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Patriots Defense: Who Might See the Door (Part 1)

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Hey everyone! Like Greg, I disappeared for a couple weeks to take care of end-of-the-year finals. Well, they're done so I should be posting more often. - Rich

Everyone remembers Asante Samuel; he's the phenomenal cover corner who has the tackling ability of a second grader. Pro Football Focus ran a tally and he finished second to last in the league with a 3.6 tackle/missed tackle ratio. Samuel was let go by the Patriots because of the exorbitant contract he demanded, but also because of how poorly he fit the defense's scheme. The Patriots focus on a bend-don't-break scheme, where they'd rather take the solid tackle or pass defended over risking the big play. Samuel loves taking risks and now he's in Philadelphia. Who else might have to start worrying?

Fun fact: It might not be Jonathan Wilhite. Wilhite finished top 10 in the league with a 22.0 tackle/missed tackle ratio, with one missed tackle on the year.

Another fun fact: It might not be Brandon Meriweather. Meriweather finished with a 12.0 ratio, although that may be a result of his poor angles taking away poor tackle attempts.

The culprit? James Sanders.

James Sanders had 9 missed tackles on the year, according to PFF, and while you may not agree with their grading, their stats are pretty spot on. Sanders posted a 6.89 ratio, which means that he misses almost twice as many tackles as Meriweather. Sanders is commanding a lofty contract for $2.8m this upcoming season, not including bonuses, which is the last year on his contract. The cap hit from Sanders is 11th on the team, which is a high price to pay for the back-up free safety who struggles to tackle (of course, he's right behind Tully Banta-Cain and Nick Kaczur, two more players who might have their roster spots in jeopardy).

The combination of Sanders contract value and duration and his play on the field should be enough to make Sanders worry about his roster spot. The addition of Ras-I Dowling as a potential free safety, as well as Brandon Meriweather's oddly superior performance makes Sander's spot even more of a question mark.

Sanders is known as a leader on and off the field, but leadership didn't save Sam Aiken's roster spot. Sanders is a player who needs to step up this off-season if he wants to make an impact and justify another contract extension.