New England Patriots: 5 Reasons the Pats' Secondary Must Improve
The New England Patriots have had a lot said about them since their return to glory. They've been called a dynasty, one of the best franchises of the 2000s and a lot more. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have given Foxboro something to look forward to every fall when football rolls around.
One thing you don't usually hear about the Patriots? Their defense. Don't get me wrong, the Pats have had some great defensive players and squads in the past, but if the past was all that mattered the Packers would be the best team ever.
This season the Patriots secondary has had some difficulty. The Pats secondary is giving up almost 300 yards per game through the air, third worst in the league.
If the Pats want to have a good season, the secondary needs to step up.
Here are five reasons they need to improve.
1. Support the Front Seven
The Patriots defense isn't all bad. The defensive line and the linebackers have been solid this season, giving up just 82 yards on the ground and playing well for the most part.
This brings me to my first point. If the secondary improves it'll take some pressure off the front seven. Right now the defense is giving up almost 300 yards passing per game, which can't all fall on the defensive backs, but 300 yards doesn't usually come on all dink and dunk passes.
Right now the Pats are relying on the front seven to get the job done, but if the defensive backs can step up and start making some big plays, they'll be able to help out the defense and the team.
2. Weak Division
Another reason that the Pats secondary must improve is New England's schedule. The Patriots hang their proverbial hats in the AFC West which certainly isn't the most difficult division in the NFL.
As we know, winning a division is a punched ticket to the playoffs. Some games are decided by just one or two big plays in the NFL and if one of those big plays is because of a blown coverage against a bad team, the secondary could possibly run the Patriots out of the playoffs.
It's important that Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Tavon Wilson, and Patrick Chung improve so the team doesn't drop big games in a weak division that might be a big part of its run to the playoffs.
3. Playoff Implications
As discussed on the last slide, the Patriots' division isn't the strongest this year. If the Patriots play well enough offensively they can probably find a way to sneak into the playoffs without too much stress.
Because of this the secondary really needs to improve. If the Pats get into the playoffs the teams would be of a much higher caliber than the Jets, Bills or Dolphins. Instead of the secondary defending Jeremy Kerley or Brian Hartline, it would be covering players like Anquan Boldin or Andre Johnson (among others of course).
Look at the last few Super Bowls. We've seen the Giants win with a good passing attack, the Packers win with almost no run game to speak of, and the Saints who also had a high octane offense. Even if the Pats get to the Super Bowl with the secondary playing less than perfect football, they'll have to stop the passing game to get the trophy.
The defensive backfield needs to bring its game to a new level not only to help the Patriots get to the playoffs, but also to slow down the big names once they get there.
4. Get Wins
This one is pretty obvious. The NFL has become a passing league and if the Pats secondary doesn't play well, that can directly affect the outcome of the game. You have to get wins to get to the Super Bowl; it's as simple as that.
That list isn't the most daunting schedule except for Houston and San Francisco.
The secondary needs to make plays for its defensive unit and let Tom Brady and the offense get on the field as much as possible and let them do what they do.
5. They're the Patriots!
My last reason that the Patriots need to improve is because they're the Patriots! The Patriots as of late are the evil empire. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady make the team look like a ruthless, do anything to win kind of team.
They've become the team that dominates opponents, not scared to hang 52 on the Bills (or other downtrodden opponents). To keep that persona they need all phases of the game to play at a high level.
If the secondary isn't able to make big plays for the team, the Patriots lose that killer instinct and can allow other teams to find a weakness in the dynasty.
The defensive secondary will need to improve this season if the Patriots want to make a deep run in the playoffs; however, if you're a Pats fan, I wouldn't worry too much.
The Patriots have always found ways to get the job done, regardless of the current state of the roster, but will they be able to turn it around this season? We'll find out in the next few weeks against a few weaker teams in the Seahawks and the Jets.