What would happen if that 4-2-5 defense became less of a novelty and something of the new base defense for the Patriots?
Bill Belichick never stops tinkering with game plans and schemes and is always willing to try new things so as not to become predictable and, therefore, beatable. This year he's already played a lot of 4-3 defense instead of the base 3-4 that he has taught (and modified) for years. Ever creative, Belichick adds new twists and variations such as the innovative defensive scheme he used in Super Bowl 39 versus the Eagles or the 4-2-5 alignment he has used in the past versus the Colts. But watching the first two preseason games and thinking about the current strengths and weaknesses of the defense, I wonder: what if he now made the exception into the rule, defensively speaking?
Think about the strengths of this defensive unit. The line is outstanding and a four man front would put Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, and Jarvis Green on the field at the same time (with Mike Wright, Ron Brace, and Myron Pryor mixed in, too). The secondary seems much improved already though with still room for improvement. Think about a starting backfield of Leigh Bodden and Jonathan Wilhite at the corners, Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders at safety and Shawn Springs as the nickel back (with Pat Chung and Darius Butler subbing in).
This brings us to the only seeming weakness of this defense: linebacker. All this may change, of course, but Shawn Crable and Pierre Woods have failed to emerge, Tedy Bruschi may be nearing the end, and Paris Lenon may go the way of Victor Hobson last year (free agent signeee expected to help who got cut before the season opener).
Who would that leave at linebacker if the Pats played a 4-2-5? Why, Adalius Thomas and Jerod Mayo, that's who. Those are two very impressive 'backers with athetic ability, versatility, big play potential, and great talent. They could drop back into coverage, rush the passer, provide run support, and form a powerful middle line of an aggressive new defense. They are clearly head and shoulders above the other linebackers and could be used in all kinds of effective ways if teamed with the d-linemen and d-backs the Patriots have.
Specific assignments and responsibilities could be handled any number of ways out of this defense and the Pats could show different looks out of it from week to week--or from quarter to quarter if they wanted to. On third downs, it could be tweaked to bring in Derrick Burgess and/or Tully Banta-Cain as edge rushers.
But the most attractive thing about using the 4-2-5 as the base defense is that, arguably, it might allow New England to put its 11 best defenders on the field at the same time.
Otherwise, a more conventional 3-4 or 4-3 might keep some of those best players on the bench and use up one or two starting lineup slots with possibly subpar players. This would leave exposed weaknesses that good teams would find a way to exploit, particularly when it counted most.
Will the Patriots use the 4-2-5 regularly this year? It seems like it could be very effective and would fit the personnel nicely. Would it work? I wonder what others here think of the idea.