Does AFC East have big D trend covered?

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
5:25
PM ET
ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer provided his insight on a top offensive trend earlier Tuesday.

He also shared thoughts on a defensive movement he speculated could dictate schemes for the next decade.

Not long ago, Tampa 2-style zone defenses were en vogue. Dilfer now sees the NFL widely adopting a "coverage-based" philosophy.

"The trend now in the NFL for the dominant defenses is that it's become about coverage," Dilfer said. "At times it's pass rush. At times it's zones. At times it's blitz. But, ultimately, this has become a coverage league.

"When you can find corners on the outside that can play man-to-man defense -- old-school man-to-man, 'I got you' all over the field -- it creates so much flexibility in your schemes defensively to keep the offenses off balance.

"What are offenses doing? They're spreading you out. They're trying to attack zones. The defenses that lock up and still put pressure on the quarterback are the defenses that are having success."

What does that mean for the AFC East?

If this becomes the preferred method of defense, then the New York Jets are in good shape as long as they have Darrelle Revis at cornerback. Antonio Cromartie is a free agent, but he could be back, helping the Jets maintain a formidable tandem.

The New England Patriots also have a strong coverage foundation. Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty was voted to the Pro Bowl after a season of covering the opposition's best receivers. He had seven interceptions. Reliable veteran Leigh Bodden missed the season with a torn rotator cuff. But he'll be back. Bodden is under contract through 2013.

The Miami Dolphins are confident in Vontae Davis, but coverage on the opposite side of the field has been erratic. Sean Smith possesses tremendous athleticism, but the Dolphins haven't been comfortable with him as a starter. They removed Smith as a starter when the season began and eventually cut the player who replaced him, Jason Allen.

The Buffalo Bills' cornerbacks are an interesting group. Drayton Florence has been their best pass defender and showed a knack for the big play in 2010, but he's a free agent. Terrence McGee is a formidable player when healthy, but he missed seven games. Leodis McKelvin, the 11th overall draft choice three years ago, is an athletic specimen but gets burnt way too often.

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