Harrison disappointed in Patriots soft coverage

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Harrison disappointed in Patriots soft coverage

There was once a time when opposing wide receivers feared the Patriots defense.

Rodney Harrison. Ty Law. Lawyer Milloy. Tedy Bruschi. Mike Vrabel. The list goes on.

If Hines Ward was to skip a game against the Pats in those years, it wouldn't be because he wasn't needed by his team. It would be because the Steelers would be worried that Harrison could end his season.

You can understand then why it was so painful for Harrison to watch the Patriots secondary get run all over.

"Well, I think the biggest thing for me is when I look at that secondary and that defense, they blitzed Pittsburgh, yes they did, but I saw those corners and those linebackers playing so timid, playing soft coverage," Harrison told Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran on 'Quick Slants'. "You need to get up there. I know those guys are fast, Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace and those guys, they're very fast, but you have to get up there and challenge these guys. I just see just such soft coverage and I'm very disappointed in that."

So now the offense is a "finesse" style and the defense is "soft". Hey, when did the Patriots cheerleaders make the 53-man roster?

The secondary is a glaring weakness on the Patriots, one that opposing teams (at least the ones who did their homework) will surely take advantage of on a weekly basis. Curran points out that the Jets and Cowboys didn't do it, but why wouldn't anybody else?

Harrison is quick to note that the young and defenseless Pats are supposed to make up for inexperience with speed -- speed that they don't seem to have.

"Well, I mean, when coach Bill Belichick developed this defense and he brought younger guys in, the one thing I hear everyone say is, 'Well, he wants to get younger, he wants to get faster.' Well, where's the speed? I don't see a fast defense. I don't see an explosive defense out there.

"When I look at other defenses I see the speed. I see the speed on Green Bay's defense or even Pittsburgh's defense. But I don't see that fast speed with the New England Patriots. I'm just very disappointed because I look at that team and I say, you know, get up there and jam those guys, play some man-to-man coverage, blitz, and force the quarterback to make some mistakes."

At least the Patriots can fall back on their offense, right? It's bailed them out many times before, but when the playoffs roll around, it's got to be a team-wide effort, or again they'll be one and done.

"I think the thing is Belichick understands the strength of this team is in the offense," Harrison said. "They believe that they can go out and score 30 points a game even if they give up 23 points or 400, 500 yards on defense, it doesn't matter.

"But my problem with that is, when you start reaching in November and December in those critical months and the playoffs and stuff like that, you're going to have to be able to come up and play good defense and you can't rely on your offense because now you have to run the ball more and you have to have shorter passes."

Quick Slants The Column: On booing Goodell and overvaluing Jimmy G

Quick Slants The Column: On booing Goodell and overvaluing Jimmy G

Big night, Philadelphia. How you gonna treat the man NFL owners pay $35 million to be their meat shield? The first round of the draft is one of the few Roger Goodell appearances the league can’t manage. Released from the protection of John Mara’s coat pocket, Goodell has to hear a voice vote from fans every time he approaches the mic. He can grin, bang nipples and backslap all he wants with the first-rounders and sling that “Welcome to the family!” line of BS. He can hit the stage with the ghosts of Reggie White, Buddy Ryan and Chuck Bednarik. Philly’s too smart to get caught watching the paint dry. 

 

Got into a brief and spirited debate on the topic of Jimmy Garoppolo this morning on our “Boston Sports Tonight” email chain. I opined that perhaps Garoppolo is a bit overrated. Overvalued may have been a better adjective. Here’s why. With a fleet of teams dying for a quarterback they can build around, the Patriots squelched all Jimmy G suitors by declaring him untouchable. We may ultimately find out it was all a ruse and the team winds up getting a boatload of picks in exchange for him but from everything I’ve been told since September that’s not happening. Garoppolo will stay a Patriot and the team will figure out later how to proceed with him once his contract is up in March. If Garoppolo isn’t franchised and doesn’t sign an extension to back up Tom Brady until Brady either retires (not on the horizon) or is traded (gasp), then why did the team pass on the haul it could have had? The theory most often posited is that Garoppolo is Brady insurance. If Brady gets hurt in 2017 and Jacoby Brissett is the next-man-up, the team is cooked. But that reality has existed throughout Brady’s tenure whether he had Rohan Davey, Matt Gutierrez, Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett behind him. It didn’t faze them then. Garoppolo is better than all of them. Potentially. And that’s probably why the Patriots don’t want to make a decision on him before they have to. They look at all these forever .500 teams trying to find a quarterback answer and think, “There, but for the grace of God and the presence of Brady, go I.” Garoppolo isn’t going to be better than Brady. But he fits the suit better than anyone they’ve ever had and they like the fact they found him, developed him and were right about him. Clearly they believe he is a greater asset as a backup with a soon-to-expire contract and a complicated future than the collection of young players they’d be able to draft with whatever picks they got back in a deal. This, of course, runs counter to the way the team has traditionally done business. Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio have found innovative ways to acquire, stockpile and flip picks. The fact the team’s already got its 2017 draft haul of Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen and Mike Gillislee thanks to pick-flipping. Garoppolo could yield the next batch of picks the Patriots could use in the “rent-to-own” model they’ve shrewdly adopted. But Garoppolo is the extreme outlier. And the Brady-Garoppolo-what’ll-they-do dance is fascinating because it highlights the confluence of everything – draft, free agency, cap management, trades, potential vs. proven, old vs. young, icon vs. phenom – at the most important position in sports on the greatest franchise of this era. 

 

Which brings me to this: we’ll have former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in studio tonight on BST helping us through the first round of the draft. Looking forward to his insight on why Garoppolo is persona-non-tradeable. Put the over-under on “Tommys” at about 47.


 

Patriots seven-round mock draft: Shakeup in the secondary

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Patriots seven-round mock draft: Shakeup in the secondary

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