FOXOBORO, Mass. — Former New England Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest is a three-time Super Bowl champion, so he knows as well as anyone what it takes for a defense to be successful in the NFL.
McGinest was a part of some great defenses during his time in New England, which included the likes of Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour. And while the Patriots defense employs a different system than it did in the early 2000s, McGinest appears to like the look of New England’s defensive unit heading into the 2017 season.
“I think if you watch the Patriots defense and what Matt Patricia, the defensive coordinator, has done the past few years, he’s been able to generate the pass rush through linebacker blitzes as well,” McGinest said on an NFL Network conference call. “There are a lot of exotic blitzes they do with the safeties, the corners, the linebackers. Yeah, the pass rush is different, but so is the scheme and the defense they’re running. Mike Vrabel and myself, we played outside linebacker and formations from the offense usually dictated who rushed and who dropped into coverage, and on third down we both had our hand in the dirt playing defensive ends coming off the edge.
“Now they play mainly a 4-3 front. That’s kind of like their base. That’s what they’ve been in the majority of the time. But I think they make adjustments from week to week depending on who they’re playing against.”
The Patriots defense will have some new faces this season, as well as homegrown players who likely will have larger roles than previous seasons. McGinest, who made a career out of getting after the quarterback, believes the Patriots have the personnel to be a strong pass-rushing team.
“I look at guys like Kony Ealy, who they brought over from Carolina, and once he learns the system and become more comfortable, he’s going to help in the pass rush,” he said. “Tre Flowers, a guy who emerged last year in a big way, is out there, getting a lot of time. Not sure if he’s starting. But he’s a guy who presents a problem for the pass rushers. And they’re still going to bring different blitzes, just depending on what they see from week to week.
“But I think they’ve got that figured out. I think they’ve gotten better at the interior rush spot. And I think they’ve got guys on the edge that can get after the quarterback.”
Patriots fans surely are hoping McGinest’s projections are correct, as a vaunted defense coupled with the team’s high-powered offense would make New England even more of a nightmare for opponents.
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