Re: Gasper pre-draft: Have Pats improved their D?
posted at 5/4/2013 4:16 PM EDT
In response to prolate0spheroid's comment:
If you look at it by unit, I think the improvements in the secondary were largely made last year, with the emergence of Dennard, the acquisition of Talib, and the move of McCourty to safety. I think that unit continues to improve with a year of experience playing together, plus a bit more competition at the second safety and fifth and sixth DB slots.
At LB, Hightower should benefit from a year of experience. I think Collins potentially improves the unit significantly if he can cover well and also rush from the LB slot, plus hold the edge against the run. If he's a sub LB he helps a bit. But if he's a truly versatile guy with great athleticism in the passing game (both rushing and covering) and also good against the run so he can be a three down player, I think he could be the piece that transforms our LB unit from good to excellent. He also may give us a linebacking group that can work in either 4-3 or 3-4.
At DE, I expect Jones to improve significantly with a year of experience, and expect him to improve our pass rush. Nink probably still plays the other DE spot (at least in 4-3), but I think Francis will continue to improve and may push him a bit on the outside as well as play a role inside on passing downs. Kelly adds another decent big body at DT, Armstead has some potential to be an inside pass rusher or maybe a 3-4 DE (if he's good enough for the NFL) . Still the DL is probably an area where another guy like Abraham would help on the edge and another DT would be nice too. Not sure if this line is a great one for a 3-4 (not enough big guys) so I still expect more 4-3 this year, but we may see a lot of 2-5 type sub packages anyway.
Overall, I anticipate some improvement this year--not a complete transformation, but steady improvement building on last year's changes in the secondary, the continued development of last year's rookies, and the new acquisitions made this year.
Solid post man.
I also think Ne will keep using a base 4 man front, though I think we will see some more three man fronts mixed in.
And yeah, I'm axcited about Jones. He is a real talent. Hightower. I loved him coming out. He got caught dogging it on a few plays last season, and was called out on the globe. But he is a great athlete, I would love him to be for this defense what he was for Saban's Crimson Tide.
Improvement. Care to quantify it? 30th, to 31st, to 29th? You obviously aren't calling for a sea-change, so is this the season NE can crack the top 15 pass defense? Or do you mean even more incremental ... something closer to getting out of the bottom 10 or 5?
The big questions to me remaining are:
1.) The depth at CB. Banking on improvement from Dennard, and maintanance by Talib, if one of them goes down Ne really has trash backing them up. Arrington is decent in the slot, but it's been demonstrated before, he is a bad LCB/RCB.
2.) Finally finding a functional Safety to play beside DMC (it's been an unmitigated nightmare outside of some solid box play by the oft injured Chung). I'm not talking about someone who can play the big nickel, though that is always something NE needs. But another guy who isn't a nightmare in the deeper quadrants. It's frustrating that NE spends so much time in soft-zone and off-man, two deep ... but still were dead last in 20+ yard passes allowed last season, and 19th in 40+ yard passes.
3.) Augmenting the pass rush come he-11 or high water (something that has really lingered as a sore spot for what is almost the better part of a decade at this point) wether through development [Jones taking another step, Collins coming on quick] or FA [TK, AA, or even Abraham]. Whether you think like Wozzy (I tend to do so) that the interior is what's has been missing (Gerard Warren, really?) or you think simply adding a dash of Abraham works it all out, it's something they need to improve on, especially in how it can help the back end of the defense ... the linebackers in particular, who are often basically twisting in the wind, sorting through trash, or being forced to cover underneath routes longer than LBers should.
I'm tired of hearing people trash Mayo, Spikes, etc, because they don't compare to Bruschi/Johnson when that latter two basically ran around unimpeded behind a terrific front-five of Seymour Washington/Wilfork, Warren, Vrabel, and McGinest. The best (really the best) NE has offered recently to compete with that is Wilfork, Jones, Ninkovich, Love/Deaderick. It's not even a comparison.