The Patriots come of the bye with a 3-0 record, an offense that is clicking at record-breaking pace and a defense that has done just enough to get by. The team is in the middle of the pack in terms of points allowed, and there have been some issues on that side of the ball.
Many people expected some bumps in the road, especially in the secondary, but the run defense has also been problematic at times. Still, heading into the season minus its top three cornerbacks from a year ago, New England's secondary was and remains at the top of the concern list.
With the first month of the season in the books, we thought it was a good time to evaluate the secondary's performance. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown enjoyed a lot of success in the opener, but that tandem has certainly enjoyed more than its share of success against everyone.
But Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor threw three touchdowns and put 32 points on the board as well, and considering he was making just his second career start that one was less explainable. The group rebounded against Blake Bortles and Jacksonville before the bye, so that leaves us with our Samsonite Make Your Case question for this week:
Are you more concerned about the secondary after the first month of the season?
PFW's Paul Perillo says …
I was concerned coming into the season but I honestly didn't expect things to be this bad. I figured Malcolm Butler would handle one of the starting jobs and I thought one of the veterans would take care of the other. So far that hasn't happened as Robert McClain was cut, Bradley Fletcher was benched and Tarell Brown has been hobbled by a foot injury. That has left Logan Ryan and Justin Coleman playing key roles, and so far the results haven't been comforting.
Given the lack of experience in the secondary I felt Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon would be used to help with deep balls over the top to take away the big play. Instead, the Patriots allowed 12 catches of 22 yards or more through three games and six of those picked up 32 yards or more with three going for touchdowns. Those are the types of plays that allow inferior opponents to stay in the game, and so far the secondary is allowing too many of them.
Butler has been about what I expected – some toughness along with some mistakes – but the rest of the group has been underwhelming. Fortunately the opposition hasn't been strong enough to take advantage consistently, but based on the amount of open receivers there have been I'd have to say it's been worse than I expected.
PFW's Andy Hart says …
There's no question the secondary was the biggest concern heading into the season but based on what I've seen I feel a little better about the situation now than I did then. First, Malcolm Butler has shown the ability to perform as a starter. His toughness and competitiveness have been impressive during the first month of the season.
Also, I like what I've seen from a couple of safeties – Duron Harmon and Jordan Richards. Harmon has made some mistakes but he's also made some plays while Richards has intrigued me right from the start of camp. His physical nature is tough to miss, and he does not look out of place at all in his role as a run-support safety.
There have been some rough patches for sure but overall I've been pleasantly surprised by the competitiveness of this entire group. They've been able to come up with some stops and they haven't allowed opposing quarterbacks to get in much of a rhythm and dominate games. With so many questions back there to open the season, I was expecting worse.