Secondary Problem, Primary Focus

Let me preface this by saying that the defensive backs are not the only problem with the 2012 New England Patriots. The fact that the offense seems completely unable to execute anything with a lead in the 4th quarter is very worrisome. And yes, there are still 9 games left in the regular season (and hopefully, a few in the playoffs). However, significant attention must be paid to improving this secondary, and it needs to be a departure from how it has been done in recent years.

I understand it goes against the Patriot buzzword “value”, but it’s time to open up the wallet and dish out some money to add an NFL-capable defensive back to this roster. There are several players who are slated to become free agents at the end of this season that would make a marked improvement in the New England secondary in 2013. At cornerback, you have names like Brent Grimes, Tracy Porter, Quentin Jammer, and Derek Cox, among others. Grimes will be coming off an achilles injury, but he is undoubtedly a top-level corner, and if the Falcons don’t lock him up long term, he will be the most sought after free agent defensive back. Usually, that means the Patriots won’t be in on him, but it’s time to change that. Jammer is not a long term answer, but could be a great veteran addition to a very young secondary. If Jacksonville can’t get Cox signed, he would be a great young piece to build a revamped defensive backfield around. Part of the answer at safety could be to get a strong corner and move Devin McCourty to safety. Barring that, Dashon Goldson and Jairus Byrd would be major upgrades to the safety position.

The other option would be to attempt to draft a defensive back high in the draft by packaging picks and trading up. Based on the drafting history of this team over recent years, I don’t know if I trust that course of action. This the complete list of defensive backs drafted by the Patriots under Bill Belichick.

  • Year – Player (Round)
  • 2000 – Antwan Harris (6)
  • 2001 – Brock Williams (3)
  • 2001 – Leonard Myers (6)
  • 2003 – Eugene Wilson (2)
    2003 – Asante Samuel (3)
  • 2004 – Guss Scott (3)
  • 2004 – Dexter Reid (4)
  • 2004 – Christian Morton (7)
  • 2005 – Ellis Hobbs (3)
  • 2005 – James Sanders (4)
  • 2006 – Willie Andrews (7)
  • 2007 – Brandon Meriweather (1)
  • 2007 – Mike Richardson (6)
  • 2008 – Terrence Wheatley (2)
  • 2008 – Jonathan Wilhite (4)
  • 2009 – Patrick Chung (2)
  • 2009 – Darius Butler (2)
  • 2010 – Devin McCourty (1)
  • 2011 – Ras-I Dowling (2)
  • 2011 – Malcolm Williams (7)
  • 2012 – Nate Ebner (6)
  • 2012 – Alfonzo Dennard (7)

What do you notice about this list? Twice in 12 drafts, Belichick chose a defensive back in the first round. The highest pick spent on a defensive back was 24 on Meriweather in 2007. Aside from some fantastic audio on the Toucher and Rich show and a ton of personal foul penalties, Meriweather added nothing to this team. It is completely against the Patriot history to go get a high first round pick and use it on a defensive back. The other thing you notice about this list is that outside of Asante Samuel, no one on this list has at any time been considered a top-tier defensive back. This team needs at least one, and I’m not convinced that it can draft one.

Whether it is through free agency or the draft, the New England Patriots need serious help in the secondary. If this glaring hole in the team continues to go unpatched, it is nothing less than a complete waste of what is left of the prime of Tom Brady’s career. And quite frankly, I’m petrified of what we will witness if we have this level of defensive back play during the Ryan Mallett era.

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