Rumor has it that the New England Patriots have been in the news as of late.
Something about taking the air out of the football…and we don’t mean an increased emphasis on the running game.
But while the discussion surrounding the team has gone from a game of inches to a game of square inches, the defending Super Bowl champions have some real issues to consider when it comes to the team on the field.
Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass against the New York Jets during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Regardless of how well (or how often) quarterback Tom Brady plays in 2015 we know that this team will only go as far as their defense can take it. How do we know that? Because in recent years the prolific signal-caller has put up his share of eye-popping numbers only to see his team fall short of grabbing another Lombardi Trophy?
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Remember back in 2007 when Brady led the Patriots to a 16-0 regular season and in the process threw 50 touchdown passes compared to only eight interceptions? When it was all said and done, New England’s once-perfect season came to an abrupt end in a Super Bowl XLII loss to the New York Giants. Three years later, he connected for 36 scores and was picked off just four times and the Pats were stunned by the New York Jets in the AFC Divisional Playoffs at Foxborough.
There are other examples of other stellar seasons which didn’t result in an NFL title. This past season, Brady was once again solid, this time throwing 33 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions. New England would eventually defeat the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24, in Super Bowl XLIX. It marked the first time in four championship campaigns that Brady threw for at least 30 scores.
What’s the point? What can we expect from the Patriots’ defense in 2015, in particular their secondary and more specifically at cornerback?
Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) returns an interception past Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) in the third quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Consider the following: Darrelle Revis is back with the New York Jets. Brandon Browner is a member of the New Orleans Saints. Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington were both released by the Pats within the last week or so and are now members of the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.
This past season, Bill Belichick’s team allowed just 19.6 points per game and surrendered only 30 offensive touchdowns while totaling 40 sacks and amassing 25 takeaways – including 16 interceptions.
Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler (21) intercepts a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette (83) in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
But who’s to say a secondary that now features cornerbacks Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Justin Green, Chimdi Chekwa and free-agent pickups Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain is ready for what they will face in 2015? There are experienced safeties in Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung but the New England pass rush, featuring the likes of defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones, as well as outside linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower (once healthy) had better be at the top of its game to prevent opposing quarterbacks from having their way on a weekly basis.
So while the discussion surrounding the team from Foxborough these days have focused on some very deflating news, all of that is secondary when it comes to the defending champs revamped cornerback corps.
And yet or until proven otherwise, Belichick and Co. will find a way…to find a way.
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