For eight years now, the New England Patriots have either missed badly with defensive backs in the draft and free agency, or haven’t bothered trying.
The result? Haven’t seen a new Power Rangers-esque “Zordon” Tube to hold another Lombardi Trophy in the Patriots’ Hall in eight years – I wonder if there’s a connection?
Despite having one of the top offenses in the league annually, the lack of both a pass rush and effective cover corners have rendered the Patriots also-rans, losing twice in the Super Bowl, twice in the Conference Championship game and three other times in various levels of post-season play – pretty much whenever they ran into a team that could take advantage of their deficiencies in both the pass rush and in the secondary.
So for the past eight years, despite having perhaps the best team in football even with their issues, they’ve hit the offseason on a losing note…and 6 months until the games start to count again is a long time to chew on what could have been – causes tension in the jaws, grit on the teeth, backaches, headaches…losing is good for nothing, and there is no such thing as silver linings in going home without a trophy.
Let me rephrase that. There are no such things as silver linings in going home without the Lombardi Trophy. That’s the only thing that makes the nut…
…so the question remains: What is Bill Belichick going to do about it?
Who the hell knows? Not me, but at least we can dream, right? In studying the defensive backs coming out of college, a few names have risen to the top of our Big Board…and with the Senior Bowl now completed and the Combine just a few weeks away, we introduce our top players with the Patriots in mind:
1. Matt Elam, SS, 5′ 10″ 202lbs, Florida: Athletic, instinctive and quite physical, Elam demonstrated the ability to walk up into the box and be a force near the line of scrimmage while also dropping back into coverage as a single-high safety. Round 1
2. Eric Reid, FS, 6′ 2″ 210lbs, LSU: (Pictured)He possesses the ideal build and athleticism for the position, shows excellent instincts and is a scrappy, tenacious defender whose big hits and ball skills make him a legitimate weapon in the deep patrol. He throws his body around and might be the most violent striker in the SEC, which is saying a lot. Round 1
3. Jonathan Cyprien, SS, 6′ 0″ 210lbs, Florida International: Aggressive playing style and active demeanor. Enjoys the physical nature of the position. Meets the ballcarrier with a pop and refuses to let up. Round 2 – 3
4. Phillip Thomas, FS, 6′ 1″ 210lbs, Fresno State: Tracks the ball well, showing good leaping ability and soft hands to pluck the ball from the air. Physical hitter. Lowers his shoulder into the ball-carrier to make the forceful hit and wraps securely to assure the tackle. Possesses the light feet and surprisingly fluid hips to drop down and cover receivers out of the slot. Round 2 – 3
5. D.J. Swearinger, FS, 5′ 11″ 210lbs, South Carolina: A very physical defender who showed great open-field tackling skills and dependability in coverage. At this point he looks like a mid-round selection. Considering his versatility and toughness, however, he could be on the verge of a strong jump up the board this season. Round 3 – 4
1. Xavier Rhodes, CB, 6′ 1″ 217lbs, Florida State: strong for the position with a solidly-built frame and excellent arm length. He loves to jam and get physical in press coverage, getting in the face of receivers at the line of scrimmage and staying aggressive through the whistle. Can flip his hips and easily change directions with a near-effortless transition, showing the ability to adjust and contort his body…mugs the reciever at the line. Round 1
2. Jonathan Banks, CB, 6′ 2″ 185lbs, Mississipi State: He is active with his hands when in press and possesses the fluidity to cut with receivers. He’s alert to the run, though he isn’t a particularly physical tackler. Round 1 – 2
3. Jordan Poyer, CB, 6′ 0″ 182lbs, Oregon State: Athletic, physical and possessing the ball skills to make opposing quarterbacks pay for testing him. Round 1 – 2
4. Desmond Trufant, CB, 5′ 11″ 190lbs, Washington: Athletic and instinctive, Trufant has demonstrated legitimate NFL coverage ability and helped his cause by showing improved overall physicality. Round 2 – 3
5. Logan Ryan, CB, 6′ 0″ 190lbs, Rutgers: Scouts calling him the next Devin McCourty but with more physicality. Round 2 – 3
Analysis: It’s a looooonnnnnggggg way until April’s Draft, but it’s never too early to start looking at some serious talent. Much can be altered with a free agency signing, including the Patriots signing their own Free Agent in Aqib Talib.
If they do that, Safety will still be top priority, but it brings Wide Recievers and Offensive Linemen into the conversation for the first 3 rounds. Stay tuned…