Ernie Adams holds the title of New England Patriots Football Research Director. He’s constantly feeding advice to head coach Bill Belichick, whether it’s the opposing team’s favorite plays on 3rd and 7 from the 28-yard line when the moon is in the fifth house, or how some undrafted free agent from 1978 likes his coffee. Probably.
No one knows what Adams does. He could just be an elaborate prank dreamed up by Belichick that will be revealed at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Maybe Adams just sits around drawing pink stripes and his sole existence is to feed into the mythos of Belichick’s genius.
QB Tom Brady has relayed a piece of advice from Adams when asked about finding the open receiver. I think the advice is worth sharing.
“You have to be able to make them defend the width of the field, the length of the field,” Brady said. “Ernie told me, he once told me, ‘Make them defend every blade of grass.’ I think that’s a great thing to do. They’ve got to be able to – that’s how you stress the defense. You can force the ball to all different parts of the field, and they never really know who’s going to get it. They can key on certain players, but if you do that, you’re vulnerable to other things.”
Make them defend the whole field has to be the first bullet point of the first slide of any Offensive Coaching 101 seminar, right? Any time an offense is limited to attacking one area of the field (read: only able to attack the middle of the field) or one facet of the game (read: can’t run the ball), they’re going to struggle.
And that’s actually been the downfall of the Patriots offense in recent years. They couldn’t run last year. They had a reliable sideline receiver to widen the field for one year (2012, Brandon Lloyd) between the Randy Moss and Brandon LaFell years.
Brady must have taken Adams’ advice to heart, though, because after years of dominating the league with passes up the middle and into the flat, he appears to have reached a new level of ability with his deep passes. WR Chris Hogan seems to be the deep threat that the Patriots have wanted for years and he’ll continue to improve as an intermediate sideline option.
“It’s good to have kind of a lot of tools in your toolbox and to be able to use them at different times,” Brady explained. “Whatever you need, that’s what you’ve got to pull out and be able to do. Good offensive execution takes all 11 of us and so much of what we practice is us all being on the same page every play, every day, every week, so we can be our best.”
The Patriots are able to flex between run and pass plays thanks to TEs Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. They can attack up the seam with Gronkowski and Bennett. They can hit the flats with Bennett and WR Julian Edelman. They can go underneath with Edelman and RB James White. They can get the deep field with Hogan. They can run inside and outside with RB LeGarrette Blount.
What more do you need?