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Wolfley’s Notes: New England Patriots Defense

Our own Ron Wolfley, co-host of the Doug & Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 620, is also the color commentator for the Arizona Cardinals Radio Network.

Each week, Wolf pores over game film for the Cardinals’ next opponent, and makes notes for the broadcast.

This season, Wolf has been kind enough to let readers to get a look at what he sees in each week’s opponent.

Here’s Wolf’s notes on the New England Patriots, whom the Cardinals face in Week 2 in Foxborough.

In this first installment, Wolf looks at the Patriots’ defense, which is coming off a dominant performance in a 34-13 Week 1 win over the Tennessee Titans.

New England Patriots 1-0

Bill Belichick – Head coach

Josh McDaniels – OC

Matt Patricia – DC

Scottie O’Brien -Transition Coordinator

Nick Caserio – Director of Player Personnel

New England defense:

1) Although the press guide says the Patriots run a 4-3 defense, this is not the case. The Patriots play a hybrid 3-4 defense. Ninkovich is listed as a DE. He’s really a rush 3-4 OLB. I wouldn’t block him with a back on a regular basis but I certainly would some of the time. That makes this defense a 3-4.

2) COVER TWO CONUNDRUM: They play more cover two during run downs than I have seen this side of Monte Kiffin. 1st & 10, 2nd & 1-6, and there it is: cover 2? And this is where the Cards have got to win, along the LOS. They have got to make New England’s defense come out of their cover two shell. The only way to do this is to run the ball effectively in run-down. Bludgeon their base…

But I don’t get it? Why would Bill Belichick play this defense in this situation? Cover two sucks buttermilk against the run. Maybe…

A) I think the Patriots do this for a four reasons, primarily.

1) They try to encourage the opposing offense to run the ball. Tennessee.

2) The defense is almost baiting the offense to run. The defensive players can play their techniques, expecting a run. Belichick expects the seven guys in the box to hold their own and stop the run. Which is not unreasonable! And the power of his guys knowing in certain personnel groups and D & D they’re going to get run prepares them for what is coming.

3) They are protected if you don’t run the ball. Play action won’t be an issue because you have two safeties high. And in a passing league it is a great defense against three-step drops…and other passing schemes.

4) They play with a lot of leads. Tom Brady and that offense gives the Patriots leads in games. Belichick encourages teams to run the ball when his team is up by 14 or 44.

Oh, they love their cover two! Man, they love to disguise it too. I saw a safety walk down near the box, and the corner backed up. They gave Locker a cover three look pre-snap. The safety in the MOF moved to his left to play over the top of the rolled up corner, the corner on the opposite side of the field rolled into the weakside half, and the safety that walked down into the box jumped outside of 1 to his side and played the flat. So tough…

2) HUNS: They don’t have a bunch of natural born killers rushing the passer. They use scheme to get to the passer and a relentless approach from their front four. Ninkovich is pure motor. He also has a low center of gravity and uses his hands well. Strong. Chandler Jones is their best edge rusher but doesn’t seem special. But this rookie can play! He’s got an arm-over that is as good as I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Nonetheless, D’Anthony Batiste and Bobby Massie will have their hands full. These guys will not quit, especially Ninkovich. These two better play to the whistle.

3) VULTURES: They are a ballhawking defense. Last year the Patriots recorded 34 takeaways, good for #3. In the league. They were +17 in turnover margin in 2011. Protect the ball or die…This defense wants to get you into a shoot out and take your bullets. They believe you won’t be able to keep pace with Brady; they believe the scoreboard will make you throw the ball, put pressure on you. They think the scoreboard will make you one-dimensional. You try to keep up with them and you turn it over. Philosophy, man…

4) BOX: They are loathe to put more people in the box than you can block. You go 11 personnel, they’ll put 6 in the box. If you go with regular, they’ll put 7 in the box. They do not like to stack the box; this is dogma with them. I even saw the Titans get into 13 personnel, 3 TE’s, and the Patriots kept 7 in the box and kept their 2 safeties high. Really?

When they do stack the box, when they do load their gun, here they come. And they will show it. Also, with inexperienced Q’s, They want the Q to see the pressure coming and hope it gets into their head. They made sure Locker knew they were coming…

5) STUNTS: They didn’t run many stunts against Tennessee. They worked hard to keep Locker in the pocket. Stunts have given the Cards OL problems. And now you have two inexperienced tackles? Expect the Patriots to run more stunts!

They will play quarter-quarter-half and roll it to the strength of the formation.

They will use man as a change up, but they still like playing those two safeties over the top. 2-man.

They did NOT come after Locker. They played their scheme, cover two, and rushed four. They tried to force Locker to be accurate and throw the ball.

This defense looks better than last year’s defense.
– Ninkovich’s motor…
– Jones’ quirky jerky pass rush technique…
– Dont’a Hightower looks like the real deal…
– Vince Wilfork looks to be in shape was on the field way more than I expected him to be.