When it comes to schemes and gameplans, no NFL team does it better on both sides of the ball than Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
The New England Patriots have been the best team in the NFL over the last 17 years. That won’t change as long as Bill Belichick is in control.
Bleacher Report recently published their rankings of the top 10 offensive and defensive schemes in the league. Only two teams ranked in the top 5 on both sides of the ball, the New England Patriots, and the Tennessee Titans. Yes, the Titans. They have a great coaching staff and are an up-and-coming team, but for now the Patriots clearly still have the edge.
New England ranked No. 4 for their defensive scheme and No. 2 for their scheme on offense.
The Defensive Scheme Rankings
- 5. Baltimore’s Disguised Coverages
- 4. New England’s Big Nickel
- 3. Seattle’s Deep-Safety Defense
- 2. Dick LeBeau’s Zone Blitz (Tennessee)
- 1. Wade Phillips’ One-Gap 3-4 Defense (Los Angeles Rams)
Defensively, the New England Patriots could be even better than they were in 2016. The additions of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and a few more defensive lineman like Kony Ealy and rookie Derek Rivers could be huge in Foxboro. Bill Belichick has proven that he will change up his schemes over the years, and that’s what he did last season with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
Last season, the Patriots ended the Seahawks four-year run as the top scoring defense in the league. Here’s a wrinkle that Bleacher Report says sent New England into the top 5.
“What made the difference in New England’s defense, especially against more advanced route combinations, was the deployment of a “big nickel” package in which the Patriots would put three safeties on the field as opposed to the usual three cornerbacks you see in a nickel defense.”
Last season in this formation Patrick Chung would line up at the depth of a linebacker while Duron Harmon provided coverage over the top. Devin McCourty would either play a zone coverage or drop down to play man on a star receiver.
Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia worked their defense perfectly last season, and I can’t wait to see how they improve for 2017.
The Offensive Scheme Rankings
- 5. Buffalo’s Diverse Run Game
- 4. Tennessee’s “Exotic Smashmouth” Offense
- 3. Dallas’ Option Running Game
- 2. New England’s Option Routes
- 1. Kyle Shanahan’s Pre-Snap Passing Game (San Francisco)
I don’t think anyone ever questions New England’s scheme on offense, even though it has changed over the years. The offense last season was a lot different than in 2007 when they had Randy Moss, but it was still just as lethal.
Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are brilliant together, so expect more fireworks in 2017. The rankings note that New England will change their gameplan and scheme week to week based on their opponent. One week the Patriots may throw the ball 50 times, and the next they may work the running game. You never know what you’re going to get from the Patriots.
The one constant on New England’s offense seems to be the use of option routes.
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“It’s especially hard because every receiver has to know his option breaks—and there are usually more than one—while Brady has to keep all the options for every receiver in his head. If he has a receiver who doesn’t understand the concept, the offense doesn’t work, and the receiver is gone. Julian Edelman gets it. Danny Amendola gets it. Rob Gronkowski gets it. We’ll see whether Brandin Cooks, the former Saints receiver acquired by the Patriots in a predraft trade, gets it. Cooks ran elements of the West Coast offense at Oregon State, and Sean Payton’s route concepts are some of the most complicated in the NFL, but Cooks—like every other new Patriots receiver—will have to get aligned with the option route.”
With Edelman, Gronk, Amendola, and Cooks, Brady will once again have plenty of weapons this season. He also has a ton of talent in the backfield with James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee — who is the favorite to win the starting job. The option route will remain in the offensive gameplan, and though it’s hard to notice it on the field while you watch, it makes all the difference.
Do you agree with the New England Patriots being ranked with the No. 4 defensive scheme and No. 2 offensive scheme in the NFL? I certainly do. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter @CandCFansided!