The question is: Did the Patriots stink-up the joint in their last 2 games. The answer is, without a doubt, YES. But it’s not time to jump ship.
So, what has been the reaction from fans all over the world? If you read social media after the game Sunday (Facebook or Twitter) a full-blown panic had set in. It was time to get the lifeboats out, because, the number of fans jumping from a “sinking” ship was astounding…and relatively short lived.
How Soon We Forget
It’s hard to believe this is the team that started the season 10-0. Well, maybe not the same team, as injuries have decimated what looked like a sure Super Bowl 50 contender. Key players fell in every game, yet somehow the “genius” of the coaching staff, from Bill Belichick on down, was being lauded, as the “next man up” philosophy seemed to be working beyond belief.
Hell, even ESPN, the propaganda arm of the NFL, caved in and finally acknowledged what the Patriots and Tom Brady were doing was miraculous. People who always picked against New England were actually debating whether this team could go undefeated.
New England’s fan base increased as the wins continued to pile up despite the off-season slander of deflategate. Commissioner Roger Goodell was noticeably quiet when it was announced Tom Brady jerseys had become the hottest product in the NFL.
Then Was Then…And Now Is Now
So, what happened to suddenly make this team draw these and many other negative comments from fans:
“couldn’t beat my high school team”
“I was embarrassed”
“The team was 10-0 because of the schedule, not because they were any good”
“Injuries aren’t an excuse”
Thank goodness Monday rolled around and the emotions of Sunday’s loss to a terrible Miami team had calmed down. Reality set in. People started to look forward and they had some legitimate concerns.
So, now that a little time has passed since the loss (and 4 of their last 6), let’s look at 10 somewhat hard to take facts:
Bill Belichick had the team playing “safe” once they clinched everything but the #1 seed. They didn’t seem to care about the regular season and started preparing for the play-offs. Winning would have been nice, but not critical. Was this a good strategy? We’ll know in a few weeks.
The team that lost to the Eagles, J-E-T-S and Dolphins will not
win many play-off games with those units. Game planning seemed almost non-existent and players were not playing to their strength, but being plugged in to cover for losses. Coaching was a big reason in all three losses, but even then the team had opportunities to win…right up until Miami.
Young fans under 30 have never seen this team look so inept and not seem to care. It was the first time this had occurred during the Belichick-Brady years.
There is legitimate reason for concern (not panic). The belief that all will be well when Julian Edelman, Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Sebastion Vollmer and the rest of the walking (or limping) wounded return is optimistic at best.
Let’s face it, the offensive line scares the bejesus out of every Patriot fan… on every play. Brady threw just 5 passes in the 1st half Sunday and still got crushed when he dropped back. The OL could well be the Achilles Heel that ultimately brings this team down.
The 10-0 start was a little deceptive considering the weak schedule, but, that said, it is still difficult to go 10-0 if you are not very good. The Patriots that started the season had outstanding weapons to confuse defenses along with a young, solid defense of its own. Dion Lewis was far better than Shane Vereen, who he replaced. Brady, Edelman and Gronkowski had established a trust that takes years to develop. The defense was young and aggressive, despite the loss of Darrelle Revis.
Injuries are part of the game. They are not an excuse, they are a fact. It’s a game of attrition and, eventually, if you lose enough quality players you just aren’t as good.
The Patriots aren’t built for trick plays, yet they continuously outsmarted themselves and it cost them. C’mon guys, a drop kick on a kick-off!
Even Tom Brady looked disinterested toward the end. The fire in his eyes wasn’t there when he came on the field the last few weeks. The number of hits he took this year had an impact as the season wore down. We like to call him “Super Tom,” but must be real…it hurts to keep getting hit.
The special teams were below Patriot standards. Yes, the loss of
Edelman (the most effective punt returner in the NFL) hurt, but it was more than that. Players took bad routes and missed tackles resulting in teams getting better field position. The kicking game remained strong, but other areas seemed to suffer.
An almost two-week lay-off between games is a Godsend. It may not be a cure-all, but no one can deny it is desperately needed. The early bye-week was a long time ago and many players are playing tired.
New England’s next game will be Saturday, January at 4:35PM (CBS)at Gillette Stadium. There are 3 teams they could face: Cincinnati, Houston or Kansas City.
Quotes after Sunday’s loss:
Bill Belichick: “Right now we have one game that we have to win. The next game, we don’t even know who it’s against yet. All our attention, focus and energy will be on that…”
Tom Brady on his leg: “pretty sore, but I’ll be alright”
Steven Jackson on his TD run: “Inside zone, I bounced the play outside and had a [defensive back] there, so I just had to lower my pads to get in the end zone.”
Devin McCourty: “hit the reset button”
Tom Brady again: “…Nothing over the last six weeks is going to matter. Nothing over the last 16 weeks is going to matter. What’s going to matter is how well we play in two weeks.”
History tells us that Missouri is the “Show Me” state. The original phrase is widely credited to Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver in 1899 when, in a speech he said, “I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”
So, “Show Me” New England
How many times do the New England Patriots have to prove themselves to their own fans? New England has now become the “Show Me” area. Each week the “show me” statements are repeated by fans of the Super Bowls champs. Need a few examples? How about this for starters:
At the start of the 2015 season fans were in full “show me” mode when the Patriots lost some key players. In particular Shane Vereen, Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. Add in the injury to last year’s surprise, Brandon LaFell, Tom Brady’s aging body and – drum roll – it was time for the Patriots to step up and show the doubters (don’t kid yourself, there were many) once again that they could compete with the upper tier in the NFL
On top of that, the Buffalo Bills were reported to have the best defense in the NFL, the NY Jets had a new Head Coach and a world of talent on defense (Mr. Revis had turned traitor and moved his island to where the money was) and Miami…my God, they had signed Greg Jennings (Pats fans wanted him in New England), the world’s greatest pass rusher Ndamukong Suh, CB Brice McCain and a host of 2nd tier players.
Was it possible that all three teams had pumped up their game while the Patriots, on paper, had deflated theirs? (I’m sorry, but the devil made me say that)
1. The first test was the Pittsburgh Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown to challenge a secondary that, at best, was suspect. With Brady freed from his four game suspension the question was, can he overcome his off season distraction? The Patriots, playing at Gillette Stadium, were a 7 point favorite going into the game, but everyone was concerned…c’mon team, time to “Show Me.” Final Score: Patriots 28 Steelers 21…and the game wasn’t that close.
2. …But wait, that win was nice, but now the Patriots had to travel to Buffalo with Rex Ryan churning the upstate New York fans into a frenzy (what’s new) because he had the best defense in the NFL and the team was just plain mean! A road game
against a rabid fan base chomping at the bit to chew up and spit out the team with the Elvis logo. Buffalo players had spittle drooling from the corner of their mouth as the two teams took the field. New England fans didn’t want to admit it…but they were worried. It was “Show Me” time again, as Brady’s offensive line was in a shambles and the Bills pass rush was unstoppable. Final Score: Patriots 40 Bills 32…and once again the score was deceptive as New England rolled to win #2.
3. After dismantling the Jaguars and Cowboys and going 4-0 it was time for the game fans had been waiting a year for. The ol’ tattle-tale, whiny Indianapolis Colts. Andrew Luck returned after missing two games with an injured right shoulder, but everyone was predicting a blowout and Brady taking revenge on the team that caused his worst off-season in 16 years in the NFL. It wasn’t to be. At halftime the Pats trailed 21-20 and things weren’t going as expected.
In the second half New England pulled the game out…but not without some help from the Colt’s coaching staff calling the worst play in NFL history (yes, even worse than Pete Carroll’s Super Bowl disaster). Result: Patriots 34 Colts 27. Once again, fans showed some concern and the time had come for a true test.
4. The NY Jets, the new darlings of the NFL, were coming to Foxborough. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard this before, the NFL’s top ranked defense. A Jets win and the two teams would be sharing first place in the AFC East. Man, what could the Patriots do with a battered OL and just 18 players dressed on offense? Time for Superman, Tom Brady, to step up and “show me” he could carry the team to win #6. The Jets sacked Brady three times and otherwise made him uncomfortable in the pocket to take a 13-10 halftime lead.
The Patriots were passing on nearly every down and being questioned about their play calling as the second half began. Time for Mr. Brady to “show me” why he is the greatest QB in the history of the NFL…and he did. Against this supposedly great defense he completed 34 passes for 355 yards, threw for 2 TDs and ran for another while the defense stopped the feared Jets running game (Chris Ivory, who entered as the AFC’s leading rusher, was held to 41 yards on 17 carries) on the way a 30-23 win.
5. You would think the Jets win would calm the waters, but it wasn’t so. Suddenly the Miami Dolphins were playing up to expectations after firing their Head Coach, Joe (Tiger) Philben, and putting Tight End Coach Dan (Gung-ho) Campbell in charge. He was an emotional guy and the players loved the fact Campbell was giving them a free hand to play the way they wanted to. In his first two games as Head Coach the ‘Fins destroyed Tennessee and Houston (two NFL powers!), running up 82 points and the combination of Suh and Cameron Wake were suddenly sacking everything but the groceries. After wiping the field with Miami, 36-7, the Patriots ran their record to 7-0.
Show Me More
Common sense says, after going 7-0 with no real challenge, New England fans would be ready to relax a bit. No need to get worried about the future. Well, that’s just not the way we New Englanders react. We’re not happy unless we have something to worry about. After Denver slaughtered Green Bay Sunday night, holding Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards, and now trading for TE Vernon Davis, the “show me”ites are back.
Problem is, there are still 3 games to go before the Patriots travel to the mile high city (Nov. 29) for their Sunday Night battle. So, before that happens Washington, NY (Giants) and Buffalo have to “show me” they are up to the task of staying on the field with the current Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.
This weeks worry is that the Skins is a trap game…so once again it’s time for the best team in the NFL to show everyone that there is no such thing as a trap when Bill Belichick is your coach.
After dominating the AFC East division without any competition for four years now, the New England Patriots finally have a legitimate competitor in the New York Jets. Coming into this season, many, including myself, expected the Buffalo Bills to be a serious threat to the Patriots because of Rex Ryan’s defensive mind and the depth they have on the defensive side of the ball. As it turns out, Rex has seemingly lost control after the week two loss to the Patriots, and things are starting to unfold because of his reckless demeanor. The Dolphins simply just spent money carelessly in the offseason, leaving them extremely thin in many parts of their roster. The Jets however, shipped out the rambunctious Rex Ryan and brought in another defensive mind with former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. This time, the head coach is much more soft spoken, but he looks to have a strangle hold on the team and has one thing that Ryan never had in New York, control.
Despite their 4-12 record last season, the Jets still had a very talented defensive front that could get after the quarterback. The front seven consists of elite players such as Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, David Harris, Calvin Pace, and they also added defensive tackle Leonard Williams out of Southern California in the first round of this year’s draft. Many projected him as the best overall player in the draft. The Jets secondary did a complete 180 in the offseason by going from having one of the league’s worst pass defenses to having potentially the best. When you bring back Darrelle Revis who is arguably the best cornerback of all time and without a doubt the best right now, your defense already changes completely for the better. Then you add a big bodied corner with Antonio Cromartie who can match up with tight ends, and Buster Skrine as a nickel back next to Revis, your secondary becomes lock down.
On the other side of the ball, the Jets have added fire power as well. They acquired Brandon Marshall from Chicago via trade this offseason to compliment Eric Decker. The combination has been very effective through five games. Marshall already has 37 receptions, for 511 yards, and four touchdowns. In addition, Chris Ivory is a very physical running back who has also gotten off to a great start averaging 5.5 yards per carry. The only glaring issues on the Jets roster is the most important in the game, and that is at quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks we have seen in a long time.
He played so well for a few weeks in Buffalo they rewarded him with a contract extension. After that he played so bad they were forced to release him after one year. He has not been terrible this year, however Bills fans will tell you that a collapse is on the horizon. Jets fans are just crossing their fingers that their defense can carry them to the point where Fitzpatrick can’t lose them the game.
This week, the New England Patriots have to take on the 4-1 New York Jets at the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium. It will without question be their toughest test up to this point, especially if Marcus Cannon and Ryan Wendell are not able to go. As a Patriots fan you should feel very uneasy about rolling out Cameron Fleming at right tackle going up against this Jets front. Not only can the front get to Brady, but Revis and Cromartie can neutralize Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and force Brady to hold onto the football longer.
Now, one thing that puts both teams at a disadvantage is that both coaches are unfamiliar with each other. The last time Bowles squared off with the Patriots was in week two of the 2012 season when his Cardinals beat the Patriots 20-18, with the defense sacking Brady four times. I have full confidence that Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and the Patriots coaching staff will put together a masterful game plan to move the ball against the Jets defense and hold their offense in tact. Nevertheless, Patriots fans need to know that the Jets are a threat in the division, not the laughing stock that we are used to. That could very well help the Patriots come January as they will be battle tested.
There might not have been a team that gained more attention this off-season than the Jets. With a new coach, new GM and a plethora of new talent, they have been touted as the most likely team to unseat the Patriots. Even more so, to make a legitimate Super Bowl run. They are a team that can cause concern for Pats fans as well as the rest of the NFL.
Why Pats fans should be concerned:
With the additions of new coach Todd Bowles, the Jets gain another brilliant defensive coach that had some exceptional squads in Arizona over the past few years. They spent a lot of money on improving their talent depleted roster. On offense, the biggest acquisition was Brandon Marshall, who, with Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, give them a dynamic trio with Kerley manning the slot. They added RB’s Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy to challenge Chris Ivory. They will be able to pound the rock as good as anyone.
Defense, they have a ton of talent. Although the loss of Sheldon Richardson for 4 games (and probably the year, still undecided), having stud DL Leonard Williams fall to them was a coup. Muhammad Wilkerson is one of the best 3-4 DL linemen in the league and NT Damon Harrison is a massive force. The biggest acquisition was Darelle Revis. He is arguably the best CB in the game (as we know) and with other free agent DB’s Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist gives them an entirely new look on defense. This team is just stacked with talent. But…
Why Pats fans shouldn’t be concerned:
With a new coach, there are bound to be growing pains. Especially in his first head coaching job. With QB Geno Smith already knocked out for 10 weeks, it shows that there is a general discord in the locker room due to the lack of retaliation and reaction after, by both coaches and players alike. This doesn’t bode well for chemistry. Relying on journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is not something that can make anyone truly happy here. He did have his best success under OC Chan Gailey in Buffalo, but that was also 4 years ago. He has struggled in his stints in Tennessee and Houston. It doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. Also, the offensive line is aging and is under-performing. There might not be a better center in the game than Nick Mangold. But, he’s 31 as is D’Brickshaw Ferguson, who underperformed last year. Free Agent G James Carpenter is mostly just a run blocker and can’t pass block well at all. They have a lack of talent on the other spots that could get this team in trouble.
With the suspension of Richardson, the Jets are in a tough spot. Williams was a stud in college, will that translate in the NFL? Also, relying on 34 year old Calvin Pace and Quentin Coples, who is more of a run stopping OLB, as their pass rushers is concerning. David Harris looked slow last year at his ILB position. They didn’t really do anything to improve the linebacking corps other than the drafting of Lorenzo Mauldin in the 3rd round. Also, the logic of paying that much money to 2 CB’s like Revis and Cromartie, who are over 30 is a little mind boggling. Gilchrist wasn’t that good in San Diego, so I’m not sure how good he’ll be in New York.
What does all this mean? There is a TON of uncertainty in New York. On one hand, you have a ton of talent that, on paper, looks poised to make a run. But, you can already see that there are things lining up in a bad way for New York. From Richardson’s drag race through a neighborhood to Smith getting punched in the face, the dark clouds are definitely on the horizon for this franchise.
Every New England Patriots fan can still remember THAT catch from Super Bowl 49.
I’m not talking about Malcolm Butler, I am referring to Jermaine Kearse. The Kearse catch took an improbable comeback story and nearly squashed it in the flukiest way possible. Why address a travesty that almost was? That Kearse catch is a perfect metaphor for every Pats fan’s 2015 offseason.
Jermaine Kearse caught a ball from Russell Wilson long after the Patriots assumed the play dead. It bobbled in the air, bounced off some limbs and seemed to place the Patriots in the losers column. After coming so close to sewing Super Bowl 49 up, New England now had to deal with this new unlikely circumstance.
Since 2007, all Patriots fans have heard from just about any fan of any NFL team was that the Patriots cheated, and that they were fans of “the Cheatriots.” The most commonly asked question seemed to be “Why haven’t you won since Spygate?” which bellowed from everyone who was quick to point out how the Patriots couldn’t get it done without cheating. The 2014-15 New England Patriots finally had an offense and defense that looked like it could get the job done. Despite a lackluster two and two start, the Pats abused the Bengals in week five and never looked back. The Patriots played exceptional football and gave hope to many that finally, the Patriots we’re ready to get their fourth ring.
After winning the AFC Championship, the Patriots were ready to squash their doubters and regain the respect of the league, then came the “Kearse catch” known as Deflategate. Suddenly, New England, who had spent the entire season showing everyone that Brady still had “it” and that they were ready to move forward from the tarnish of Spygate, had a new enemy. This enemy robbed New England fans of the offseason glory they dreamed about since their team had been flummoxed long ago with camera themed controversy.
To compound the lunacy of Deflategate, free agency was about to land a huge left hook to Patriots nation. Patriots fans were treated to the loss of their entire cornerback squad. The once lauded Darrelle Revis returned to the New York Jets, leaving Bellichick and company to quickly jettison Brandon Browner and not too long after Kyle Arrington. The loss of Revis cannot be understated as he is an exceptional athlete and possibly the best defensive back in the NFL. Browner and Arrington were complimentary pieces that no longer seemed to fit.
Things did not get better for Pats fans. Soon the Wells report was released, and it was followed by the most outrageous penalty in NFL history. In one fell swoop, the Patriots lost their 2016 first round draft pick, their 2017 fourth round draft pick, $1,000,000 and 4 time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady, for the first four games of the season.
As the new NFL season finally approaches, Pats fans are left with the same gnawing, aching feeling of thievery they received after Kearse made that clumsy catch. Patriots nation was so very close to the end of Spygate and all the negativity that came with it, only to have Deflategate bobble its way into the collective consciousness of the other 31 teams and their fan bases. Respect is bigger than any Super Bowl or any championship, it’s something that every team wants and every fan needs. The big question is, will the 2015-2016 season bring to Patriot fans the “Malcolm Butler interception” that they all crave?
Well by now we all know that the Patriots secondary from 2014 has been picked clean. Darrelle Revis was lured back home to the Jets by tampering from owner Woody Johnson (cheaters: 100 k fine).
Brandon Browner was allowed to test the waters of free agency, so he decided the money (and the grass) was greener in New Orleans.
Kyle Arrington was released by the Patriots and promptly signed with the Baltimore Ravens (remember the team that whined so much about ineligible recievers so much that the NFL had to change yet another rule because Belichick is a genius?) Yeah, them so he could play slot corner for Harbaugh. (I wonder if the Ravens fans will scream at their televisions as much as I did?)
Anyhow the reason your here is to do our poll, so without further adioux, you can make your choice below.
For all of Patriots Nation right now, the cornerback position on their team is a touchy and sensitive subject. With the departures of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, and Alfonzo Dennard this past offseason, Bill Belichick is left with veteran cast-offs and unproven young players to work with this summer.
It is a scary thought for all fans that support the red, blue, and silver with cornerback arguably being the second most important position in the game. With the Patriots having so little experience in their defense with their corners, players such as Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan who have experience will be essential pieces in the secondary rebuild process. The only question now will be which player will take over the number one cornerback spot, Butler or Ryan?
Before February 1st, 2015 the casual fan had never heard of the name Malcolm Butler. Now he is making every social appearance he can to soak up his fifteen minutes of fame after his Super Bowl heroics. Nevertheless, Super Bowl XLIX is in the past and it is time to focus on how the Patriots can repeat, and Butler could be a key piece.
During the 2014 regular season, Malcolm Butler showed that he belongs in the National Football League. He was the surprise of training camp, and Bill Belichick was not afraid to put him in key veteran like situations.
For example, in week nine he spent significant time covering both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders of the Denver Broncos. Furthermore, he matched up against Mike Wallace in both contests against Miami. Every time he held his own ground, showing that pitbull like nastiness that earned himself a spot on the roster.
This year, the microscope will be focused in on Butler. The margin for error will be so small any little mistake will be criticized by Patriots fans and most importantly his head coach. However, based off what we’ve seen from Butler in his very short career, he will be ready to take on the challenge.
Logan Ryan has been the opposite of Malcolm Butler, a disappointment. In his rookie season he flashed at times intercepting five passes. However, the interceptions masked the fact that he was consistently getting beat by his receivers.
In his sophomore campaign, Ryan only digressed. Whenever he was on the field in 2014, the opposing quarterback attacked him and instantly and picked him apart. Most notably in week thirteen against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
So far this season, Ryan has received the most amount of reps due to Malcolm Butler’s absence from OTA’s. Players are in only shorts and t-shirts at OTA’s, but based off reports he impressed the most out of any of the cornerbacks.
Ryan has shown nothing yet that proves he can be a number one cornerback on a elite team. Although, he is the most experienced cornerback in the Patriots system so the job may be his for the taking. That should scare Patriots fans big time.
In the end, the battle for the number one cornerback spot on the Patriots roster this summer will most likely be won by Malcolm Butler.
He is far from a proven cornerback in the National Football League, but his ceiling seems to be higher than any of the players on the depth chart. Logan Ryan has only decreased as his career has gone on, leaving me with little hope that he can be an every down starting corner.
Before last year with Darrelle Revis and the early 2000s with Ty Law the Patriots pass defense has tended to struggle and lacked a true shutdown corner. With Revis leaving New England and returning to the New York Jets the Patriots may again go into the 2015 season without a shutdown corner. Last season, New England ranked 17th in pass defense but the numbers didn’t really show how good and effective the Patriots secondary and defense as a whole was in 2015, with the Patriots often leading early in games and by a good margin teams were forced to throw the ball the whole game. Lets take a look at the Patriots pass defense throughout the Belichick era both with and without a shutdown corner and what we could expect to see out of this years defense.
In Belichick’s first year as coach the team ranked 21st in pass defense allowing 220 passing yards per game. The league wasn’t as big of a passing league at the time compared to how it is now. The secondary was lead by cornerback Ty Law and safety Lawyer Milloy who each led the team in interceptions with two a piece during the teams disappointing 5-11 season. The team also ranked 21st in rush defense, which is a compelling reason why the team finished at 5-11 with a poor pass and rush defense.
The following season is one all pats fans will remember, the year the franchise won its first Super Bowl championship, the year our franchise quarterback took the realms and the dynasty in New England started. That year the Patriots ranked 24th in pass defense but allowed less yards per game than it did the year before allowing 218 yards per game. Again, the league was more run oriented compared to the way the NFL is today. The team was again lead in the secondary by Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy and despite the low ranking in pass defense allowed less yards than the year before and had 22 interceptions as a team, returning 5 for touchdowns. The high interception total showed how with a top safety and corner the team was able to be more aggressive in play making.
The Patriots suffered a Super Bowl hangover in the 2002 season missing the playoffs for one of the three times in the Belichick era. Despite not making the playoffs the teams pass defense increased tremendously improving to the 11th ranked pass defense in the league allowing 198 yards per game. Where the Patriots increased in pass defense they decreased in rush defense ranking 31st in the league allowing 137 yards per game.
The Patriots secondary had a new look to it in the 2003 season compared to the seasons before. Veteran safety Rodney Harrison and cornerback Tyrone Poole both signed with the team in the offseason, drafting safety Eugene Wilson in the second round, cornerback Asante Samuel in the 4th round and releasing veteran safety Lawyer Milloy prior to the start of the season. Milloy signed with division rival Buffalo Bills and started off the year by beating the Patriots 31-0, which I’m sure made the Patriots question their decision to release Milloy. The team ended up ranking 15th in pass defense at the end of the year allowing 202 yards per game. The teams run defense had a huge improvement from the year ranking 4th in rushing yards allowing only 86 yards per game. Behind the teams strong defense the team went on to win their second Super Bowl in three years.
2004 was a tough season for the Patriots secondary suffering many injuries, which forced wide receiver Troy Brown to the defensive side of the ball to play corner. Brown played well and better than I and I’m sure most people expected and was the model of the “Patriot Way”, doing anything you can to win. Brown ended up finishing tied second on the team in interceptions with 3, with his first coming against former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The only member of the secondary to play in all 16 regular season games was safety Rodney Harrison. The team ranked 17th in pass defense allowing 212 yards per game despite all the injuries and went on to win their third Super Bowl ring in four years and started the Patriots dynasty.
Veteran cornerback Ty Law left the team in free agency, which made the Patriots bolster a new look secondary for the 2005 season without Law. Without Law the teams secondary struggled ranking 31st in the league in pass defense allowing 231 yards per game. The teams rush defense also struggled in 2005 ranking 25th in run defense. With Law leaving in free agency the Patriots struggled with not having a true shutdown corner despite Asante Samuel playing well and molding into a future number one corner.
After the defensive struggle in 2005, the team improved in both pass and rush defense ranking 12th in pass defense and 5th in run defense in 2006. The defense was led by corner Asante Samuel who had 10 interceptions on the year and became a dangerous threat for opposing quarterbacks to throw at and taking away one side of the field. Injuries again hit the Patriots secondary in the 2006 season with a variety of injuries to multiple members of the defense.
The Patriots had their famous 16-0 Regular Season and rewriting the whole record book while doing so. With Tom Brady and the offense setting new records every week and gaining the majority of the attention, the Patriots defense had one of if not their best defense statistically in the Belichick era. The team ranked 6th in passing allowing 190 yards per game and the run defense ranking 10th allowing 98 yards per game. Harrison and Samuel were again leaders of the New England secondary. Sadly what this team will be remembered for will be for falling just short of the perfect season with their only loss coming against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. As well as the defense played all year they struggled in the Super Bowl against the Giants. The defense as a whole struggled and the offense didn’t play as well as they did all year long. If it also wasn’t for a miracle helmet catch by Giants receiver David Tyree the Patriots may have ended up winning the Super Bowl and completing the “perfect season”.
Coming off a devastating loss in the Super Bowl the Patriots were looking to return and were the early season favorites to win the Super Bowl in 2008. Then quarterback Tom Brady went down in the first quarter of week 1 with a torn ACL and MCL. The offense was now set to look different without their MVP quarterback. In free agency that year cornerback Asante Samuel left New England to join the Philadelphia Eagles. Safety Rodney Harrison only played in 6 games before being injured and out for the year. The defense was now led by rookie linebacker Jerod Mayo and 2nd year safety Brandon Meriweather and cornerbacks Deltha O’Neil (who was terrible at this point in his career), the inconsistent Ellis Hobbs and Jonathan Wilhite. With all the injuries and lack of a true number one corner the Patriots defense was better than ultimately expected. The defense ranked 11th in passing allowing 201 yards per game and 15th in defense allowing 107 yards per game. Even with the multitude of injuries on both side of the ball the team still finished at 10-6 but missed the playoffs after the Jets lost in week 17 to the Dolphins, which sent Miami to the playoffs. This helped show how great of a coach Bill Belichick is, doing as good as he did with the amount of injuries the team had and after losing arguably its best defensive player in free agency and still play well.
Veterans Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison retired prior to the 2009 season, which left New England with a loss of leadership and two key members of the teams defense, as well as trading star defensive lineman Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders. The team was also playing with Leigh Bodden, Jonathan Wilhite and Shawn Springs at cornerback, which is not very good to say the least. Wilhite struggled since the time he was drafted and Springs and Bodden were older veterans that were past their prime and weren’t nearly as productive as the team was hoping they would be when signed in free agency. Despite the lack of star power, especially in the secondary the team wasn’t too bad as a whole on defense ranking 12th in passing allowing 210 yards per game and ranking 13th in run defense allowing 110 yards per game. Again this showed that Belichick doesn’t need a “star” corner to lead his team.
The Patriots 2010 defense was ugly to say the least. The team ranked 30th in pass defense allowing 259 yards per game. One bright spot was rookie cornerback Devin McCourty, who had 7 interceptions on the year and looked like he could be the shut down corner New England was missing the past few seasons. Despite the terrible pass defense the team played fairly well against the run ranking 11th in the league allowing 108 yards per game.
New year, same problems, the 2011 Patriots were again TERRIBLE against the pass ranking 31st in the league allowing 293 yards per game. It was ugly to watch, I remember watching the game against the Peyton Manningless Indianapolis Colts and Dan Orloksky was at quarterback and they just kept driving up the field and scoring. I remember my dad and I yelling at the TV and asking each other “are we really going to lose to the f***ing Colts?” before he threw the TV remote at the ground and broke it out of anger. The lone bright spot from the year before, Devin McCourty had a huge sophomore slump and couldn’t have covered me if I was out on the field. The defense was so bad andlacked depth that wide receivers Julian Edelman and matthew Slater were both playing in the secondary, and were playing better than just about all the other members of the secondary. New England played in way too many shoot-outs and close games this season. The offense would get up big to start the game and then the defense would play a prevent zone and just couldn’t stop anybody, it was painful to watch. Despite the terrible defense the Patriots still made it to the Super Bowl after a heroic pass deflection by Sterling Moore and a shanked Billy Cundiff field goal in the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. New England again went onto lose to the Giants in the Super Bowl after a Wes Welker drop that would have sealed the victory for New England and another lucky pass by Eli Manning where his receiver again made an amazing catch bailing out Manning.
Yet again New England’s secondary struggled against the pass in 2012. Devin McCourty continued to struggle at cornerback, which prompted the team to move him to safety, where he has played great since, and make a mid-season trade for cornerback Aqib Talib. Adding Talib was huge for New England giving them a true number one cornerback and someone who could take away an opposing teams top receiver. Despite the acquisition of Talib the Patriots still ranked 29th in pass defense allowing 271 yards per game. If Talib was never acquired the rankings surely would have been lower. Talib was good during his time in New England besides constantly being banged up, especially in the big games. The Patriots ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship after a Talib injury sidelined him and forced Devin McCourty back to corner halfway through the game and forcing Kyle Arrington, a slot corner, to cover wide receiver Torrey Smith, a speedy deep threat.
With having a full season of Aqib Talib the Patriots pass defense improved drastically ranking 18th in the league allowing 239 yards per game. With Talib at corner allowed McCourty to play the center fielder role and roam around the secondary. Talib played like the top corner in the NFL for most of the 2013 season. Another bright spot for New England’s defense was rookie cornerback Logan Ryan. Ryan led the team with 5 interceptions and showed a lot of promise for the future as a playmaker and potentially improving into a number one corner for the Patriots. Talib was again injured during the AFC Championship game against the Denver Broncos and the Patriots went on to lose to the Broncos and be eliminated from the playoffs.
And lastly we have last years 2014 pass defense. Last years pass defense was great and the best that I have seen and can remember the Patriots having. Darrelle Revis was, well Darrelle Revis, he shut down any receiver he was matched up against. Brandon Browner provided the physicality and swagger that the defense needed, always giving big hits and being physical with the receiver he was matched up against even if it would draw the occasional pass interference call. Kyle Arrington played a key role as the teams slot corner and did it very well most of the year. Second year rookie Logan Ryan, like Devin McCourty, had a sophomore slump and didn’t play nearly as well as he did during his rookie year. He was constantly getting beat by receivers and didn’t play the ball as well as he did the year before. Then there was Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler who played well when he was on the field and was a good depth player. Butler is now most popular for his Super Bowl interception, throughout the year Butler was impressive in limited action and showed very good man coverage skills. And with this secondary with the shut down corner in Revis and great complimentary number two corner in Browner the Patriots went on to win their 4th Super Bowl.
Based on the past teams during the Belichick era the team has won their Super Bowls with a top, shutdown corner. After losing Revis, Browner, and Arrington in free agency the secondary is set to look a lot different than it did in 2014. The current cornerbacks on the Patriots roster who are expected to make the roster and potentially play key roles for New England’s defense this upcoming year are Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, free agent signee Bradley Fletcher, Robert McClain and Derek Cox, as well as safety Devin McCourty who some have suspected could make the switch back to corner with the current cornerback depth.
Ryan and Butler have spent time in New England and are expected to be the team’s two starting cornerbacks to start the 2015 season. Ryan is looking to bounce back after struggling last year and go back to the form he showed as a promising rookie in 2013 when he recorded 5 interceptions and played a big part of the teams defense. Butler will look to continue to shine after his game-winning interception in the Super Bowl. Butler already has high expectations heading into the 2015 season and time will tell if he will live up to the hype that has surrounded him since the Super Bowl.
Bradley Fletcher spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles after spending his first 4 seasons in the league with the St. Louis Rams. Fletcher was inconsistent last season with the Eagles, with not much safety help over the top and would occasionally be beat on the deep ball with a lack of safety help. With safety Devin McCourty giving hep over the top to corners Darrelle Revis and Aqib Talib the past few seasons, McCourty could also look to help Fletcher and transition Fletcher to potentially be a number one corner for New England. The Patriots are hoping that with the help of McCourty he could transition into that and not be the corner who was beat repeatedly by Dez Bryant and was seen crying on the sidelines at one point after constantly being targeted by Romo and beat by Bryant.
Robert McClain is a smaller corner at 5’9 and has primarily been a special teamer throughout his career. He played more defensively last year after injuries to Falcons corners. McClain could be used as a slot corner to replace Kyle Arrington, who was released by the Patriots this offseason and signed with the Baltimore Ravens. With McClain’s experience at both corner and special teams gives him a better chance to make the Patriots roster with Bill Belichick’s love for versatile players.
Derek Cox has been a journeyman throughout his NFL career playing for the Jaguars, Chargers and brief stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens. Cox was a member of the Ravens briefly last year and didn’t see the field before being released by the time. Cox is a bigger corner like Fletcher (Cox 6’1, Fletcher 6’0) and has been inconsistent throughout his career, like Fletcher. Cox is said to be more of a zone coverage defender than a man defender off the line of scrimmage. Cox role in New England is still unknown and isn’t a roster lock by any means but could provide nice veteran depth to the Patriots secondary.
Without a true number one corner to start the year the Patriots defense will look to rely more on their pass rush then the team has the past few seasons. The team is also expected by many people to switch to a zone defensive scheme rather than a man scheme like they have the past few seasons when they had a top corner.
Looking over the eight divisions in the NFL, the AFC East division has had a great deal of success over the past 15 years. Don’t remind any Bills, Jets and Dolphins fans about this though, for all twelve division titles, six Conference Championships and four Super Bowls won over this time belong to just one team – the New England Patriots.
But the reigning Super Bowl champs have had an offseason that has casted some reasonable doubt for fans ahead of the upcoming season. With the anchor to their defense and their two starting cornerbacks gone and an impending ruling yet to be handed down by the Ginger Hammer (#exonerateBrady), the rest of the AFC East has made moves to improve their teams with some key acquisitions. Is that enough to sink the tight ship run by Bill Belichick and Co.? Let’s take a look at how the three other teams stack up against the Kings of the AFC East:
Jets – Aside from the big (*cough* robbery *cough*) free agency signing of Darrelle Revis, the Jets also brought back Antonio Cromartie to the secondary to beef up an already tough and talented defense who will have Sheldon Richardson back by the time they face the Patriots in their Week 7 showdown. To complement the defense, the Jets improved their receiving corps by acquiring Brandon Marshall in free agency and drafting Devin Smith in this year’s draft. The bad news? The Jets may be in a better position to expose a weaker Patriots secondary by forcing them to put more cornerbacks on the field against a stronger set of wide receivers. The good news? The Jets don’t have Rex Ryan. Or a QB that can lead them to a division title. And while the Jets will have Sheldon Richardson back, the Patriots will have Tom Brady ready to go too, so I’ll be placing my bets on the Brady Bunch.
Dolphins – Ndamukong Suh decided to bring his talents to South Beach and that is huge for a franchise whose fans have been left with a sour taste in their mouths from watching teams full of hope and promise disintegrate the past two seasons. Having Suh join Earl Mitchell in the interior while Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon rush the edges will be the cause of many headaches for offensive coordinators in the division and across the league. The Dolphins also did a pretty good job of getting quarterback Ryan Tannehill (a massive contract and) some new weapons by signing Greg Jennings and drafting DeVante Parker with the 14th pick of the draft to join a balanced run game for the offense. But are these improvements enough to overcome the major holes this team has at guard, linebacker and at the cornerback position? Or will Dolphins fans face another tumultuous season that will end in more heartbreak for their fans? Too soon to tell. One thing that is certain – Bill Belichick’s bread and butter is taking away what every team does best and making them beat his team without their strengths. If the offensive line for the Dolphins struggle to create openings for their running backs and keep Ryan Tannehill upright, their secondary won’t be able to save them from the Patriots’ elusive passing attack.
Bills – No other team in this division (or in the league for that matter) had quite the offseason the Bills had. No other team in this division will have the pleasure of potentially facing a Brady-less Patriots offense (*knocks on wood*) this season and that is quite the advantage to have on your side, especially with an elite defense led by Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. These three ended the season with double-digit sacks on a team that racked up 54 sacks in 2014. It only gets better for this team because guess who’s at the helm for this Bills this year? Rex Ryan, defensive mastermind. But, said defensive mastermind is no offensive mastermind, and he’s going from one quarterback debacle with Geno Smith and the Jets to another with E.J. Manuel and the Bills. His other options at quarterback (Matt Cassel, Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Tuel) don’t seem to represent the long term answer to lead a good running combo in Fred Jackson and LeSean McCoy and a good wide receiving corps that includes Sammy Watkins, who is coming off a stellar rookie season. It’ll be quite the chess match when these two teams meet up in Week 2 and in primetime on Week 11. Rex will focus on disguising his defense with intricate blitzing schemes to faze the Patriots quarterback while Bill will squash the running game and force the Bills quarterback to beat the defense with his arm. There is no doubt that the Bills have the biggest chance to dethrone the Patriots for the AFC East throne, but their biggest hole is at the most important position on the team. With that said, I will give Bill Belichick and Co. the benefit of the doubt and another division title for the 2015-16 NFL season.
The defending Super Bowl champs will have a lot of different faces on both sides of the ball to start the 2015 season.
On the defensive side of the ball the team will look to replace longtime Patriot Vince Wilfork, linebackers Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas who were good depth and situational players for the team last season, as well as cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis who went back to the division rival New York Jets. The losses of Browner and Revis will hurt the Patriots the most. Last year New England played primarily a man coverage defense, this year it looks like the team will be focusing on more of a zone defense and pressuring the quarterback through their front seven.
The Patriots defense will look to rely on 1st round pick defensive tackle Malcolm Brown to replace Wilfork, cornerbacks Logan Ryan and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler to take on larger roles this season as well as free agent signee Jabaal Sheard to add to New England’s pass rush and pressure the quarterback for the new look defense.
Offensively the Patriots will look similar to last year, only losing running back Shane Vereen to the New York Giants in free agency.
Also guard Dan Connolly is currently a free agent and according to some reports is considering retiring from football after winning the Super Bowl. The Patriots will also be without running back LaGarrette Blount for the first week of the season for a violation of the leagues substance abuse policy last year as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who New England plays week one. New England may also be without quarterback Tom Brady who is currently appealing his 4-game suspension handed down to him by the league for the “DeflateGate” scandal and there is no timetable for the league to make their decision regarding Brady’s appeal.
The offense could look a lot different than it has the past 15 years if Brady ends up losing his appeal and accepting his suspension (which I do not think will happen). 2nd year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would likely be the starter for the duration of Brady’s suspension and though no one knows how the offense would operate with Garoppolo under center, it is almost guaranteed to take a step back to when Brady is under center. With Blount out for week 1 and running backs Shane Vereen and Steven Ridley gone the offense could look very different than it did back in February when the Patriots were playing for the Super Bowl.
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