The struggles in the secondary of the New England Patriots’ defense is not breaking news for Pats fans. Earlier in the week, I passed along the numbers for the team, and they’re epicly bad, as in worst-in-the-NFL bad. As bad as that sounds, the stats are presented as team statistics and not individual indictments. Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston picked up the individual numbers for the Patriots’ corners, and though I knew they wouldn’t be good, my eyebrows were certainly raised at how awful they really were.
Here’s what he got from Pro Football Focus:
Devin McCourty – 36 targets, 24 receptions (66%), 378 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 129.2 QB rating
Ras-I Dowling – 7 targets, 3 receptions (42.9%), 74 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 81.8 QB rating
Kyle Arrington – 13 targets, 5 receptions (38.5%), 79 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 19.9 QB rating
Leigh Bodden – 16 targets, 10 receptions (62.5%), 176 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 120.8 QB rating
The most disheartening thing about those numbers is that the Patriots’ “best” cornerbacks are performing the worst. Naturally, being matched up against the opposing teams’ best receivers will skew your numbers, but these numbers aren’t merely a result of playing against good receivers. These numbers clearly show that opposing quarterbacks are targeting the Patriots’ outside corners Devin McCourty and Leigh Bodden.
Count me among those fans that were excited about this secondary before the season began. Bodden performed well enough two years ago before missing last year due to injury to warrant receiving a new contract, so his return was viewed as a plus. McCourty was coming off a Pro Bowl rookie year and the general thought was that he would only improve. The Pats, at the time, also had one of the deepest safety rotations with Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, and James Sanders. I understand why Belichick felt he needed to jettison one of those safeties, but initial results this season indicate that perhaps he should have kept one of them, likely James Sanders.
The defense has a big game tomorrow against the Oakland Raiders. They are going to have to take a step forward during that game or doubts are going to surround this team throughout the season. I’m not looking for a shut-out, but a key stop when the team needs it or keeping the Raiders under 21 points would be nice. Let’s see if this team can start righting the ship tomorrow.