The New England Patriots under Bill Belichick have never been afraid to zigzag when other teams in the league zigzag. Whether it’s investing in 3-4 people in the early 2000s, throwing loose looks and tight end sets, or building a Super Bowl winning team around a powerful rushing attack, Belichick always looking to take advantage of the market and stay ahead. of the curve.
The linebacker position is a good example. As teams in the league get smaller and smaller and use so-called tweeners to become more flexible against passing play, the Patriots haven’t flinched: their linebacker room is among the largest in football.
While its members bring different skills to the table, they have one thing in common – they’re tall. Of which Hightower, Matthew Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins are all rated at 6ft 3in and between 245 and 275lbs. Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai are both 6-foot-2, with Bentley at 255 and Tavai at 250. The only recent addition, Calvin Munson is shorter at 6-0; he still weighs 245 pounds.
Elsewhere in the league, height has become less important. Players such as Patrick Queen of the Baltimore Ravens, Fred Warner of the San Francisco 49ers or Deion Jones of the Atlanta Falcons are all on the smaller end of the linebacker spectrum – by design: they are faster and therefore better suited to the game. blanket.
So why don’t the Patriots go after this type of player? Inside linebacker coach Jerod Mayo recently explained the reason for this.
“Every time you put a converted security in the box there’s obviously an upgrade in coverage, hopefully, but there’s also a probably just degradation of awareness in the box,” said Mayo. “That compromise there, I would say for us, really depends on who we play in terms of how many ‘funders we actually have on the ground because we change so much. If we face a team that is very small and really not good at the racing game, we can also get smaller, we have that ability. “
The key for the Patriots, as Mayo explained, is having big linebackers who can hold the strong against the run and the pass. In the meantime, the safe stance comes into play as well: players in the stance need to be versatile enough to get down and fill the box while being able to get back into cover as well.
The most recent examples are Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger, both capable of playing in the box and returning to the cover. Before them, Patrick Chung popularized this role after returning from Philadelphia in 2014.
“We talk a lot about the versatility of the linebackers, but you also look at the versatility in the safety room. It’s the same thing. We have securities that feel right at home in the box. Now is that better than some of the linebackers we have in the box? Maybe not, but there is also a tradeoff that we have more speed in position and we also have a better cover player in position, ”said Mayo.
“It’s definitely a question of the game plan. i know bill [Belichick] always liked the bigger backers, and most linebackers, even though they are taller, I would say they can all run for the most part.
As the Patriots cling to the big type of linebacker, it becomes a question of whether or not he is losing value given the way the game is played. With the passing game more important and productive than ever, and with attacks capable of using their staff to attack all manner of defensive weaknesses in the air, a movement towards these smaller players is already underway.
Mayo, however, sees this development from a different perspective.
“All things of the diet, it’s all cyclical for me,” he said. “What’s going to happen is you’re going to have all these little ‘backers on the pitch and then you’re going to meet a Derrick Henry type player or a team that lines up in 21 people, and you don’t. “Have no one on your active list to even slow it down. That’s the hard part. It’s the balance you have to find in the backer position. …
“Give me the 250- or 255-pound linebacker who played linebacker for a while and understands what’s going on around him than the 220-pound guy who’s been doing it for a year. He’s fast but he goes fast the wrong way, you know what I mean? Give me the guy running a 4.7 the right way a guy running a 4.4, 4.5 going the wrong way the first two steps. They will get there at the same time.