Friday, August 12, 2011

Bill Barnwell thinks Bill Belichick is channeling Al Davis

It's a good thing Bill Belichick is who he is, because if Al Davis or Daniel Snyder made the moves he's made, they'd end up becoming embarrassing trending topics on Twitter. After inexplicably cutting defensive end Ty Warren at the end of July, the Patriots went shopping for a defensive line that would have been football's best in 2005. The trade for Albert Haynesworth was one thing, but they've also brought in defensive ends Mark Anderson, Shaun Ellis, and Andre Carter, none of whom looked particularly effective last year.

The Ellis signing, in particular, is exactly the sort of thing that the Raiders would do: Go out and acquire a player because he had a great playoff game against you. While it's always hard to quantify the statistical impact of a 3-4 defensive end because his job is usually to simply occupy blockers, the Jets weren't willing to give Ellis much more than the veteran's minimum, even after their aborted approach for Nnamdi Asomugha. That's telling.

Carter had 11 sacks in 2009, but he struggled when the Redskins moved to a 3-4 last season. At 32, he could very well be finished. Anderson never developed after a 12-sack rookie season, and once offensive linemen figured out what he was doing to get those sacks, he never adjusted. He's also too small to serve as anything beyond a situational pass-rusher, which the Bears discovered before cutting him last season.

New England is reportedly making these moves as part of a switch to a 4-3 defensive alignment, which doesn't make much sense when you consider that its best defenders — nose tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo — would be marginalized in the 4-3. The Patriots signed Wilfork to a five-year, $40 million deal in 2010, so it's strange that they're not building their defense around his strengths. He excels at holding up blockers at the line of scrimmage and isn't the sort of penetrating, one-gap force on the interior that the 4-3 usually demands.
Why am I not worried? Somehow, I am thinking that Belichick knows a wee bit more football than Barnwell. Call me irrational

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