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Breaking down the Patriots 'volume' personnel strategy

Posted by Erik Frenz  April 2, 2013 07:30 AM

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Over the years, the Patriots have taken an aggressive approach to addressing positions of need. They will add multiple players at one position in hopes that the best players will emerge from the group.

Sometimes, they've been more successful than others.

Some might call it "throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks." It's probably a little more methodical than that, so we'll call it the "volume" personnel strategy.

Let's take a look at the most recent examples of this strategy and see what the rewards have been.

Cornerbacks
Leigh+Bodden+Kyle+Arrington+Baltimore+Ravens+zWFaV0tsBDix.jpg
2009:

CB Kyle Arrington — 8 games played, 8 assisted tackles
CB Leigh Bodden — 15 games played, 14 starts, 47 solo tackles, 8 assists, 2 fumble recoveries, 17 passes defensed, 5 interceptions, 1 touchdown
CB Darius Butler — 14 games played, 3 starts, 32 solo tackles, 3 assists, 8 passes defensed, 3 interceptions, 1 touchdown
CB Shawn Springs — 12 games played, 8 starts, 34 solo tackles, 5 assists, 8 passes defensed, 1 interception

The Patriots pass defense was not awful in 2009, allowing an 81.2 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks and yielding seven yards per pass attempt.

Kyle Arrington is the only one that remains from this binge. Shawn Springs was off the roster by the end of the 2009 season; Darius Butler was out by the end of 2010; Leigh Bodden was sent packing midway through the 2011 season.

The approach gave the Patriots their answers for the 2009 season, but not much further than that. That's why they were right back where they began two years later.

2011:

CB Philip Adams — 6 games played, 9 solo tackles, 1 interception
CB Ras-I Dowling — 2 games played, 2 starts, 2 solo tackles, 1 assist
CB Sterling Moore — 6 games played, 3 starts, 8 solo tackles, 2 assists, 4 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, 1 touchdown
CB Malcolm Williams — 2 games played

This one doesn't quite fall under the same umbrella as the other examples of the volume approach, with two additions in the draft (Dowling and Williams) and two in-season free agent additions (Adams and Moore).

Williams has yet to play much meaningful football after being drafted in the seventh round, but has played in two games each year on special teams. Dowling has yet to play much meaningful football after suffering season-ending injuries in each of the past two years. Adams was on and off the roster all of 2011 and was eventually signed by the Seahawks before the end of the season.

Sterling Moore was also on and off the roster, but was ultimately kept around for the playoffs and was brought back in 2012. He was waived in November, and was picked up by the Cowboys.

Defensive line
AP111113088707.jpg
2011:

DE Mark Anderson — 16 games played, 1 start, 20 solo tackles, 12 assists, 10 sacks, 1 batted pass, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
DE Andre Carter — 14 games played, 14 starts, 30 solo tackles, 21 assists, 10 sacks, 1 batted pass, 2 forced fumbles
DE Markell Carter — spent 2011 on practice squad, was cut in 2012
DT Shaun Ellis — 14 games played, 10 starts, 7 solo tackles, 7 assists, 1 sack
DT Albert Haynesworth — 6 games played, 2 solo tackles, 1 assist

The Patriots pegged the defensive line as the area in most need of improvement in 2011.

Markell Carter, Shaun Ellis and Albert Haynesworth all ended up being disappointments, but the Patriots still settled their need for a defensive end with Mark Anderson and Andre Carter. The two went on to become the first duo with 10 or more sacks for the Patriots since Andre Tippett and Garin Veris in 1985.

All four defensive linemen were off the roster by 2012. Carter and Anderson both left as free agents, Ellis retired and Haynesworth didn't make it to the end of the season. Still, this was arguably the biggest hit of the volume approach.

Wide receivers
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2012:

WR Jeremy Ebert — spent 2012 on the practice squad
WR Jabar Gaffney — cut in training camp
WR Anthony Gonzalez — cut before training camp
WR Brandon Lloyd — 16 games played, 15 starts, 74 receptions, 911 yards, 12.3 yards per reception, 4 touchdowns
WR Donte Stallworth — 1 game played, 1 reception, 63 yards, 1 touchdown

This was arguably the least successful example of the volume approach. Lloyd was the only receiver added in the 2012 offseason to play more than one game and log more than one reception.

Gonzalez's injury history made him a question mark from the getgo, and he didn't even make it to training camp. Stallworth and Gaffney were both released during training camp, with Stallworth returning during the season when the Patriots were hit with injuries. Lloyd was let go with his character being called into question on his way out. He had a productive season, but still fell short of expectations and was not quite the receiver the Patriots thought they were getting.

As of right now, Ebert is the only receiver that remains on the roster.

2013:

WR Danny Amendola
WR Michael Jenkins
WR Donald Jones

With three signings at wide receiver, the Patriots haven't quite reached the numbers of previous examples of the volume approach, but the Patriots have three players who can hopefully fill the two spots left vacant by Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd.

Jenkins has been a reliable target in the past, but he's lost the ability to create separation. He can still win matchups with his size, but he's not going to stress a defense vertically anymore. He was starting to catch on in Atlanta before moving to Minnesota, but over the past two years, he has recorded his lowest totals in both receptions and yards since 2006.

Jones has improved each of his three years in the NFL, and had a career-best 41 catches on 62 targets (66.1 percent) for 443 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. He does have some issues with drops, though, having dropped 11 of 93 catchable balls (11.8 percent). The problem with him, though, is that there's a health condition which has yet to be disclosed that has kept him off the field.

Expectations are low for both Jenkins and Jones. Amendola, not so much.

welker amendola.pngMany people expect Amendola to step in and be similar to Wes Welker. He has a similar skill set, but is a slightly different receiver in that he's a bit faster and can win matchups on the outside. Amendola's 2012 stats are remarkably similar to Welker's 2006 stats, the year before he joined the Patriots. He would have finished with 92 receptions for 969 yards and four touchdowns if he had stayed healthy in 2012. That, however, is the big concern with him.

There will be plenty of opportunities for the Patriots to add a wide receiver in the draft.

With the current question marks at the position, it wouldn't be a surprise for them to add one more at some point.


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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »

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