For most Patriots fans putting the 2010 season in the rear view mirror has been a pain staking experience. Even though the season is long over, questions as to what went wrong still plague the New England faithful. How could the number one seeded Pats, who finished with the best record in the NFL at 14-2 loose on their home field to of all teams the New York Jets?!?! The answer to this question is actually quit simple, that is if you’re willing to over look the Patriots league leading 25 interceptions, as well as their 13 fumble recoveries. The defense just wasn’t good enough. In fact at times they were down right awful and it caught up to them in the end.
But fear not dear reader, this is not an article intended to berate your beloved Patsies. In fact it is my belief that the Patriots defense can be fixed with hardly any major alterations. All Bill Belichick needs to fix the Patriots defense is one playmaking defensive end. If only the Patriots had a 6’-6”, 310 pound beast causing havoc on the defensive line like the Raiders have in Oakland, New England just might have raised their 4th Lombardi trophy this year.
The 310-pound beast I referenced above is none other than former Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour. Just this past week the Raiders resigned Seymour to a 2-year $30 million contract, with $22.5 million guaranteed. The signing forced me to reminisce about the Patriots defense with Seymour and it got me thinking, “man that Richard Seymour was one hell of a player.” Truth is that Richard Seymour is still one hell of a player and the numbers don’t lie.
Now before we dive into the defensive numbers that Seymour brings to the table, we first have to understand Seymour’s role in the 3-4 defense. The role of any defensive end in the 3-4 scheme is to occupy as many offensive linemen as possible, making the jobs of linebackers waiting behind them a lot easier. It’s all guts and no glory for defensive lineman in the 3-4 scheme; while they tie up their blockers, the middle and outside linebackers fill up the stat sheet in the tackles and sacks categories.
After the 2010 regular season was in the books your New England Patriots had the 25th overall defense in the league, Oakland ranked 11th overall. The 14-2 Pats gave up 366.5 yards per game, and the 8-8 Raiders gave up 322.8 ypg. The Patriots as a team recorded 36 sacks, tied for 14th in the NFL, the Silver and Black recorded 47 sacks, tied for 2nd in the NFL. But here comes the two worst stats of all. The Patriots gave up an average of 258 passing yards per game ranking 2nd worst in the league, the Raiders gave up 189.2 passing yards per game, ranking 2nd best in the NFL. And last but not least the Pats were the worst team at getting off the field on 3rd down allowing their opponents to convert 47% of the time, Oakland was 7th best in the league allowing their opponents to convert 35% of the time.
Now I know what you might be thinking. The Pat’s defense faired better than the Raiders defense did in 2009, even without Richard Seymour. And I’ll come right back at you with the fact the Patriots had two solid DE’s in Ty Warren and Jarvis Green who knew the Patriots 3-4 scheme inside and out. Which leads me to this conclusion: For the first time since 2001 the Patriots were without a Pro-Bowl caliber defensive end in Richard Seymour or Ty Warren for the entire length of the season. There is only so much big Vince Wilfork can do in the middle by himself.
If we revisit the 2007 Patriots; yes the 16-0 Super bowl losing Patriots. You’ll find that the 2007 Pats recorded 47 sacks, 2nd most in the league. I’ll give you one guess as to which team finished 1st. You guessed it, the 2007 World Champion New York Giants with 53 sacks. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that quarterback pressure makes for a successful defense. Like the great Baltimore Ravens MLB Ray Lewis said, “football is simple, it’s not Chess it’s checkers.”
Now some of you may remember that Seymour only played in 9 games in 2007. However the Patriots recorded 28 of their 47 sack’s in those 9 games; and team leader Mike Vrable recorded 8 of his 12.5 sacks rushing behind big old Richard.
Ty Warren missed all of the 2010 season after having pre-season hip surgery. So in theory the addition of a healthy Warren at DE will repair the Pat’s 25th ranked defense. But just in case Warren isn’t healthy it might be a good idea for the Patriots to spend their 17th overall pick (via OAK from Seymour trade) on a playmaking defensive end. That is if there is a 2011 NFL season.