Patriots Secondary Still Lacks Long-Term Solutions

Despite signing players such as Adrian Wilson, the Patriots may find themselves looking for improvements next season. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

Much has been made of New England’s defensive back signings thus far in the free agent period; the Patriots re-signed slot cornerback Kyle Arrington to a four-year, $16 million contract, left cornerback Aqib Talib to a one-year, $5 million deal, and added former Arizona Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson on a three-year pact to solidify the defensive backfield. However, although these three signings do provide the team with a measure of certainty relative to their pre-free agency defensive backfield, their long-term stability at cornerback and safety is still a concern.

Although New England paid too much for Kyle Arrington’s services, his addition is the most encouraging from a long-term perspective. Among New England’s most durable, physical defenders, Arrington played 947 snaps with the team last year, struggling at right cornerback but sliding into the slot later in the season, where he looked much more comfortable. An effective run supporter, Arrington’s presence should offer the Patriots with an above-average slot cornerback for the foreseeable future, rendering early-round slot options such as Tyrann Mathieu irrelevant to the team’s draft plans.

However, outside of Arrington, New England’s other signings are short-term fixes if anything. Aqib Talib’s one-year, $5 million contract has drawn plenty of praise, and while the Patriots were wise to avoid committing to Talib on a long-term contract, that’s primarily because he was not very effective for the Patriots last season. Talib, a player who has run into plenty of trouble off-the-field during his career (including a 2012 suspension for Adderall), struggled to get onto the field in New England and ranked among the bottom of the league in cover snaps per target, yards per cover snap, and cover snaps per reception, where he finished 97th, 112th, and 102nd among 116 qualifying cornerbacks during his time with New England, respectively.

As for Wilson, it remains to be seen whether or not he has anything left in the tank after his skills appeared to suffer significant erosion in 2012. While his signing has been celebrated for providing New England with a physical enforcer in the secondary, the truth is that his run support was lacking last season. In fact, he finished 48th among 55 qualifying safeties in Pro Football Focus’ “stop percentage” within eight yards of the line of scrimmage, signifying that only 2.7% of his snaps as an in-the-box player were negative plays for the opposing offense.

Wilson’s struggles in run support were magnified by his losses in coverage, where he finished below much-maligned Patriots starter Steve Gregory in terms of coverage snaps per target and per reception, with only a slight advantage over Gregory in terms of yards per coverage snap. Arizona attempted to compensate for Wilson’s decline by removing him on obvious passing downs last season, resulting in Wilson finishing 54th among 59 qualifying safeties in the amount of snaps spent in coverage despite playing in fifteen games. In other words, Wilson’s statistics hardly indicate either a forceful run defender or an upgrade in pass coverage.

To compound matters, New England signed a three-year deal with Wilson despite these concerns, and there may not be much cause for optimism, as Wilson is currently 33 years old; he turns 34 in October. While contract terms have not been revealed thus far, by offering any sort of guaranteed money beyond 2012, the Patriots would be assuming a financial risk unwarranted by what Wilson showed while on the field in 2012.

While the Patriots may have done themselves a favor by making additions in the secondary, offering their roster more flexibility in the 2013 NFL Draft, they likely have not done much to improve their secondary despite the significant financial commitments they made during the free agent period. If next season resembles 2012, they could very well find themselves attempting to replace Talib and/or Wilson. Based on their financial investments, the Patriots appear to be comfortable with their personnel in the secondary, but this looks like an average unit at best based on their 2012 numbers.

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15 Responses to “Patriots Secondary Still Lacks Long-Term Solutions”

  1. David Boesen says:

    Congrats on signing Leon Washington, Pats! He’s a game changer!

  2. Andrew says:

    What about Ras-i Dowling? There was a lot of hype surrounding him when he first got drafted by the pats, but hes been hurt for most of his career. does anyone think he can still be was his potential leads him up to be?

  3. ralph says:

    Bottom line is the Pats have to pay to get good talent, which they refuse to. That’s it. Time and time again, the team has often decided to go with “late in their career” or lack luster players and pay them peanuts. Back in the Super Bowl years, that may have worked, but today is not then. Players would love to go to the Pats, because they are one of a few teams who each year has the best chance to go to the big game. However, the coach chooses to follow another path, figuring that the NFL’s leading offense will carry the team deep in the playoffs. Unfortunately, you need a solid defense when you get to that point. A point that has been the shortfall for the team over the past several years.

  4. munchkin says:

    Terms of the three year deal for Wilson will likely prove to be team friendly. Having a veteran presence beyond Gregory should help TW and Mcourtey as they mature into their respective roles.

  5. cc says:

    If Talib stays healthy, he’ll have a great year and will take off & sign a bigger pay day somewhere else…..
    Arrington’s should have been 2 not 4 years ay absolute best.
    The Wilson deal shouldn’t have been for 3 either, again 2 at best.
    The team needs CB’s & keep McCourty in a Safety roll.
    I see special teamers being fit in all year round in the backfield.
    “Average at best” is probably a max statement regarding the backfield.
    The only resolution to this seen now is using the 1st rounder without question on Jessie Williams out of Bama. His presence &abilities on the line W/Big Vince W. will have to be there in order to get our LBCore a better chance & our average at best BackfieldCore a change. ….no way around it now!
    *Jessie Williams with the 1st.
    *Terron Armstead…..possably Barret Jones with the 2nd……and out. The 2 seventh rounders are either toss ins OR by the grace of God-another Troy Brown.
    Id use a next year pick in order to jump a bit for Jessie Williams.

    • Derek says:

      Jesse Williams is just a run stuffer similar to Vince, although that is great we need guys that can penetrate the pocket from the inside and open up the outsides for our ends. Personally I would like to see the Pats trade their first rounder for an early-mid second and possibly a fourth so we can add an extra pick plus we can still get a solid CB around 40-50, which like this article states is a big question in the long term. Especially with Dennard facing possible jail time and Talib on a single year contract.

      • cc says:

        Little more than just a run stuffer, & when you stack him on the line “With” Big V…
        This team has needed a compliment 2 Vince for a while. Vince is also 10 years in, with a Big Vince Wilfork clone besides BiG Vince Wilfork……opposing O-Lines will crumble!
        Thus creating much more oportunity for our LBCore, DE’s and sub par backfield without question.
        You also get a Vince Wilfork Clone being zchooled by Big Vince Wilfork for a cpl/frw years just before BVW retires……
        Thats s win-win in my book!

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          I agree with CC, youth to work with Wilfork, to replace him in a few years. Jesse Williams, or Brandon Williams, depending on were we pick.
          Also an OG in the draft, and a CB:

          #29- DT Jesse Williams, or DT Brandon Williams
          #59- OG/C Barrett Jones , or OG/T Justin Pugh,or OG/T Brian Winters
          #91- CB Micah Hyde

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I like DT Jesse Williams also, as well as Barrett Jones. My Patriot draft board is getting smaller, as I narrow it down. Terron Armstead is not on my Patriot board however.
      I like OG/T Brian Winters, OT Reid Fragel, OG/T Justin Pugh, OT Brennan Williams, OG/C T.J. Johnson along with Barrett Jones, as Olinemen.
      For Dlinemen, I have DT Jesse Williams, DT Brandon Williams, DT Joe Vellano, DE/LB John Simon, DE Tank Carradine, DE Datone Jones and DT Bernie Logan.

  6. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I think the Talib deal was a great value for the Patriots to see what Talib can do for a full season. It also means the Patriots are very likely to draft a CB who will get a full season to understand the D , play a few downs, and add depth in case of injury. Depending were we pick, I think 2nd or 3d round is were BB may target a CB. I also would not be suprised, to see BB pick a second CB/S late 6th or 7th.
    I will be shocked if BB passes on OG/C Barrett Jones with an early pick.
    Trading back the 1st (29) pick still looks very likely, ending -up with an additional 2nd pick and a 4th and 5th?
    I also feel BB will take a look at WR Early Doucet, in FA, as his value could br very friend to the Patriots.

    • acm says:

      I think the best way to solve the CB need would be to get another safety in free agency – one of Huff, Rhodes, Woodsen depending on who gives us best value – as that would make DMac available for CB duties. This way, the team wouldn’t need to draft secondary until the 7th round where some good development projects could be found and thus preserve the high-round picks for other positions like DL, OL, WR.

      drfating Barrett Jones would hinge on whether Vollmer resigns with the Pats or not, imo. If Vollmer leaves, then getting an OT in the 1st or 2nd round becomes a priority and B. Jones is not at his best there – he is a lot better at C or G – which would make him a luxury as the team doesn’t have enough picks to afford spending 2 on the OL. And it’s unlikely BB would risk starting the season with a project replacement for Vollmer at RT … not in a year where so many other parts on O are new too.

      If Vollmer re-signs, then I assume there would still be one pick allocated for OL and B. Jones would be a prime candidate, imo.

  7. Joe E O says:

    Do you think that Aqib Talib’s one-year has language to prevent the Patriots from franchising him after this coming season. This presupposes he puts everything together and has a monster year.

    • Dylan says:

      They have not released the details yet but I would be shocked if there wasn’t a no franchise tag clause

    • td says:

      Why franchise him? 2014 will probably be another flat cap year and he will not be getting a big long term contract then either; unless of course he becomes Revis overnight. The franchise tag was about $9mil this year, Bill saved himself $4mil.

      Who in this version of the NFL really has long term solutions? Contracts are usually between 1-5 years and the longer one’s have huge salary numbers in the last years so most of them will be cut by then, leaving only the remaining signing bonus folded into one year.

      Teams like the Pat’s have a handful of key players signed for 3-5 years and they are scouring the earth for “value” players through free agency and the draft.

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