Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/4/14
There was a lot of criticism heaped on the Patriots when they traded a fourth-round pick in 2013 for troubled cornerback Aqib Talib and a seventh-round pick. But after watching how terrible the Patriots were in pass coverage on Sunday, you can’t really blame them for jumping on the deal. The transition from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the New England Patriots may not be an easy one if Bill Belichick continues to employ a defense that shows zone and man coverages depending on down and scenario. Rookie Alfonzo Dennard struggled in his first few snaps with the Patriots in differentiating between the two, and bungled a play in the preseason where he thought he was supposed to play zone on the right side of the field, but instead he was supposed to man up with Jerrel Jernigan. He got a tongue lashing from Belichick on the sideline after the play. Talib is at his best when he’s playing in press man coverage, and since it’s easier for a new player to pick up, that’s likely what the Patriots will play early in Talib’s New England career. That’s a very good thing for the Patriots’ struggling pass defense. Remember all those wide open receivers we saw against both the Jets and Bills? Those are massive holes in the Patriots’ zone defense. The Patriots’ linebackers simply can’t cover enough ground, no matter how instinctive they are, and their lack of reaction time leaves players wide open. If the Patriots switch to a man defense — and if we’re lucky, press man — they can use their physical nature to throw off timing against opposing offenses. Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Brandon Spikes can run with opposing tight ends, but they struggle when they’re asked to react and catch up when they’re playing four to five yards off. If Patrick Chung can come back, a switch to a man-heavy defense could also mean more of a switch to a cover-one. That would put Devin McCourty back at free safety, with Chung helping out in the short to intermediate area of the field at strong safety. In zone coverages, they Patriots have essentially had two players playing deep at free safety. On Sunday, we saw McCourty and Steve Gregory in that role frequently. The Patriots need as much help as they can get in the middle of the field, and having Chung there to account for the linebackers’ lack of speed would help immensely. The Patriots’ new addition is so talented, New England can essentially put Talib on an island. His sole duty will be to cover his side of the field. McCourty would then be able to help out over the top on the other side, where either Dennard or Kyle Arrington will be starting. The best possible Patriots’ secondary would likely be a cover-one with McCourty and Chung at safety, Talib and Dennard starting outside and Marquice Cole in the slot. Belichick loves Arrington — especially his run defense — so chances are, we won’t see that happen. The Patriots now have no excuse for lack of talent in their secondary. If the team still fails with Talib, it means there are massive flaws in the Patriots’ defensive scheme. Some players like Mayo and Vince Wilfork seem to be able to avoid criticism, but both players are part of the Patriots’ problems in pass defense. Wilfork shouldn’t be playing the three-technique defensive tackle position that’s supposed to be rushing the quarterback, and Mayo shouldn’t be playing weak-side linebacker — a position that usually goes to a player strong in pass coverage. Belichick values run defense so heavily though, that we’ll likely never see those players taken off the field on third down — and the same goes for Arrington. Talib will be a good test for the Patriots, as will Andrew Luck and the Colts’ passing offense on Sunday. If the Patriots still struggle mightily, we may not see this defense fixed all season.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Dekker changes his Twitter to painful memory

Five best quarterback situations in the NFL

MLB players want to trade lives with Tom Brady

WATCH: Ohio State dog urinates on Michigan fire hydrant

Gregg Marshall is staying at Wichita State

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Bengals troll Browns with April Fools’ Day joke

Malcolm Jenkins on McCoy trade: Could've gotten more

Does Romo restructure pave the way for Peterson?

Todd Gurley: 2015 NFL Draft Profile

Colts' Robert Mathis hopes to be back by training camp

LeBron thought Kyrie was a ballhog when season started

Gus Malzahn not happy about Michigan satellite camp

WATCH: Kaman pushes CP3 after shot to groin

Kelly Olynyk helps Celtics to win despite eye injury

Report: Boston mayor furious over Olympics rumors

Ravens commit tampering violation, show it on Twitter

Lightning won’t sell playoff tickets to non-Florida residents

Brad Stevens dismisses Texas rumor

Albert, Costas and Michaels to work together for the first time

A’s closer buying tickets to fill stands at LGBT Pride Night

13 U.S. senators call on FIFA to strip Russia of 2018 World Cup

The San Antonio Spurs are beautiful again

Auriemma blasts men’s college basketball: ‘The game is a joke’

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five best QB situations in the NFL

Dark horse Cy Young candidates

Final Four fact or fiction

Why WrestleMania 31 was an all-time great

Five worst QB situations in NFL

WATCH: Curry drops CP3 with crossover

Durant wants to spend career in OKC

This isn’t Tom Izzo’s greatest March masterpiece

Are the Angels being overlooked?

Top 20 players in the Final Four

Report: Tiger's plane spotted in Augusta

Moss shares story on meeting Deion

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.