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Life is about to get a whole lot tougher for the Patriots’ defense after weeks of devouring terrible opposing quarterbacks. But the numbers to this point are what they are: New England currently boasts the top defense in football by EPA/play allowed and specifically defends the pass like no other team in the NFL.
The crazy part: they’re doing it largely by shopping at the Dollar Store once again.
Of course, having Bill Belichick, one of the greatest defensive minds in NFL history, overseeing your operation allows you to do that and still have success, according to Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson.
“[He’s] really magic happen again like he’s done for his entire career out of a group that doesn’t look like it has the personnel to be achieving what it’s achieving,” Monson said on "NFL Now".
After everyone expected the Patriots’ secondary to go downhill after J.C. Jackson left in free agency, it actually somehow got better with rookies Jack and Marcus Jones playing significant snaps and Jonathan Jones kicking outside opposite Jalen Mills.
Also, despite all the questions about how good the pass rush would be, the team ranks second in pressure rate, which Monson attributes partly to the devastating stunts the Patriots run to get Matthew Judon free to the quarterback. The threat of the pass rush has trickled down to the rest of the unit as well.
“It means guys like Jack Jones, a fourth-round rookie, is able to give up zero touchdowns and be a lockdown corner on the edge. Guys like Deatrich Wise, their defensive end, is putting up great numbers along with Matthew Judon, and those guys aren’t supposed to be leading the league in pressure rate and those kinds of things. Once again, Belichick is just able to turn this group that has a reasonable talent base and create spectacular results out of it in a way that seemingly only he can year after year.”
PFF cap analyst Brad Spielberger added that Belichick’s league-leading defense doesn’t feature a single player making $14 million a year. Matthew Judon’s $13.625 million per year certainly looks like a steal at the moment as the outside linebacker paces the league with 13 sacks.
Spielberger especially shouts out the four-year, $22 million deal New England just brought back Deatrich Wise, who’s in the midst of a career-best season, on during the 2021 off-season as a massive coup for the team.
There’s still some question about whether or not this defense can truly carry the Patriots to and through the playoffs against better opponents, which was certainly an issue last season. But it’s still fair to acknowledge the job Belichick has done and continues to do on the defensive side of the football.