In the Patriots' season finale against the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots had a few wrinkles in their secondary. For one, in sub-packages, the Patriots moved cornerback Devin McCourty to free safety to help defend plays down the field. Starting strong safety James Ihedigbo came off the field, and the Patriots put Antwaun Molden at left cornerback, and brought in Sterling Moore as the slot cornerback (although at one point, the Patriots benched Kyle Arrington, putting Moore as RCB and bringing in Julian Edelman as the SCB).
The question now becomes: do the Patriots build off these packages, or do they go back to the tradition base and nickel packages with McCourty playing left cornerback?
Personally, I believe that the Patriots should continue to play McCourty at safety... in sub-packages only.
James Ihedigbo has been pretty awful in coverage this year, but he's also been stellar against the run. Because of this, he makes sense to play a little bit closer to the line as a strong safety in base 4-3 or 3-4 packages. However, to make up for his deficiencies in coverage, the Patriots will likely need to replace him in sub-packages, or in obvious passing situations.
More on the potential Patriots' coverage schemes after the jump!
One option that the Patriots have is to bring Sergio Brown onto the field as a safety. Brown has played average football at times, but he has also made some big mistakes on deep throws (taking bad angles, not playing the ball correctly, getting flagged for pass interference). When playing the Broncos, you have to eliminate the big plays from Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. That's why I think that McCourty moves to safety in sub-packages.
In addition, I've also been critical of Patriots cornerback Antwaun Molden at times. He can't recover in off-man coverage, he's been flagged for penalties, and is a liability in press coverage. However, the one thing he can do really well is cover the deep ball. His two interceptions against the Eagles and Bills both came on deep balls down the sideline. Against the Broncos, I actually wouldn't be surprised to see him play LCB in sub-packages and cover DeMaryius Thomas down the field. Of course, having Molden in the games puts the Patriots at risk at letting up 8-10 yard throws on slants and hooks, but I'm okay with forcing Tim Tebow to make those throws if it means taking away the deep ball.
All of this being said, this would be my ideal secondary for the Patriots this Saturday against the Broncos:
Base: RCB - Kyle Arrington, LCB - Devin McCourty, FS - Patrick Chung, SS - James Ihedigbo
Nickel: RCB - Kyle Arrington, LCB - Antwaun Molden, Star - Sterling Moore (or Edelman / Jones) FS - Devin McCourty, SS - Patrick Chung
What do you think? Should the Patriots continue to play Devin McCourty at safety in sub-packages? Who should be the Patriots primary slot cornerback? Do you trust Anwtwaun Molden to come on the field as a LCB and possibly cover DeMaryius Thomas?