Former NFL player explains why the Patriots have the league’s best secondary

Former safety turned analyst Matt Bowen also views a pair of Patriots players among the best at certain traits.

Adrian Phillips and the Patriots secondary have had a lot of big plays to celebrate this season. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

It’s not a secret that the Patriots’ secondary has had a good season, especially after they played a pivotal role in the team’s seven-game winning streak.

New England’s corners and safeties have combined for 22 interceptions this season, more than all but one team in the league. Their passing defense is third in the league, allowing just 185.1 passing yards per game.

With those stats, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re considered the best secondary in the league. Former NFL safety turned analyst Matt Bowen believes so. In an article breaking down which players are the best at 25 different traits, Bowen explained why the Patriots’ secondary stands above the rest.


“During the Patriots’ recent seven-game winning streak that ended against the Colts on [Saturday] night, Bill Belichick’s secondary surrendered a QBR of only 23.0 while allowing just 4.7 yards per passing attempt,” Bowen wrote. “Carson Wentz threw for only 57 yards against them in Week 15. This is a lockdown unit, led by the coverage ability and the ball skills of J.C. Jackson, with versatile players who allow the Patriots to play single-high man, move late to zone coverage or identify opposing receivers to erase from the screen.

“With veteran Devin McCourty protecting over the top, plus the versatile traits of safeties Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips, this is a deep — and complete — unit, which also features disruptive slot man Myles Bryant and corner Jalen Mills. For the season, New England ranks second in the NFL in QBR (29.1) allowed, completion percentage (58.1) allowed, interceptions (20) and yards per attempt (6.4) allowed.”

As Bowen alluded to, he views a couple members of the Patriots’ secondary among the best at certain traits. Bowen views Jackson as the second-most complete cornerback, trailing just Rams star Jalen Ramsey. He also ranks Jackson as the runner-up for the best ball hawk corner, only behind Cowboys corner Trevon Diggs.


Jackson’s consideration as one of the best ball hawk corners makes sense. For the second year in a row, he’s second in the league interceptions with seven, trailing just Diggs. He’s also forced a fumble this season.

Bowen does list a Patriot as being the best at a specific trait. He views Phillips as the best nickel/dime safety in the league.

“Kyle Dugger, Phillips’ teammate in New England, is a fit here too, but I’m picking Phillips because he has the physical makeup of the core sub-package defender in Belichick’s defense,” Bowen wrote. “With snaps at safety and stack linebacker, he has four interceptions and 60 tackles. He can play downhill versus the run game, match and carry in coverage or roam underneath as a curl/hook defender. Those are staple traits for a productive New England nickel/dime defender.”

Phillips has been a key part of the Patriots’ defense since his arrival to New England in 2020. Last season, he recorded a team-best 109 tackles to go along with his four passes defended, two interceptions, and a sack. Phillips has been strong in pass coverage this season, too. When targeting Phillips, opposing quarterbacks have completed 25 of 44 passes for 235 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions, giving them a 56.5 passer rating.


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