Hannable: Who is not doing their job on Patriots defense through first 4 games?

Ryan Hannable
October 02, 2017 - 11:16 pm

Maddie Meyer/USA Today Sports

FOXBORO — “Do Your Job.” 

That is what the Patriots and Bill Belichick have preached for years when it comes to the overall success of the team. If each player does their job on every play, the team will be in a good position to win each and every week.

Well, through the first four weeks of the season, it's clear members of the Patriots defense have not done their job. The unit has allowed an average of 32 points and 457 yards per game, both the worst in the entire league. The points allowed are the most in Patriots franchise history to start a season after four games and the yards are the second-most.

“It’s bad,” Devin McCourty said. “We’re letting our team down and not playing good football. If we can’t play somewhat decent defense; it’s going to be hard to win games. Our offense played great last week and bailed us out and they played great again this week, and we [the defense] let them down.”

This isn’t to suggest the defense will be this bad the entire season because the talent is there, it just needs to correct the mistakes, which for the most part are communication-related.

Here are five Patriots defenders who are not doing their job.

1. Stephon Gilmore - The newcomer appears to be the biggest culprit in the secondary when it comes to the communication issues. He’s been involved in roughly three-quarters of the big plays and when a player is in the area of as many big plays as he has been, it’s hard to give him the benefit of the doubt. The former Bills cornerback appears to have the most issues when opposing players go in motion and then against stacked formations. He appeared to be benched to start the second half on Sunday, but Eric Rowe injured his groin on the first play and didn’t return, so Gilmore missed just one snap.

2. Alan Branch - Branch has the potential to be one of the better defensive linemen in the league when he gives his best effort, but we’ve yet to see it so far this season. In fact, he isn’t doing enough to even get on the field. The 32-year-old has played a total of 39 snaps since Week 1 following a poor performance against the Chiefs. Branch has always been a player to do his own thing in the offseason and perhaps it is catching up to him now that he is getting older. He isn’t playing even close to the level he has been at the past couple of seasons.

3. Patrick Chung - Chung was once one of the better safeties in coverage across the league, but it appears the Patriots are beginning to phase him out. McCourty has played much more snaps inside the box, which was Chung’s role in the past. Against the Panthers on Sunday, Chung played just 34 (54 percent) snaps. In recent years he’s been in the 70-80 percent range. Perhaps being 30 years old is catching up to him.

4. Kyle Van Noy - The linebacker has played all the snaps so far this season, but he’s had his fair share of misplays. On a few occasions he has been slow to get to running backs out of the backfield and let up some big gains. Van Noy is also the signal-caller of the defense so whether fair or not, he’s the quarterback of the defense and deserves some criticism for the communication issues.

5. Elandon Roberts — Roberts is the best linebacker the Patriots have when it comes to stopping the run with Dont’a Hightower shifting to defensive end, and the Patriots’ run defense hasn’t been the best so far this season. New England is allowing an average of 132.8 yards per game on the ground and while Roberts isn’t the sole reason, he’s certainly played a factor. Also, on a few plays he’s missed some assignments leading to open backs out of the backfield.