Friday, August 21, 2009

Pats' defensive alignment varies by the play

For all the discussion about the Patriots' new 4-3 defense and old 3-4 defense and which is going to win over which, consider this: Derrick Burgess can turn a 3-4 defense into a 4-3 defense simply by putting his hand on the ground.

The Patriots played mostly a 4-3 defensive front in their first preseason game but turned a couple of pages in the defensive playbook against the Bengals on Thursday. A four-man front turned into a three-man front and back again, often from play to play. Vince Wilfork might have been the only first-team defensive player to line up at the same position every time he took the field -- Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green and Ty Warren all alternated between defensive tackle and defensive end, and not all of the three played exclusively in a three-point stance.

Burgess and rookie defensive tackle Myron Pryor alterated in and out almost every play of the Bengals' final drive of the first quarter, and they don't exactly tend to attack the same gap.

On a first-and-20 snap during the Bengals' first drive, Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain lined up wide as defensive ends and linebacker Adalius Thomas actually lined up behind the defensive tackle in something of an inside linebacker position.

The Patriots began one drive with a Green-Wilfork-Pryor-Warren front four and evolved into a Burgess-Warren-Wilfork-Banta-Cain front four within a couple of plays.

"We threw a lot of different looks at them," Seymour said. "We started off in the 3-4 defense and then moved to the 4-3 defense. ... We have the ability and the versatility up front to change not only game to game, but also series to series and I think that’s going to be an asset for us."

It's going to be fascinating to watch how that develops in the team's final two preseason games. Wilfork will play almost exclusively nose tackle, and Jerod Mayo will play almost exclusively middle linebacker. Beyond that, though, there's no way to predict who will line up where on any given play.

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