|Resetting the depth chart in Patriots secondary||03.17.13 at 1:24 pm ET|
There have been some notable moves so far this offseason for the New England secondary. With free agency continuing and the draft now just over a month away, the Patriots can still add to the defensive back spot. But right now — with the addition of veteran safety Adrian Wilson, the re-signing of cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington and the departure of Patrick Chung — here’s a quick look at how the depth chart for the Patriots’ secondary shakes out at this point:
Talib: The 27-year-old, who will return for his first full season with the Patriots, projects as the No. 1 corner for New England in 2013.
Alfonzo Dennard: The Nebraska product, who played very well as a rookie last season in New England, faces something of a murky future, but if he’s available, he should go into the 2013 season as a starting corner.
Ras-I Dowling: The injury-plagued Dowling enters his third season in New England with a lot to prove. When he’s been healthy, he’s been an important part of the secondary — the problem is he hasn’t been healthy all that often. He’s played just nine games in two years.
Slot cornerbacks/special teamers
Arrington: After the acquisition of Talib, Arrington moved back inside to the slot — his more natural position — and flourished. Should start 2013 as the leader in the clubhouse for this spot once again.
Malcolm Williams: Primarily a special teamer, Williams provides depth at the defensive back position.
Devin McCourty: The lead dog in the secondary. He admitted late last season the transition from young guy to leader took some time, but he goes into 2013 as the No. 1 free safety on the team.
Steve Gregory: Gregory started slow and had issues staying on the field early in the season, but he and McCourty played well together at the end of the season.
Adrian Wilson: A bigger safety who can contribute down in the box, one of the early position battles worth watching could be between Wilson and Gregory. While Gregory and McCourty played well together, Wilson (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) is more of a big, strong safety when it comes to overall body type than Gregory (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) and could swipe some snaps from Gregory as a result, depending on the defensive game plans.
Tavon Wilson: Wilson started strong as a rookie — four interceptions in his first 10 games — but the acquisition of Aqib Talib affected his playing time maybe more than anyone else — the trade for Talib meant the Patriots moved Devin McCourty from corner to safety, and left Wilson on the sidelines. He projects as a backup right now.
Nate Ebner: Ebner did see some significant snaps on defense at the start of the season, but made his niche as a special teamer. Currently figures as someone who can provide depth at the strong safety spot, not unlike Matthew Slater.
|Patriots lock up CB Kyle Arrington for 4 years||03.15.13 at 1:38 pm ET|
According to multiple reports, the Patriots have an agreement with cornerback Kyle Arrington on a four-year contract.
Arrington, 26, joined New England in 2009 after playing one game for the Buccaneers that year. He started 12 of 16 games in 2012, recording 74 tackles (62 solo) and 11 passes defensed. He started 14 of 16 games each of the previous two seasons.
After the news was confirmed, Arrington Tweeted out the following: “Thankful and Blessed for another opportunity. Extremely grateful for all the support from the New England community and beyond. #Patsnation”
|Bill Belichick: Now is not the time for decision-making||01.22.13 at 1:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO — To Bill Belichick, Monday was a day to reflect not only on the AFC championship loss but another winning season for the Patriots. It was not the time to make personnel decisions on key players like Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington, Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman and Sebastian Vollmer.
All of those players are among those are not signed for next season. Some can become free agents (like Talib) and some can be franchised (like Welker).
Whether he has a good feeling about a player or not, he and the franchise will not be making knee jerk reactions, considering there’s college scouting at the Senior Bowl this week and a market of free agents to consider in the next six weeks. Belichick was asked specifically about Talib but used it as an opportunity to paint with a broader brush.
“We will not make any decisions on any players into the future now,” Belichick explained. “You just can’t do it. There are too many factors, too many unknown things. All the things I said about Aqib, I meant and I still feel that way. Nothing has changed, but I can’t put into place an entire plan for the team at this point in time. There’s just not enough information; it’s too early.
“And again as I said, I don’t think you can, as much as you want to just go case by case and list each guy and what his deal is, I think that there is some of that, no question – but at the same time, when you’re trying to put together a team, you’ve got to look at the entire team before you just say, ‘OK well, we want to try to keep this guy. Well, we don’t want to keep this guy’ or ‘We want to try to get somebody else,’ or whatever. You’ve got to look at the entire context of the team and not just take it one guy, piece by piece. I don’t think that’s the way you put together an entire football team. You’ve got to see the big picture and how it all fits together and there are a lot of factors that go into that. That’s why it takes some time.”
Welker, who signed his $9 million franchise tag last April, went out and had another Pro Bowl season. What about his future? Will he be franchised again at just over $11 million or will he be allowed to play the field? Will he want to come back or will he want to test the market.
“It’s the same answer [as Talib],” Belichick said before the question could even be finished on Monday.
Some of the key dates to consider coming up:
“On balance I still thought that certainly there were a lot of positives from this football team,” Belichick said. “It’s a team that I enjoyed coaching. I thought that the players worked hard behind the scenes; everybody doesn’t see that, but on a day-to-day basis they worked hard, they competed well, they didn’t make excuses. They got better over the course of the season, both individually and collectively. We wouldn’t have gotten to where we were without a lot of good, consistent performances from a lot of people in a number of games and countless practices and meetings and all the things that lead up to that. That part of it, I thought there were, again, a lot of positives that we accomplished. Certainly, the outcome [Sunday] is not where we wanted to end up. I give these guys a lot of credit for what they did do and the number of times they did it and the number of times they did it in tough situations. Hopefully we can continue to build on that. I don’t think anything this year really means too much for next year. Each year is a new year and we start all over again just like everyone else does. Some of our younger players will have a little bit more experience. Hopefully that will be a good thing, but that doesn’t really count for anything until we go out there and start doing it again.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Kyle Arrington: Aqib Talib is ‘definitely buying into the Patriot Way’||11.16.12 at 6:44 pm ET|
FOXBORO — As important as it is for Aqib Talib to pick up the Patriots system quickly, his teammates are confident they can work with him and make the transition seamless.
Just ask Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory, all of whom figure to spend some time in the Patriots secondary on Sunday with their new cornerback.
“He has a few things you just can’t see,” Arrington said. “He’s 6-1, fluid, and he’s just a good player. [I] can’t speak highly enough about him.”
But as Talib himself pointed out Thursday, the work he’s putting in on and off the practice field seems to be paying dividends.
“It’s like he’s been here all year. Can’t talk highly enough about his work ethic, as well. He’s one of the first ones here and the last to leave,” Arrington added. “He’s definitely buying into the ‘Patriot Way.’”
Belichick hinted Friday that he likes the way the existing members of the secondary have reacted to Talib’s addition.
“Well, it’s all tied together,” Belichick said. “Everybody has to know what everybody is doing out there. We have to be able to make our adjustments. It’s all part of it.”
Arrington has a special appreciation for Talib, having played with him in 2008 with the Buccaneers, when Talib was a rookie.
“Funny how things work out,” Arrington said.
“Aqib’s a great player,” Gregory said. “He’s in the process of really trying to pick up the system, and get out there and get a feel for what we’re doing, and it’s fun to have him around. He’s a great athlete, he covers well, and it’s great to have him around. He’s doing a really great job so far. He’s a smart football player and he seems to be picking it up really fast, so that’s a good thing.
“He’s a veteran guy, too. He understands terminologies, schemes and things like that. He’s definitely ahead of the curve.”
“He has great ability and his size, he can do a lot,” McCourty added. “So, it’ll be key for us, when he gets out there, help him out a little bit. Keep repeating things to him so he can start hearing them over and over again and getting accustomed to the system. But a lot of it will be us helping him out so he can go out and play good football.”
McCourty could be spending a lot of time talking to Talib during games since he’s been playing the strong side (or defensive left side) where Talib figures to be lining up at cornerback. What’s impressed McCourty the most? His ability to pick up the Patriots communication signals on the fly after just a few practices.
“He’s a new guy, everything’s new for him,” McCourty said. “I think he’s done a good job of staying in here, talking to guys, staying and getting a little extra [coaching and teaching] to make sure he knows what’s going on. You can tell he’s very football savvy and he knows what’s going on out there. You tell him things once or twice on the field, he has it correct for the next day. You don’t have to say anything to him. So, I’m excited for us to get out there as a group and start to work. I think we’ve practiced hard this week so just go out and try to execute in the game.”
|Devin McCourty: Patriots overcome ‘bad defense’ for an opportunistic win||11.11.12 at 9:40 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Devin McCourty knows he and his Patriots defense got away with one on Sunday against the Bills.
Whether he was “living right” as he was asked afterward or just playing right, McCourty came up with the two biggest defensive plays of the day. He forced a C.J. Spiller fumble with 10 minutes left at the Patriots goal line that kept the Bills out of the end zone for three minutes.
Then, with the Bills at the Patriots 15 and threatening to score the game-winning touchdown, McCourty was in the right place at the right time when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw it into a group of four Patriots defensive backs. McCourty’s pick of the pass intended for T.J. Graham came with 23 seconds left and sealed a 37-31 win.
“Yeah, that was one of those right place, right time moments right there,” McCourty admitted afterward. “The ball [was] thrown right to me, so just making the catch and ending it was my focus at that time.”
Up until that point, it didn’t look so good.
The Bills had driven from their own 20 with 2:06 left to the Patriots 15 with little resistance, as the Patriots allowed completions of 21, 14 and 14 yards on the methodical march.
“Those last drives are always tough,” McCourty said. “The offense is throwing out whatever they haven’t called as their best stuff, they’re going to whatever works at that point in the game. So, when we get on the field defensively, it’s all about getting the stop we need defensively or a turnover or trying to make them go four-and-out. At that point, we’re just moving on each play, trying to get the stop. [If] that play’s gone, we’re trying to focus on the next play. Those two-minute drives are always tough. It went right down to the last second. That was big just to be able to go through that and get the win at the end.”
As for the forced a fumble at the one-yard line – recovered by Kyle Arrington – it’s another example of how important turnovers are to the Patriots existence.
“We know no matter what happens in the game, there’s nothing bigger than turnovers,” McCourty said. “I think throughout any level of football, turnovers are always a big part. A lot of times if you can just win that turnover ratio, you end up winning the game. We know each game we have to go out and win the turnover ratio. No matter what happens in the game, we have to come out on top with the turnover ratio.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Have the Patriots turned a corner on defense?||10.29.12 at 1:53 pm ET|
Twitter nearly crashed when Sam Bradford connected with Chris Givens for 50 yards on the fifth play of the game on Sunday for a touchdown that put the Rams up, 7-0.
The play – a play-action to the left side with a right side rollout by Bradford – drew in safeties Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson just enough that the Rams QB could lob a bomb to his receiver on deep route. Givens caught the ball and tumbled into the end zone for a touchdown that mirrored the very same play that beat the Patriots in Seattle two weeks earlier.
Patriots fans in attendance at Wembley and watching on the tele back home couldn’t believe it happened again. Or maybe they could. But for McCourty – who was playing with rookies Alfonzo Dennard and Wilson – the Patriots had to find their composure quickly.
“Big play, definitely,” McCourty said after New England’s 45-7 win. “I think early in the season, that kills us, giving up a big play. Then we put our heads down, give up another one. I thought we did a good job today of putting that play past us, then playing great defense, after that. I think that’s what we have to focus on. Sometimes we are going to make some plays. We just got to keep playing, make our own plays.”
And make plays the two rookies did as Wilson and Dennard each came up with interceptions in the second half to help keep the Rams off the board.
“Our two rookies did a good job today, Tavon and Alfonzo, making two big plays on their own,” McCourty said. “That’s when you need those plays.”
The fact is the play to Givens accounted for just one score and it would be the only points the Patriots would allow as Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia switched to a pressure-based defense that featured three blitzes on the next Rams series. Dont’a Hightower, Wilson and Brandon Spikes all came up to force more pressure at the line of scrimmage. Throw in the fact that veteran corner Kyle Arrington went down with a head injury and the Patriots were already without Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, and you see why McCourty was proud of the resiliency the secondary showed.
“There were some moving parts back there,” McCourty added. “I think Marquice Cole did a good job. I think he’s been ready all season, just waiting for his opportunity to get out there. Unfortunately when Kyle went down, he stepped in and played well. I think one thing we understand in this league, each game anything can happen. A lot of guys are just staying ready, being ready to go. Guys stepped up and played well.”
McCourty played his second game as starting safety with Gregory and Chung both out. And he’s starting to look and sound like a leader.
“Yeah, definitely. I felt I did a better job communicating, getting all those guys on the right track,” McCourty said. “Actually once you have some moving parts back there, guys go down, it’s important everybody lines up and plays the same defense. They put me back there, put me in charge of making sure everyone knows what they’re doing. I felt I did a better job this week than last week. Things started to slow down for me back there.
|Ty Law believes this Patriots secondary can be winners if they ignore the noise||08.18.12 at 11:10 am ET|
FOXBORO — Ty Law remembers his days with the Patriots like they were yesterday and he remembers one of the four principles of Bill Belichick.
Ignore the noise.
It’s one of Belichick’s credos that Law believes will be essential for this group of cornerbacks to reach the next level.
“Stay the course and keep working hard,” Law said Friday. “You can’t get caught up in all the negative press because those other guys on the other team get paid, too, so you’re going to get beat. So, you’re going to want to keep your face out of the papers, off the TV and reading what we’re all talking about.”
Last year, all anyone would talk about when they talked about Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington was how many times they were beaten in the secondary.
Law saw the same thing but he believes McCourty and Arrington have to prove they can block out all the negatives and focus on improving, something both have shown in this camp at times.
“That can really get to you and once you have a few of those mental lapses and you start thinking about it, your game is going to go to crap,” Law said. “The next thing you know, they’re going to be shipping you to another team. Just stay the course, stay on the film and work with your safeties. I think that’s one thing most defensive backs and cornerbacks don’t do, they don’t get together enough.
“I remember when I played, we got together and we went out and ate together, we watched film together. We’d go out to somebody’s house and we’d get a keg of beer and we drank a couple of beers and watched film. That’s what you do. It builds camaraderie. If you can trust somebody off the field, you can trust them on the field and that’s what we did. That’s how we were able to be successful.”
Today, Law is going out to eating establishments but with a completely different focus. He’s into the family atmosphere as he’s getting ready to open a trampoline-themed eatery in Warwick, R.I. He was in Foxboro on Friday promoting his new business and is hopeful soon to open a similar one in Massachusetts.
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