Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/11/12
You may have noticed a change in the Patriots’ defense since Aqib Talib came to Foxboro and started playing cornerback for the now 10-3 team. The pass defense has improved dramatically. Some of that may be due to Talib’s talents, but the biggest improvement has come from Kyle Arrington in the slot. Before Talib came around, Arrington was expected to start at right cornerback in New England’s base defense, and kick inside to man the slot in sub packages. Now that Talib and Alfonzo Dennard are starting on the outside, Arrington may have a decreased role, but he’s been a much more effective player. Arrington’s strength has long come from that inside role. Before Dennard emerged and the team traded for Talib though, he was forced into a role as an every-down starter. The fifth-year player is best in more confined space on the field, and especially when the ball is in front of him, rather than when he has to run deep with a wide receiver. When Arrington is forced into that role of covering the sideline is when you start to see the pass interference calls come and when you start to see Arrington get beat down the field. Arrington has long struggled to turn his head around and look for the ball. He’s best when he can stay close and make a play. We saw that time and time again last season when Arrington came away with a league-leading seven interceptions. Granted, some of those were balls that bounced the right way, but the Patriots’ cornerback was constantly hovering around the ball. Arrington struggled to start the season. That was for a variety of reasons. First, he was being forced to play outside. But he was asked to do that last season as well. Perhaps the biggest reason for Arrington’s struggles was the lack of help he was getting over the top from his safeties. That’s all changed since Devin McCourty emerged as the best safety this team has seen since Rodney Harrison. Arrington really flashed on Monday night against the Texans. The Patriots only allowed 232 yards to Houston’s quarterback Matt Schaub. And outside receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster did most of that damage with 134 yards combined. Arrington spent most of his time covering Lester Jean, Ken Walter and Keshawn Martin, who combined for three receptions for 27 yards. When Arrington did get beat, it was when he was forced into an outside role after Talib and Dennard got injured. Arrington finished the game with two passes deflected and three tackles. Arrington is not only a solid player in the slot because of his strengths in coverage, but it also places him closer to make plays in the run game. Arrington may be the best tackler in the New England secondary. There was a scare late in the game when it looked like Arrington may have hurt his leg when his teammate defensive end Justin Francis rolled into him, but Arrington said after the game his body is sore, but mentally he’s feeling the best he’s felt in a while. It may seem improbable, but the Patriots’ secondary is really rounding into place as the season’s really getting started. McCourty is proving to be an absolute stud at safety, Steve Gregory is making plays — and making less mistakes in coverage as he gets accustomed to the defense — Talib is improving every game, Dennard is shedding his rookie mistakes and most importantly, Arrington has fit himself into a role that shines a spotlight on his strengths and diminishes his flaws. Who would have ever thought at the beginning of the season that the New England secondary could wind up as a strong point for this team, rather than a glaring weakness. Photo via Facebook/BRNewEnglandPatriots

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

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