Cornerback J.C. Jackson is one of the New England Patriots’ three Pro Bowl selection, and the only member of the team’s secondary to make it to this year’s all-star game. Despite that fact, the unit as a whole has impressed this season.
Just ask ESPN’s Matt Bowen, who recently analyzed the league’s defensive backfields based on multiple categories. He also mentioned the Patriots in quite a prominent spot, giving them the title of best secondary in the game right now:
New England Patriots
During the Patriots’ recent seven-game winning streak that ended against the Colts on Thursday night, Bill Belichick’s secondary surrendered a QBR of only 23.0 while allowing just 4.7 yards per passing attempt. Carson Wentz threw for only 57 yards against them in Week 15. This is a lockdown unit, led by the coverage ability and the ball skills of J.C. Jackson, with versatile players who allow the Patriots to play single-high man, move late to zone coverage or identify opposing receivers to erase from the screen.
With veteran Devin McCourty protecting over the top, plus the versatile traits of safeties Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips, this is a deep — and complete — unit, which also features disruptive slot man Myles Bryant and corner Jalen Mills. For the season, New England ranks second in the NFL in QBR (29.1) allowed, completion percentage (58.1) allowed, interceptions (20) and yards per attempt (6.4) allowed.
A group that wins with scheme and the foundational building blocks to high-end secondary play — communication, technique, physicality — the Patriots are the best secondary I’ve studied on tape this season.
The play in the secondary has been a key reason for the Patriots’ defensive success this season, and the circumstances make the group’s performance even more impressive. Not only was former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore traded to the Carolina Panthers after starting the year on the physically unable to perform list, the unit also lost starting slot cornerback Jonathan Jones to a season-ending shoulder injury.
Despite all that, the group has just kept moving along — and growing into the best secondary in the NFL.