Scouts Inc. on Patriots' defense


Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. writes on New England's defense (Insider content), and the headline reads this way, "Have the Patriots upgraded their D?"

Williamson details many of the team's offseason moves and makes a comparison of note with defensive back Devin McCourty.

"The addition of Tavon Wilson, along with free agent Steve Gregory, to team with stalwart Patrick Chung at safety, should allow Devin McCourty to at least begin the season at cornerback -- the position where he had great success during his rookie season," he writes. "I could see McCourty becoming Belichick's version of Charles Woodson, a defensive back with great versatility. If McCourty plays as well as he did during his rookie season, that in itself will make the Patriots' defense noticeably better."

Williamson is reluctant to declare the Patriots' defense improved -- "it's tough to predict at this early juncture" -- but he is assertive when it comes to the secondary.

"I do think the secondary should be obviously improved, which will help the defense tremendously," he writes.

OUR TAKE: There is agreement that McCourty's best fit is cornerback. McCourty could line up at safety in some sub packages, as he did at the end of 2011 to create more flexibility for the coaching staff, but a full-time switch to the position seems like a panic move at this point. Put better safety play behind him and maybe there is a trickle-down effect that raises his level of play. As for the overall defense, there is one area in which decisive improvement has already been made. The Patriots ranked 28th in the NFL on third down last season. Two seasons ago, they ranked 32nd on third down. Most of those third downs were spent in sub packages, and that's the area that I think the Patriots have improved most this offseason because they've added more athletes who can play in space. They've also added more length, which potentially could create more disruption in the passing game, similar to how the Giants had success against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI when Tom Brady said that he felt like he was throwing into a forest. From this view, the focus on sub packages is the story of the team's offseason.