Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/12/12
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.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Osweiler: Film from last two years proves I should be starter

Daughter of Bucks owner burns Bill Simmons on Twitter

Tiger Woods tells golf world to try and kick this football he’s holding

Tyronn Lue: Gameplanning to defend Celtics harder than Warriors

How the Senators can upset the Penguins in Game 7

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Paxton Lynch cutting out early while other QBs stay late

Michael Jordan unique 1984 Converse shoes could fetch up to $100K at auction

Joe Girardi has interesting reason why no medical scans for Masahiro Tanaka

Ezekiel Elliott’s mom fires back after son criticized for being in car accident

Browns make Ryan Grigson senior personnel executive

Potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz looks positively jacked in recent photo

The 'Farewell to the Manu, the Myth, the Legend' quiz

Box Score 5/24: Craig Anderson saves the Senators

The 'Walk on home, boy' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Dejounte Murray gets his calls blocked twice

It's reality check time for the Texas Rangers

Box Score 5/23: Preds, Warriors move on to respective Finals

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Two months in and Nintendo's Switch dominates 2017 video game market

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

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 'Farewell to the Manu, the Myth, the Legend' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Dejounte Murray gets his calls blocked twice

It's reality check time for the Texas Rangers

The 'Walk on home, boy' quiz

NBA Weekend Awards: Who will take a bite of the Snow White Crystal Apple?

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'How two award snubs might shake up the NBA' quiz

Preparing for the BIG3: Q&A with BIG3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker