FOXBORO -- Hut. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi.
In the time it takes for you to read that sentence aloud, Peyton Manning is able to receive a snap, pick a receiver and release a pass.
So can a lot of other NFL quarterbacks, especially against defenses that play “off” coverage or don’t successfully disrupt receivers at the line of scrimmage.
On Tuesday, I asked Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich how a pass rush can get to a quarterback like Manning in 1.7 seconds (a number that was often cited as Manning’s 2013 release time in Denver).
“You can’t,” he admitted. “Everything works together. Defense is a combination of responsibilities. Gaps where people are supposed to be. Coverages where people are where they’re supposed to be in their zones. If you’re a pass-rusher you have to be in your pass rush lane and when the ball’s coming out like that…"
You have to do something is what Ninkovich was intimating.
And that is to attack and disrupt. The Giants won two Super Bowls thanks to the up-field relentlessness of their front-four. The Seahawks just won one thanks to the size and line-of-scrimmage physicality of its secondary.
The excellence of one unit can cover for the shortcomings of the other. In the 2012 draft, the Patriots got an edge rusher with one of their first-round picks, Chandler Jones. He’s asked to do much more than simply go up-field, but it is a player-type that’s more in line with the way the Giants used Jason Pierre-Paul, for instance.
The Patriots secondary has often been comprised of versatile players that can be used interchangeably. But the need for players to be sticky, long and strong against the always-growing crop of wide receivers the NFL now has was brought into sharp relief when Aqib Talib was acquired and the whole defense improved.
“If (an offense is) running the ball successfully and then they throw in play-action and then there’s quick slants where we’re not getting jams and messing up timing, then they’re gonna be able to do what they want,” Ninkovich explained.
Upgrading with Darrelle Revis and adding Brandon Browner will allow the Patriots to play even more press coverage to disrupt timing.
“We got the best corner in the league coming in,” said Ninkovich. “That’s always a good thing for a defensive end like myself, just give me a little bit more time [with tight coverage] and I’ll be happy to use that.
“You can do whatever you want with him,” he said. “You can put him on the best receiver, tight end, whoever, and say ‘Hey, go cover this guy and he can do it.’ Whenever you have a guy that talented, it’s always great as far as defensive schemes and stuff like that.”
As the offseason moves along, the wish list for Patriots fans often includes pass rusher. But the addition of Revis and Browner should create more time for the pass rush.
“When you can have a guy and say, ‘Cover this guy and don’t let him catch the ball…’ and when you have two guys that can do that then everything works out better,” Ninkovich reiterated. “It’s very early in the process of how it’s going to fir together and how we’re gonna do this but Bill’s always got a plan. He’s always got a plan.”