more of a rotation.

The biggest difference I see is in the secondaries, where the Seahawks have a collection of big corners and safeties with Earl Thomas being an elite back end defender. Put it this way, Dennard, Arrington and Gregory would not fit in Seattle.

Not. Good. Enough.

Friday B/R column is up with some stats that really bother me…

Pats are the WORST DEFENSE in the NFL over the last four seasons on third down and giving up 20+ plays. Ick…