Rodney Harrison knows a little something about playing defense for the New England Patriots. When Bill Belichick brought Harrison over from San Diego in 2003, he was committing to the type of smash-mouth defense that had resulted in a Super Bowl caliber team. With Harrison as one of the leaders of an aggressive defense, the Patriots won two championships.
Those of you who watched the Steelers beat the Patriots on Sunday are aware that the Rodney Harrison-style defense New England used to play is completely absent. Although he is supposed to be nothing more than an objective NFL analyst at this point in his career, Harrison is obviously bothered by what he sees from his old team.
“I hate it, I don’t like it at all,” Harrison told the Boston Herald on Tuesday. “That scheme doesn’t work for me. When you play a good offense, a team that spreads you out, there’s just too many openings in zone coverage. You have to mix in man-to-man coverage. You have to become more creative on defense. You have to disguise, bring more pressure.
“We played a lot of man-to-man coverage, especially when we won in ’03,” Harrison said. “They challenged us. I was in the box blitzing. We dared teams to throw. You weren’t going to run on us. We dared teams to throw. We had good enough cornerbacks, we felt like teams couldn’t have success. We disguised, we mixed in cover-2, we mixed in cover-4, and different cover-3s. Here, I just see a basic, plain defense. So if the offense isn’t scoring 25-30 points, you’re in trouble.”
Harrison also questioned the Patriots decision to cut cornerback Leigh Bodden, which is a valid point. Right after Bodden was cut because he reportedly wasn’t willing to accept the role of slot corner, New England then placed rookie corner Ras-I Dowling on injured reserve. Simply put, a team that already could not stop the pass now has less tools to work with.
Belichick is supposed to be a defensive mastermind, but the Patriots defense has not been above-average since they last won a championship. Year after year, guys like Richard Seymour and Ty Warren are sent packing and the Patriots continue to allow teams to throw all over them. They have no pass rush and are dangerously thin at defensive back. If they couldn’t win with strictly offense in 2007, they certainly won’t contend for a Super Bowl with a less-talented bunch this season. Whether it comes in the form of checking Belichick’s ego or signing a big-name cornerback or pass rusher, the Patriots have to find a way to improve on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. After all, Tom Brady won’t be young forever.Google+