Does Easley represent a change on defense?

Does Easley represent a change on defense?
May 13, 2014, 3:30 pm
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FOXBORO — Given his otherworldly get-off speed, drafting Dominique Easley with the 29th overall pick and asking him to be a reactive defensive lineman would be like drafting Rajon Rondo and asking him to defend the rim.

The drafting of Easley is even more evidence that the Patriots are all set with the reactive, two-gapping, build-a-wall scheme they’ve used for most of Bill Belichick’s tenure.

Whether it was a 3-4 or 4-3 front, the Patriots have been loathe to penetrate too much defensively because penetration opens lanes. But the proliferation of big receivers, the rules against defensive contact, the short-to-intermediate accuracy and the speed with which quarterbacks (Peyton Manning most specifically) get the ball away, turns a reactive defense into spectators.

Easley, Chandler Jones, Brandon Browner, Jamie Collins and Darrelle Revis are linked personnel moves. If the Patriots play more press coverage to take away short, that strategy needs to be complemented by a quicker pass rush because press coverage and jamming means a corner will be able to cover for a shorter period. So you have to get home to the quarterback more quickly.

In my opinion, that’s the direction the Patriots will be headed. The conservative defense that forces teams to string plays together is not going away. But, to me, the personnel moves to make the defense more attack-style are impossible to dismiss.