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NFL New England Patriots

5 Defenders Who Need Different Roles For New England Patriots

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Five Defenders Who Need Different Roles

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries have really rattled the 11-3 New England Patriots. A lot of the top players on the team have been lost for the season due to injuries, especially on the defensive side.

As many people know, three defensive starters are not coming back. Two of them were the two starting defensive tackles, Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork. Kelly was the best interior pass rusher that Matt Patricia had to unload on opposing quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Wilfork served as the top run defender and leader of the defensive line. The remaining defensive tackles have really struggled at the point of the attack since these two went down, and it has shown in run defense.

Jerod Mayo was the other defender to go down. While Patricia has more quality depth at the linebacker position than he does at defensive tackle, Mayo’s loss cannot be understated. He was the play-caller on defense, constantly getting his teammates in the right spots. Mayo was also a very good player, excelling in run defense. His pass coverage was not great by any means, but the veteran linebacker was no liability there either. Losing Mayo might have been the most crippling blow of all.

So, now we move to the present. The Patriots' defense has been pretty awful lately, especially against the run. Opposing quarterbacks have also had their way through the air, which is not good considering that the secondary is now supposed to be the strength of the defense.

If Patricia has any hopes of fixing this, he must change the roles of some of his current players. There are certain defenders that are being misused, which is killing the defense as a whole. Coaching is all about making adjustments, and there are certainly some adjustments that Patricia needs to make. Here's a list of five adjustments that he should make, from least important to most important.

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5. Jamie Collins needs to be the linebacker used on passing downs

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Collins is the most athletic linebacker that Patricia has, and should be the only one used in coverage right now (if Patricia decides to use any cover linebacker at all).

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4. Steve Gregory should only be used in run defense

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Gregory got torched in coverage against the Cleveland Browns, furthering the notion that he is strictly a run-stuffing strong safety. He should only be playing on first and second down.

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3. Kyle Arrington should only be used in dime packages

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan are all better than Arrington right now. Arrington should only play in defensive packages that require four cornerbacks or more.

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2. Joe Vellano must not be used in run defense

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Vellano has been terrible in run defense so far. Instead of being featured as the nose tackle, he should be the backup to under-tackle Chris Jones. That way, Vellano could only focus on rushing the passer.

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1. Dont’a Hightower should not be dropping back into coverage

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Using Hightower in pass coverage is probably what is hurting Patricia the most. Hightower is simply too slow to cover. Patricia should think of using another defensive back instead.