The New England Patriots made a big splash on defense in free agency as they replaced veteran cornerback Aqib Talib with former New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, and former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner.
The Patriots have a premier cornerback with size to match-up with the big, strong, fast receivers in the league for the first time since former All-Pro cornerback Ty Law roamed the secondary for the three Super Bowl teams. The Patriots already have a strong core at cornerback in place with second-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and rookie cornerback Logan Ryan. In addition, veteran slot cornerback Kyle Arrington provides a strong area of depth at the key position. What they do not have with those three is a true number one cornerback and a shut-down cornerback with the physical skills to match-up with some of the best receivers in the league.
In the last three seasons head coach Bill Belichick finally began moving past the “bend-but-don’t break” defenses that spelled the team’s doom in the playoffs from 2005 to 2010. A switch from the 3-4 two-gap defense to a more aggressive 4-3 base defense and a move to the sub package on a majority of the defensive snaps. Since then, the team has reached three straight AFC Championship Games and made it to the Super Bowl once.
The team continued to evolve on defense in 2012 with the mid-season acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A trickle-down effect of the Talib acquisition was that it allowed the Patriots defense to move Devin McCourty to safety; McCourty thrived playing zone defense as a corner, but struggled at times when playing in man coverage. The move to safety highlighted his closing quickness, ability to read the quarterback, and ball skills. McCourty has since quickly blossomed into one of the best safeties in football.
With McCourty at safety and Kyle Arrington moved back at the slot position with Talib acquired at the number one cornerback position, the Patriots were able to insert rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard into the starting lineup where his man coverage skills and aggressiveness made up for his lack of length. By moving cornerbacks Sterling Moore and Marquice Cole and safety Patrick Chung to the sidelines the team improved rapidly in the second half of 2012.