After this years draft and BB's comments over the past two or three years I currently have the feeling he's been feeling out the NFL under it's new rules looking to design a defense to slow down and confuse the new type of offenses that focus on passing so heavily.
Pat Kirwan had a good piece that Mike Reiss pulled from this AM:
In a piece now posted on CBSSports.com, Pat Kirwan writes on one of the big trends in the NFL, which has been sparked by the Patriots. It's the "Big Nickel."
"It's not new and was made popular by Bill Belichick a number of years ago, but oddly, it's Belichick's offense that is causing teams to study it closely," Kirwan writes.
"Just about every defense in the NFL has studied the Patriots' Hybrid 12 personnel package (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) to determine how many problems those two tight ends can create. Aaron Hernandez can line up as a wide receiver, a slot receiver, an inline tight end, a wing, a fullback or even a running back. Rob Gronkowski can line up as an inline tight end, a slot or a wing. No matter what defensive personnel is on the field, the Patriots can make you feel like you are in the wrong one. Play base personnel with a front seven and four defensive backs and they spread you out in a four-wide look. Play nickel defense with an extra cornerback subbing for a linebacker in the front seven, and they condense the set and run right at you. It's a problem, and defenses are studying the Big Nickel concept for an answer."
The "Big Nickel" is a three-safety package, and it might have been what the Patriots had in mind when they selected Illinois defensive back Tavon Wilson in the second round of the draft.
This is something I was also thinking about, a few more thoughts post break
The defensive flexibilty the Pats have acquired this off season or have on the roster is unique to the NFL, at least as far as I've looked so far:
There existing roster has DE's who can slide inside and DTs who could move outside
They have multiple LBs who can play multiple positions inside and out or as ends in modified 4 man rush packages - and in adding Jones and Hightower have upgraded the skill in the LB-Hybrids. Jones is currently better suited as a DE who can drop back, while Hightower is an LB who can blitz or potential line up on the edge of a package.
Adding Wilson to the secondary, where they had already added Gregory provides again more options. McCourty, Gregory, even Chung Wilson all can play safety or corner. Each is stronger in certain areas but the point is when they are on the field their responsibilities are TBD for a QB.
In theory the following 3rd down formation has multipled questions
Fanenne (sp) / Pryor
Carter (please) / Deaderick / Bequette
You could show the Manning look again with the interior line man down and the other 9 players standing in or very close to the box.
Understanding the responsibilities of each defender could be rather challenging. In their 'standard' responsibilities for each player, this is a good defense - but when you add in the complexity of multiple zone blitzes, umbrella's, etc. it becomes as difficult for an offense to read the D as it does the D to read the O
I can't wait to see how these defense takes shape, from where then ended up last year to what they've added this year - it's shaping up to be a very good side of the ball.