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Pats Propaganda 2017 season guide: Matt Patricia has left his mark on the Patriots defense

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Also, the Patriots run offense was its worst since 2005.

Our friends over at Pats Propaganda have written a great guide to the 2017 New England Patriots that you should check out. The guide includes a recap of the offseason, a roster evaluation, and a game-by-game preview of the 2017 season. You can purchase the book here and if you use the promo code PULPIT you will receive a 20% discount! They will be updating the guide throughout the offseason so if you purchase a guide now, you can receive all future updates for free.

I’ll highlight two of the more interesting facts I learned from the guide.

The Patriots have always had one of the best offenses in the league, but the run game really fell apart when offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired after the 2013 season. Under Dave DeGuglielmo, the Patriots rushing attack ranked 14th and 12th in Football Outsider’s DVOA, the first time the team fell out of the top 10 since 2005.

Well, Scarnecchia returned to the team in 2016 and the rushing attack...well, it actually got worse, falling to 17th in DVOA. That’s definitely a major reason why the Patriots invested so heavily in the running back position this offseason, by adding Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead.

“Gillislee is a hard one-cut runner who should perfectly replace LeGarrette Blount and probably end up being an upgrade,” Mike Dussault writes. “He averaged 5.7 yards-per-attempt and eight touchdowns for the Bills in 2016. Combined with Burkhead, the Patriots signed the top two most efficient running backs in the league according to Football Outsiders.”

Gillislee and Burkhead should replace LeGarrette Blount, who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. As the offensive line improves with experience and the talent in the backfield grows, the Patriots rushing attack should return to its former quality.

On defense, Dussault highlights two categories of stats “BEND” and “BREAK”. BEND stats include yards allowed per drive and plays allowed per drive, while BREAK looks at points allowed per drive and turnovers forced per drive. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s fingerprints are pretty obvious on the team’s production.

Patricia was named defensive coordinator in 2012 and there has been a shift in defensive priorities. In the two years prior to Patricia (2010-11) the Patriots allowed the most yards per drive in the entire league and the third-most plays per drive, but they also forced the most turnovers per drive in the entire league. The end result was ranking 12th in points allowed per drive; it was the quintessential “Bend-don’t-Break” defense.

Under Patricia, the Patriots have been forcing fewer and fewer turnovers, but have allowed fewer points, yards, and plays. It’s like the team exchanged the opportunity for turnovers for greater overall consistency. The Patriots points allowed per drive has dropped from 1.90 in 2011 to 1.72 in 2012, and again to 1.66, 1.69, 1.59, and finally 1.42 in 2016.

While turnovers are extremely important, perhaps the Patriots view them in the same lens as a sack. Sometimes defenders need to take risks and get out of position to collect a sack or an interception. If it works, everyone is happy. If not, the other team could create a big play. The Patriots might just be happy with generating pressure in the pass rush and having players in the secondary always in the correct position.

I’ll definitely be looking out for this over the next season.

You can purchase the book here and if you use the promo code PULPIT you will receive a 20% discount! Mike will be updating the guide throughout the offseason so if you purchase a guide now, you can receive all future updates for free.