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More Defense, Please

By Patriots Blog Writer Doug Cutler Jr.
2/19/09


First, a word about the Red Sox

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training in Florida, Red Sox baseball will start to dominate the New England media scene. Here’s hoping that David Ortiz returns to his ’03-’07 self, Mike Lowell makes a complete recovery and plays with his normal gusto, J.D. Drew overcomes his nagging injuries to play stellar ball, and the pitching staff lives up to expectations.

I am looking forward to seeing what Dustin Pedroia does for an encore, too. Is that little guy a firecracker or what?

One last note: Thank you, Red Sox, for re-signing the captain, Jason Varitek.


Now back to football.

As we discussed last week, New England’s defense is a little behind the curve. Things aren’t “man the life boats” bad, but there is precious little room for error in rebuilding this defense right now. At some point very soon, Bill Belichick and the rest of the personnel people are going to have to hit a couple of home runs with new defenders or the window of opportunity to succeed with this particular set of premiere defensive linemen is going to close and close with a whimper. Jarvis Green is 30, Richard Seymour will turn 30 this year, Ty Warren is 28, and Vince Wilfork will be 28 later this year too. That’s a lot of candles on the birthday cakes of your D-linemen. The reality is they won’t be together much longer.

If the Patriots don’t use a draft pick on a defensive lineman this year they are almost certainly put into a position where they will have to in 2010.

Having said that, 2009 has to be the year the Patriots assemble the newest starters in the secondary and linebacker corps. Jerod Mayo turned out to be a stud at ILB last year, but every other starter at linebacker will be at least 32 or older on opening day. Rumor even has it that Indiana Jones was snooping around the Patriots’ practice facility looking for ancient artifacts going by the names Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi.

One thing the Patriots have going for them here is at least they have a large selection of young linebackers to continue developing. Guys like Eric Alexander, Shawn Crable, Gary Guyton, and Pierre Woods are all potential starters. We’re just waiting on one of them to take the bull by the horns and legitimately replace an aging star. For the sake of this team’s future success, let’s hope it happens soon.

Now we look to the most pressing problem: The secondary. We mentioned last week that aside from Brandon Meriweather, this group of guys is severely lacking in the performance department (and he isn’t even close to being a “go-to” player yet). We also have to accept a couple additional facts here. Ellis Hobbs has proven many times over that he is not a #1 corner and Rodney Harrison is no longer Rodney Harrison (if he plays at all). Translation: Help wanted immediately.

There is no surplus time to rebuild this defensive backfield. It is too young and too old with not nearly enough “just right.” Maybe it isn’t “Patriots Way” to trade for a stud cornerback, but the clock is ticking. Perhaps this year’s draft is best spent almost entirely on the defense, with a heavy dose of corners and safeties being selected.

Here’s one scenario where the Patriots could load up on early picks:

Trade Matt Cassel and the 47th overall pick to the Detroit Lions for their 20th and 33rd picks. This would leave New England with selections at 20, 23, 33, and 58. That’s quite a haul for the first day of the draft.

This scenario benefits both teams. It allows Detroit to get a young, experienced NFL quarterback for less money than one taken with the first overall pick. It also opens that first pick to help fill another pressing need with a stud draftee while still giving the Lions a quality second round pick at #47. On the Patriots’ side, it gives them the opportunity to fill their shopping cart with candidates to fill those defensive holes.

Either way, in order for this defense to be successful again, something big has to happen and it has to happen soon.


A quick note on possible changes to the NFL’s overtime rules


The NFL’s competition committee might be looking at tweaking overtime rules this off-season. Currently, all overtime games in the NFL are “sudden death.” In other words, the first team to score in overtime wins the game. The problem, many people say, is that it isn’t very difficult for the team that wins the coin-toss at the start of overtime to take the kick-off and march the ball close enough to kick a field goal and win the game without allowing the team that lost the coin-toss a chance to play offense. They say winning a coin-toss gives teams too much of an advantage.

A quick review of overtime statistics seems to prove their point. 40% of the time, teams that win the coin-toss win the game on their first possession in overtime. That’s a huge number and it appears as though the trend is leading to even higher percentages.

To help make things more equitable, the NFL is considering a number of different changes, one of which is moving kickoffs up five or ten yards (from the 30 yard line to the 35 or 40) in order to add more distance the offense has to travel before being in field goal range. That’s not much of a change, but rarely does the NFL do anything drastic.

I have an idea that is slightly more radical, but it also ensures that teams can’t win by moving the ball only far enough to attempt a field goal. My proposal calls for keeping “sudden death,” but eliminating field goals altogether in overtime. This way, teams must score a touchdown or a safety in order to win the game. In other words, you have to really earn the score to win. This will undoubtedly give teams who don't win a coin-toss more of a chance to win overtime games.


Answer to last week’s question:


Kevin Turner and Ben Coates

Question of the week:

In the last 25 years, which Patriots’ offensive lineman retired due to a neck injury?

(Answer will be provided next week)

2 comments:

  1. There should be a change to the overtime rules, I still have no clue what kind of change? Not a bad idea Doug but I'd have to look at a few different options. I'm so sick of sports radio talk saying that Cassel will be traded to the Chiefs because of Scott Piolli, it's just because of him being there that it WON'T happen! Your Detroit offer looks good for both sides, maybe you should be the GM lol.

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  2. The war is won in the trenches for sure...the O n Deffensive lines. Deffense Deffense Deffense for sure will be the key, you gotta run the football, and stop the run. I suppose mixing in rookies with veterans is always best, character and veteran leadership teaching the youth. Putting the pieces of puzzle together is the hardest part.

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