Pats getting defenders on the same page

Pats getting defenders on the same page
July 30, 2014, 4:00 pm

FOXBORO – I’m not Louis CK, but I do know when a mildly amusing joke has had every bit of funny pummeled out of it.

Want an example? How about this: Last summer, after I’d heard the 378th variation of, “Hey, check it out, I think the Patriots just drafted another guy from Rutgers . . . ”

No s***, the Patriots have a bunch of secondary guys from Rutgers. Doesn’t it suck when someone goes to the 10 items or less line with waaaaay more than 10 items? Amirite?

The “why” of it was what was really noteworthy. And the reason for the stockpile is becoming clearer.

After several seasons of tepid secondary performance, it seems to me Bill Belichick pinpointed three shortcomings on the back end of the Patriots defense: Communication. Smarts. Trust.

Importing Rutgers secondary players like Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan to join another Rutgers product, Devin McCourty, meant a hurdle was cleared before they even got their jerseys. Familiarity.

Year 2 of this experiment is underway. Belichick spoke Wednesday about communication in general and the trust factor that teammates need. 

Asked about Harmon, Belichick spoke about the group, saying, “The defenses that they played in college, that he and Logan and Steve [Beauharnais, a linebacker] and all the rest of them, there was quite a bit of communication involved, there was quite a bit of recognition involved. So, that’s something we saw him do in college; Steve as well, Logan, all of them -- Devin. We saw them do that and that really hasn’t been a problem for any of those guys, to tell you the truth. It’s a different system, it’s different words but the concepts and the principles are there and they’re familiar with those type of things. They’re good at it. They’re used to making calls and they can make them decisively.”

Belichick delved into a communication discussion that seemed tough to follow but was actually, pretty basic. The upshot, whether the group does the right thing or wrong thing is less important than everybody doing the same thing.

 “I think communication starts with, number one, knowing what to do and number two, being decisive and doing it with confidence,” Belichick explained. “Even doing the wrong thing can be okay as long as we’re all wrong together. If we’re all wrong together, we can still be right. The problem is when half of us are doing one thing and half of us are doing something else, then it’s almost impossible for that to ever work well."

The unspoken trust players can only build through repetition is also vital. A player can’t make an aggressive play effectively while a tiny voice in his head sings, ‘You better hope you’re doing the right thing . . . ’

Said Belichick: “The worst thing for a player, too, is to hear a call and kind of then have in the back of his mind, ‘Was that the right thing? Was that really what we want to do? Is it going to get changed?' Once the person makes it, is somebody else going to say or is that person going to say, ‘Oh wait a minute.’ Then you’re in no-man’s land.”

In other words, “Can’t wait…”

“For example, say we have two or three different ways we could play a 3-on-2 combination or a 4-on-3 combination and we have to identify which one of those we’re playing,” Belichick explained. “We might go into the game and say, ‘We want to use, in this situation, option B.’ But the situation comes up and we call option C, but we can still play that. Maybe that’s not the ideal thing we want to do, but at least if we’re all playing it, we know what we’re doing, we can play it.”