2014 Patriots’ Secondary: An Island Chain Has Emerged Behind Revis

NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano

Christmas came early this year when Lovie Smith gift wrapped #24 under the tree for Patriot fans. In the span of about 48 hours New England went from losing Aqib Talib to their main AFC competition the Denver Broncos, to signing one of the hand full of players that would be considered an upgrade to him.

Darrelle Revis may not have been 100% last year, but he still manged to play at an above average level for most of the season in Tampa Bay. I fully expect a healthy Revis to rediscover his All Pro status, and be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year by season’s end.

The problem with Revis however is the uncertainty regarding his future after 2014. Many have speculated the Patriots plan to use the increased cap space they gained unloading Logan Mankins contract to Tampa in order to sign Revis long term. I just don’t see that happening, not because New England isn’t pursuing that possibility, but because Revis always bets on himself, and usually wins. If he can have the type of season many in the media are predicting, there’s no reason he won’t be able to shop a blank check around to 31 other teams. This doesn’t mean New England won’t eventually be able to resign him, but the degree of uncertainty that exists with his contract after the season is something worth acknowledging.

Fortunately for the Patriots they have one of the youngest and deepest pools of defensive backs in recent memory. A lot of attention will be paid each week to who Revis defends, but my focus will be on who New England pairs him with. Because the odds are in favor whoever sticks opposite Revis, will eventually become New England’s number one corner down the line.

Before Training camp I had Logan Ryan pegged as New England’s #2 CB, but Malcolm Butler  has been a revelation this preseason. Butler’s nose for the ball, and knack for big plays makes him a candidate to become Robin to Revis’s Batman. He’s susceptible to speed at times, but adjusts so well in coverage that he’s rarely beaten down field. He knows how to control his body while running with receivers, and keeps his eyes on the ball until the last moment. The question now going into the regular season is; Is he more ‘Studfeld’ than Sudfeld? Come Sunday afternoon we’ll find out and see if this undrafted diamond still shines when the lights are at their brightest.

If they go with Butler on the other side of Revis, that means Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard may be rotated a nickel back. Truth is, Belichick probably feels comfortable with Butler, Ryan or Dennard lining up at the #2 corner spot, as long as that means Kyle Arrington remains in the slot where he excels. The last thing they want to do is place Arrington outside on a regular basis.

Fans should be excited for Logan Ryan’s sophomore year. His 5 interceptions last season had him tied for third most in the NFL. Ryan always seems to be around the ball at crucial times, and that type of football magnetism is something New England has missed over the past couple seasons on defense. He gets his hands dirty in the run game, and knows how to get physical with wide outs underneath. When Ryan, Butler and Revis are on the field together, expect coverage sacks and turnovers to become routine. I feel the same about Dennard as long as he can stay healthy, but durability has become a concern for the third year corner.

The addition of Brandon Browner has been over hyped a lot this offseason. I’m a fan of the acquisition for what it is, which is the Patriots bringing in a veteran presence who will solidify a more physical tone among the secondary. But there’s a reason he lost his starting job to a 6th round pick in Seattle. Byron Maxwell beat him out for that position primarily due to Browner’s inability to cover in space. Leaving him alone in zone coverage is not the best idea, but rather at the line where he can jam receivers. By the time his four game suspension is over I have a feeling Ryan, Butler or Dennard will have played themselves into the starting role next to Revis.

The real intrigue however begins at Safety. After Devin Mccoutry the picture starts to become a bit cloudy. It’s clear the team likes Duron Harmon, who flashed toward the tail end of last year, and has looked good this preseason. It also helps that he already has an established rapport with McCourty that extends back to their college days at Rutgers, but it’s still unclear whether or not he can perform consistently for 16 games.

Tavon Wilson has gotten a much longer leash than I feel was warranted, but an improved training camp and preseason was enough for Belichick to keep him around.

On a side note, what I found amusing about people calling for Josh Boyce’s head going into final roster cuts, is that they had no problem with New England giving Wilson, a massive second round reach, over two years worth of slack after accomplishing nothing, but a talented fourth round receiver who was set back after injuries in his first year deserved to be let go? Makes very little sense to me. Not saying Boyce hadn’t underwhelmed, but cutting bait after one year is just too soon. Glad he found his way to the practice squad and will be given a chance to develop.

Anyways, I digress. If Wilson can carry those offseason improvements into the regular season, then maybe he can become a key contributor on some downs. His size is definitely an asset New England could use against larger bodies. Although, Wilson may lose some snaps to Patrick Chung who returned to the Patriots in free agency. Surprisingly, Chung has not looked terrible this preseason, and provides depth and experience behind a young safety corps.

Sunday versus Miami will be this secondary’s first exam, and the course schedule doesn’t get any easier with quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rogers and Philip Rivers on deck. Not to mention the difficult task of having to defend targets such as Demaryius Thomas, Kennan Allen and Jordy Nelson. But this year’s group of defensive backs are ready, and for once actually possess the ability to defend top tier talent.

Darrelle Revis is the Red Ryder BB Gun Patriot fans have yearned over for years, but perhaps the best gift they’ll receive heading into Sunday is the assurance they won’t need to Google names like Atwaun Modlen, Sterling Moore or Phillip Adams ever again.

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29 Responses to “2014 Patriots’ Secondary: An Island Chain Has Emerged Behind Revis”

  1. rmc says:

    This all comes down to coaching, sometimes Mcdaniels outsmarts himself and i dont think Matt Patricia is a good DC at all, and the O line coach was out of football last year, not to mention Josh Boyers record as a coach at any level he has been. Belechek surrounds himself with coaches now that will not be taken by other teams and will not question him.

    Look at other coaches (seahawks) they have established themselves in the college ranks and have done a good job

  2. Dylan.C says:

    Also, Tommy Kelly looked good. Not great but he played better than most of the Pats line did Sunday

  3. Dylan.C says:

    jeremiah Attaochu looking beastly out there for the Chargers….

  4. GM-in-Training says:

    Any body want place any wagers on which veteran the Pats sign tomorrow (when they’re full-year salary is no longer guaranteed)?

    • acm says:

      Can’t think of any vet DL- and OL-men left out there who’d be good enough to change things around, so I am thinking LB James Anderson and RBs BJGE and Michael Bush.

  5. Russell says:

    Sounds like Kanas City is going to pick-up DE/LB Jake Bequette off the Patriots P-Squad.

  6. GM-in-Training says:

    I don’t buy that the heat made all the difference for the O-line.

    I think the Pats run a sophisticated offense, and not all the players have jelled with their assignments.
    I also think the Pats went into the locker room at half time thinking the game was already over, not realizing that, save for one 1st-half interception, Tannehil and Moreno were moving the ball just fine against the Pat’s D.

    The Pats used Miami as a lab experiment on the offensive line.

    As for the Defensive line, I think their banged up talent is not back up to speed yet, and we saw it most on missed tackles. That’s something they really need full contact to work on, and finally they are starting to get that.

    Some of what the Pats were doing (rotating a lot on both sides of the ball) is to make sure their younger players get enough snaps to progress during the season. Remember, the goal is to be the best team to make the playoffs, not the best team at the start of the season.

  7. steve earle says:

    Well I’m not very happy this a.m. after our 2nd half yesterday. Don’t know if this says something about our smaller faster d-line, the LB’s or just what yet. Give credit to Miami’s line (both sides of the ball) they took charge and dominated. Oh by the way our tackling stunk. Both Miami backs got as many yards after contact as they did before. That’s insane !! Bill has some work to do now by gosh.

  8. Russell says:

    The Oline help needs to come from a blocking TE, lined-up next to the OT but Off the line, on one side or the other. OT Fleming, or a guy like Fragel (with a TE number) would fill the bill. This would allow the other Olinemen on that side to block down (better angles), and stop the speed rushers around the edge.
    John Simon is more of a Ninkovich type player, not great in coverage, but strong in the run game, and a LB in the works, but an up-grade over Chris White.
    DT Vellano, and DE Ninckovich need to be rotated in the Dline.
    If one of the starting Lbers go down to injury the Patriots, are in real trouble. Simon has more upside than White, as I see it.

  9. John M. says:

    If we force teams to throw the ball instead of running, I think that our defense will force a lot of turnovers. Our secondary is the strength of NE’s defense. Why should teams throw the ball if they can do whatever they want running the ball? Also, no pass rush at all against Miami. Too early to tell after 1 game but New England’s defense (which suppose to be improved) looks like shit!!!!! The worst second half of football that I’ve seen for a long time.

  10. Russell says:

    Correction OT Reid Fagel is on the Colts P-Squad.

    • acm says:

      Fragel must the most over-looked player to ever play in the NFL if you a think a PS player would jump onto a new system and just magically turn things around in a jiffy.

      • Russell says:

        HAHA, no-way Fragel turns anything around, he is just a quality player who I think fits the Patriots system. John Simon LB is another guy, I feel fits what Bill likes to do, some what like Ninkovich.

        • acm says:

          I like Fragel’s potential too but that makes him an alternative for the future. To become a difference-maker in the present and immediate future, a player would need to bring actual product, not just potential. That’s my problem with Fragel and players like him at positions like his that require very intimate familiarity with the system. The timing for anything more than a PS spot just isn’t right.

  11. Russell says:

    I would also pick-up LB John Simon 6’1″ 252 lbs, (Ohio State 4th round pick) from the Ravens P-Squad, and cut LB Chris White. I would also pick-up free agent,OT Reid Fragel, 6’8″ 295 lbs, who played OT and TE at Ohio state, he is very quick for his size and would be a TRUE blocking TE , (and add Oline depth) in the Jumbo packages, and cut TE Hoomanawanui.

  12. Russell says:

    The real issue is the play calling on O, Tom held the ball to long on many plays that took to long to develope. The run game was lack luster, the oline gaps were to large, and a TE trying to block a DE (wake) was a poor plan.
    On D the line did not maintain gap responsblity, and did not protect the LBers, who execpt for Collins , looked out of shape. I would like to see DE C. Jones play on the other end of the Dline, and play Easley in his spot. Wilfork and Silaga need to be on the field at the same time in the middle of the Dline.

  13. Big W says:

    Looked ok but nothing special , I don’t know if he actually likes playing for us. But the o line looked completely helpless and Tom played horrible our offence looks so slow that most teams on d have a huge advantage.Our run defence was awful Dontae Hightower had better start busting it a little, or he will be out of this league in a hurry.We didn’t draft worth a crap and if we were going to screw Mankins maybe guard should have been a priority.

    • acm says:

      Revis Island was underwhelming indeed but hope it’s a chemistry thing with him and he will be back to his legendary self in due time. To be fair, no one looked particularly “excited” to be a Patriot today on both sides of the ball, especially in the 2nd half. I personally refuse to believe that the heat is the reason for such a stark difference – more like game plan and in-game adjustments, loss of concentration, etc.

      The O-line play was abysmal, obviously, but IMO that had less to do with Mankins being gone and more with adjusting to the new coach and lack of top-tier talent on the interior. The former should allow the OL get better as time goes on but, with Scar gone, they better soon realize they won’t be able to get away with drafting 3rd tier talent anymore.

      Other than that, it was a totally forgettable day for the Pats. On O, same ‘ol lack of balance in the 2nd half, getting stuck in passing situations with 3rd and long the usual outcome. On D, same mistakes from years past of a sluggish DL, lack of explosiveness and proper reads at LB and a soft, inert secondary. And of course a healthy dose of clownish tackling. It’s just an outdated overall philosophy on D, imo.

      Anyways, only positive from today is that it’s hard to imagine the team playing any worse and it’s still early in the season.

      • Big W says:

        We always look like we are scared to just balls to wall go for it and take a win by the throat , they all keep looking over their shoulder thinking if I make a mistake i’ll get cut or traded .Instead off just getting after it.Chuck Pagano tonight kept his team flying around and they damn near pulled it off.

  14. acm says:

    Didn’t look like much of an island to me, let alone a whole chain of them. I bet Brady wishes he was on an island, though, after the beating he took today.
    Let’s hope things will get better, a lot better, as the season goes on.

    • Big W says:

      Yeah Sanders criticized him for lack of heart today. I think he’s one of these guys its going to be tough to buy into a team approach.

  15. Joe E O says:

    agree 100% regarding Brandon Browner….he is going to be a match-up and situation specific player as opposed to someone on the field 60 snaps.

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