This past weekend I finally got to listen to the first two episodes of the Patscast Podcast (available on Itunes). I was impressed with their guest Jay (forgive me for blanking on his last name), who sounds like he really knows his stuff. For most of us fans interest in the Xs and Os come later in life. While I played some high school football (worst tackle ever) I still had no big picture understanding of how the game is played. I just tried to block the guy in front of me, and usually failed.
When a fan like Jay comes along, who played football at the college level, and considered a career in coaching, he’s able to descibe exactly what is going on on the field. It’s easy to say a player would be a good “fit” for the Patriots, but how many fans really truly know exactly what that player would be asked to do in Belichick’s system.
I’ve educated myself just about as much as one can via the internet, but that is no substitute for someone like Jay who knows what he’s talking about, can directly relate it to the Patriots players and schemes, and go into depth with terminology you might not quite understand at first.
I’ve listened to both Patscasts a couple times, and here are some interesting tidbits that stood out to me:
– The DEs in the Pats 3-4 actually play head up on the offensive tackles so for those who were saying “we need a 5 technique like Odrick” like me, we were wrong. The Pats’ DEs line up mostly as 4-techniques.
– Height really isn’t the most important trait for a DE in this two-gap system. It’s length and “sand in the pants” (aka ability to stand your ground against the double team). While Richard Seymour had both those, he was also 6’ 6" which is the exception, not necessarily the rule. So someone like Ron Brace, despite only being 6’ 2" could make an effective DE, but technique is the most important thing to develop. This gives me hope Brace could still contribute.
– Brandon Spikes should be a great fit for this defense and has the opportunity to contribute immediately.
– Jay thinks that the Pats are returning to the tough, physical types that won them Super Bowls and that this signifies a change, more appropriately a return to a different philosophy.
Personally I don’t think it was necessarily that they ever really wanted to get away from that. Yes, the years of Asante (good player but not physical), Ellis Hobbs, Randall Gay and the drafting of Wheatley and Wilhite, point to small, quick corners. But there were also misses on bigger, more physical CBs like Fernando Bryant, Lewis Sanders and Deltha O’Neal.
So yes, I agree that it’s a concerted effort to bring in more big, physical players, but I don’t think there was ever an effort to get away from them. Their smaller guys were just better and/or more productive.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the finer points of Patriots Xs and Os I highly recommend the Patscast. There are more little nuggets of information contained in them that would make a full transcription desireable. I will try to get up quick hits after each episode to help the non-podcasting portion of Patriots Nation.