Belichick: Must find right variety on 'D'

Belichick: Must find right variety on 'D'
October 1, 2013, 10:15 pm
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Why do the Patriots morph defensively from one week to the next? Why don’t they just pick one style and stick with it, be one of those “they do what they do and they do it well” teams Bill Belichick talks about?
The answer is pretty simple. The diversity of offensive styles in the NFL in 2013 doesn’t ALLOW a team to have just one type of player they’ll roll out there for all 16 weeks.
There aren’t enough guys on the planet equipped to play a power game and a speed game at the NFL level. Vince Wilfork is one of those guys. And his exit from the scene for the remainder of the season made me curious about how a coach stocks his team for all he’ll see.
“That’s the challenge,” Belichick explained on his conference call Tuesday. “To have enough depth and variety in your defense to be able to match up to those different type of offensive systems and be able to compete with them.”
The great players who do it all are few and far between.
“If you have one player that can kind of do pretty good in all those situations, that’s great. The guy is probably going to be one of the top draft picks and highest paid players in the league,” he stated.
But, he noted, “It’s a little bit harder when you have to find somebody, work different combinations of players that maybe excel more in one phase of the game than others.”
For example (mine, not Belichick’s), Brandon Spikes is a run-stopping linebacker that can be a force against a team that will run but a liability against a team that works sideline-to-sideline and forces coverage.
“Facing teams that are two-back, power-running teams like the Baltimores of the world versus a team like Atlanta last week that we were in sub-defense, most of the entire game other than a handful of plays (is an example of the differences),” said Belichick. “Now we’re seeing teams like San Francisco last year, Buffalo this year, Philadelphia in preseason and I’m sure there will be a little more of that trend in the league that the running game is more of a sideline-to-sideline running game as opposed to the traditional - … two-back or two-tight end teams that double team, power block, pulling guards and stuff like that. Over the course of the season, you’re going to have to deal with all those things.”
And the opposing offensive coordinator is always looking at which personnel is weak and tailoring his game plan to get those defensive players on the field in mismatches.  
“As soon as your opponent sees you’re not very good at one thing, you can expect to see a whole lot more of that. That’s what they do if they have it,” Belichick observed.
“One week you’re going up against a team that has four or five really good receivers, the next week you’re going up against a team that has a couple really good tight ends, another week you’re going up against a spread running team, another week you’re going up against a power running team, one week you’re going up against a running quarterback, another week you’re going up against a real accurate, pocket-type quarterback,” he said. “You get receivers that are great downfield, deep receivers and you’ll get receivers that are underneath, quick, very good maneuverable guys. Those are all the challenges.”
The Patriots have been one of the most diverse offenses in football because they’ve had the underneath slot guy, the dominant and versatile tight ends, the stable of varied backs and – less frequently – competent outside receivers. And a great triggerman. Belichick’s experience as a defensive guru informed the way the Patriots built their offense.  
“On the offensive side of the ball, you have control over the ball,” he said. “You know who you hand it to, you know who you throw it to, you determine what kind of formations you want to get into, how many guys you want to put on the field that are receivers or tight ends, or where you want to put them, if you want to throw the ball quick or throw it deep or run behind double team blocks or option run. You control that. When you’re on the other side of the ball, you don’t control anything. You have to defend what they do and it’s a much different problem.”
Defensively, Belichick said, “you’re trying to put everything else together from a scheme standpoint and from a player standpoint to match up to (offensive diversity) week to week. That’s definitely a challenge. Trying to find the right players and the right overall composition of your team is challenging.”
That’s why it will be hard to find one player to replace Wilfork. Get a space-eater, and you give something up in terms of pass-rush explosiveness. Get a quick defensive tackle who weighs about 280 and watch the draws and runs that attack him start getting called.
It’s a quandary the Patriots will be addressing and tweaking over the next 12 weeks of the regular season.