Give and take: Patriots’ secondary versus the LOB
ESPN.com’s KC Joyner joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Danny” on Wednesday to discuss his latest column in which he made the case that New England’s secondary will overtake Seattle’s as the league’s best in 2014. Let’s take a look at both sides of the argument.
Joyner’s give: While the Seahawks had the league’s best secondary last season, New England’s wasn’t that far behind and therefore doesn’t have as large a gap to close and overcome as many would assume. The additions of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and former Seahawk Brandon Browner will help put the Patriots over the top.
Henderson’s take: As good as Browner was for much of his time in Seattle, he was by definition a player the Seahawks did not consider essential. That’s not surprising based on what happened last season. Browner struggled in coverage at times during the first half to the point that he was briefly benched. He later injured his hamstring and was replaced for the remainder of the season by Byron Maxwell, who played well enough to remain a starter even if Browner were still under contract. The Seahawks didn’t feel a need to re-sign Browner when he became a free agent over the offseason in large part because of Maxwell’s emergence. Browner will also be suspended for the first four games of next season. If the contention that New England’s secondary will be better than Seattle’s is based in part on the comparison of individual players, it’s impossible to state definitively that Browner – a Seahawks castoff – is better than Maxwell. The Seahawks certainly didn’t think so.
Joyner’s give: One reason to expect some regression from Seattle’s secondary is the Plexiglas Theory, which Joyner explained to “Brock and Danny” this way: “If you’ve got a team that goes 14-2, odds are they’re not gonna go 14-2 the next year. Everything tends to pull towards the center, so if you have a team that plays as well as the Seahawks did last year, the odds say they’ll go back towards the center.”
Henderson’s take: Success on a team scale is difficult to sustain in the NFL, especially for Super Bowl champions whose rosters often become untenably expensive and therefore harder to keep intact. The Seahawks avoided that this offseason both with their roster in general and their secondary in particular as they signed cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas to extensions. Envisioning a significant dropoff in Seattle’s secondary would be easier if last year’s performance came out of nowhere. That unit has been very good for the last three seasons. Injuries, of course, can be a great equalizer, but Seattle’s secondary depth has been proven time and time over the last three seasons.
Joyner’s give: “I would take Seattle’s secondary if I know I’m going to go into a game with a smashmouth offense and I’m going to have to smashmouth against them. I don’t know that I want to take New England’s secondary against that offense,” Joyner said. “But if I’m going up against a real good West Coast offense, if I’m going up against Denver’s offense, if I’m going up against an Air Coryell-caliber offense, any offenses that use those sorts of playbooks, if I have that kind of offense, I want New England’s secondary because I think they’re going to do a better job of picking off passes, stopping deep passes. I think they’re going to do the things that make those offenses slow down.”
Henderson’s take: Suggesting that Seattle’s secondary is inferiorly equipped to stop a passing offense seems to ignore what happened in the most recent Super Bowl. Denver – a team that Joyner mentioned – had the highest-scoring offense in league history and was held to eight points by the Seahawks. Another prolific passing team, New Orleans, scored 22 points combined in two losses to Seattle last season.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.