Ever since the bye week hit and Bill Belichick first talked about his level of disappointment in his defense the then traded Jamie Collins to Cleveland, the unit has been in the crosshairs of Patriots fans everywhere. A lack of turnovers and pressure on the passer has prevented the Patriots from consistently getting off the field on third down, and not coincidentally from getting enough stops in key times.
While the team has managed to keep the points down overall, there's no question that the Patriots have some issues on that side of the ball, and that's where this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question comes in. Which area of the defense is the bigger concern, the pass rush of the secondary?
PFW's Andy Hart says...
The Patriots haven't gone three straight games without a turnover since 2005 – until Weeks 8-11 this season that is. The secondary is a big part of that, and the coverage simply has to be better.
It would be one thing if the corners and safeties had a lot of chances to pick off passes but had been unable to take advantage. That hasn't been the case, though. More often than not the opposing wide receivers have found gaps in the Patriots zones and been open consistently. The coverage has been soft and there have been few chances for the Patriots defensive backs to make plays.
Devin McCourty is the captain and leader of the group but he's been out of position at times and late with help at others. He and the rest of the group haven't made many plays on the football, and the overall physicality on the back end has been lacking as well.
Bill Belichick obviously feels the same way or he wouldn't be constantly tinkering with his lineup more than halfway through the season. It is what it is and right and right now it's not good enough.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Like Bill Belichick often says, good defense is the result of all areas working in concert with one another. The Patriots don't provide much consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and therefore the unit struggles to get off the field on third down and create turnovers.
I feel like that all starts with the guys up front. Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich and Chris Long were supposed to bring the heat but more often than not it's been lacking. Even with 8 sacks in Weeks 10 and 11, including five in San Francisco, the unit is still on the lower end in that department. Until that changes the secondary will have a hard time covering up for those shortcomings.
It's time for the edge rushers to start winning one-on-one battles more consistently. Whether they are facing a mobile quarterback or a pocket passer is irrelevant; the pressure has been lacking and that's the biggest issue on defense.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.