The Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots will kick of the 2016 season on Sunday Night Football and the two teams feature the #2 and #3 secondaries in the NFL, respectively.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) gives the Broncos the top billing to go alongside with their top ranked defensive front seven, but the Patriots come in a respectable 3rd place.
“After the Patriots moved on from Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, [Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan] stepped up as full-time starters last season,” PFF analyst Matt Claassen writes. “The duo combined for six interceptions and 27 passes defensed, as they both ranked among the top 25 cornerbacks in overall grade. [Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung] have blossomed into one of the best safety pairings in the league, while [Duron Harmon] has excelled in his sub-package role.”
Butler and Ryan were excellent in 2015 in their first seasons as starters and the Patriots have to hope that they will both develop in 2016 and become even more dominant. McCourty was already well-regarded in the NFL at safety, while Chung put together a second-straight dominant season as he was the most versatile defensive back in the NFL.
The Broncos don’t have a weakness in their secondary, which is why they are #1, while the Cardinals have two of the best defensive backs in the league in Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
The Patriots had a weakness at cornerback last season, but Chung’s versatility helped compensate for the lack of depth. This year shouldn’t have the same issue.
“The secondary’s biggest weakness is their third cornerback,” Claassen continues, “but they hoped to have improved at the position with the selection of Cyrus Jones (Alabama) in the second round of the draft.”
Jones and second-year cornerback Justin Coleman will compete for time as the #3 cornerback and will greatly bolster the Patriots secondary depth.
For what it’s worth, Harmon is a great 5th defensive back to feature on the field, even though the Patriots used three cornerbacks more than they used three safeties in 2015. According to PFF, Harmon has more interceptions (5) than completions allowed (3) over the past two seasons.
Not bad- and for those keeping track, the Seahawks secondary ranked in 4th. I’d like to think Butler swooped in and helped the Patriots rank ahead of Seattle.