Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Patriots Quiet At Trade Deadline, As They Should Be

The NFL's trade deadline has come and gone, and the New England Patriots stood pat on perceived areas of need, and the most physically diverse roster in the National Football League remains intact.

Sure, the Patriots could have used some depth at corner and at offensive tackle, but depth is all they were in the market for, and with the prices on the open market dictating to the desperate teams who needed starting quality talent, the deadline passed with not so much as a whisper coming out of Patriots' Place.
Belichick is obviously set with his roster

Naturally, rumor and innuendo had media types scrambling for confirmation, and a few websites took the chance that the Patriots were destined to sign Tennessee Titans' cornerback Jason McCourty, but their move to scoop the rest of the world backfired when the Titans announced that McCourty was not available.

There could have been some validity to reports that New England had offered a 4th and a 6th round pick for the brother of Patriots' safety Devin McCourty, but when all was said and done, head ball coach Bill Belichick went fishing in a pond that was stocked with talent, but came with starter-like asking prices.

But this is all just speculation - the real story here is that we simply haven't seen the best of this defense, and we all know that Belichick builds his team and brings them along in a manner that they will be playing their best ball after Thanksgiving, and he obviously sees progress in his secondary.

Logan Ryan is finally making his fabled second year jump from wet-behind-the-ears rookie to legitimate cover corner in his third season, a year after riding the pine in favor of big name players like Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner - high-priced mercenaries brought in to complete the look at corner after New England lost Aqib Talib in free agency...

...while Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler is ignoring the constant chirping from the media and fans in regard to struggling as the Patriots' number one corner, while realizing that he, like Ryan, is suffering from lack of real-time snaps last season, and is essentially playing his rookie season - and what the media is not realizing is that in just about every occurrence when he has given up a big gainer or even a score, he has been in position to make the play.

With experience, Butler will be using his knack for position and defending those throws, or picking them off.

Depth is certainly an issue at corner, with only rookie free agent Justin Coleman and Ravens' retread Rashaan Melvin on the chart behind the starters, but it should be noted that the Patriots are becoming increasingly comfortable with the Big Nickle - that is, three safeties on the field instead of three corners - made possible by the emergence of Duron Harmon as a legitimate sideline-to-sideline centerfielder, leaving McCourty and Patrick Chung to help out in coverages and in run support.

In fact, the Patriots' safety corps is one of the top units in the league, and together with one of the most fearsome front sevens in the NFL, have helped the Patriots to an overall total defensive rating of two spots higher than at any point last season, and on par with last season's point differential, which ranked number one in the NFL...

...and are two spots better than the total pass defense was all of last season. Obviously, Belichick is comfortable with these numbers, comfortable with his players and comfortable with the fact that his team is undefeated nearly halfway through the season.

Another area where it was rumored that the Patriots needed help was at offensive tackle, and while there is credence to those rumblings - given injuries to Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon - the injury to Cannon isn't considered that serious and Pro Bowl quality right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is doing yeoman's work on the left while Cannon mends.

There are injuries on the interior of the line as well, but the depth is significant between the tackles, particularly with center Bryan Stork returning, but with rookie David Andrews performing admirably in his stead, it has created somewhat of a Bledsoe-Brady type of situation in regard to whether Stork will reclaim his job coming off of the IR, or if he will be placed in a rotation where he could fit in at right guard, where he played in his freshman and sophomore seasons in college.

So despite the rumblings from the media and the fans, Belichick will prove once again that he knows what he's doing with his roster, and will be looking for his teams' annual ascension to the pinnacle of the NFL, to be completed just in time to claim home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

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