Patriots Week 17 film review: Myles Bryant playing more safety than CB

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Brent Schwartz
·3 min read
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The New England Patriots (7-9) were able to finish out the season on a high note, disposing of the New York Jets (2-14) 28-14 thanks to a respectable defensive performance and a second-half touchdown trio from quarterback Cam Newton.

The snow-flurried game also featured a ton of key inactive players, particularly on defense. Linebackers Anfernee Jennings, Terez Hall, and Tashawn Bower joined the likes of injured-reserve members Stephon Gilmore and Josh Uche as noticeable defensive absences on Sunday.

This allowed Bill Belichick to play some fresh faces in sort of an exhibition-level match versus their AFC East rival.

Here is our defensive film review for the Patriots’ final game of the 2020 season. Check back soon for our season recap film review, equipped with projections and notes on New England’s defense going forward.

Most common formation: 3-4

NT -- Adam Butler DT/DE-- Lawrence Guy DT/DE-- Byron Cowart EDGE (stand-up) -- John Simon EDGE (stand-up) -- Chase Winovich LB -- Ja’Whaun Bentley LB -- Kyle Dugger CB -- J.C. Jackson CB -- Jason McCourty/Joejuan Williams SS -- Devin McCourty FS -- Jonathan Jones/Myles Bryant

Interesting wrinkle

The Patriots played most of the game in a traditional 3-4 alignment, with Kyle Dugger playing most of the game as pure, off-ball linebacker next to Ja’Whaun Bentley. With Terez Hall and Anfernee Jennigns out, the Patriots were without a full group of linebackers to start the game. Adrian Phillips was initially slated to play the role that Dugger occupied, with Dugger playing strong safety, but Phillips was lost for the game after just four snaps. So in a game of position jenga, Dugger moved to LB, Devin McCourty moved from free safety to strong safety, and Jonathan Jones and rookie Myles Bryant split time as a deep, free safety type.

Additional analysis

— Up front, Chase Winovich was thrusted back into a three-down role, playing 90 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps as a stand-up EDGE defender. He was a mad man in pass-rush duties, notching two sacks and a few more QB pressures on Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. — Deatrich Wise Jr. and Adam Butler also created some pressure on Darnold along the interior. Butler (78 percent of defensive snaps) was the played the third-most snaps among New England front seven members after Winovich and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley (86 percent).

— Myles Bryant played just about all of his snaps as a deep, free safety, which was a trend this season. On Sunday, Bryant played 44 defensive snaps (70 percent), but logged just two man coverage snaps. It appears the Patriots see the undrafted cornerback out of the University of Washington as more of a safety. To narrow down his potential role even more, Bryant could be viewed as a potential Duron Harmon replacement going forward. Although Devin McCourty has long been the team’s starting free safety, he actually played quite a deal of strong safety over the years in clear passing downs. McCourty abandoned his center field post to man-cover tight ends on many of these occasions, leaving Harmon as the deep zone safety. The same thing happened quite often on Sunday with Bryant filling in for Harmon. — Although he allowed a 53-yard reception to Breshad Perriman, the Jets’ top outside receiver, in the second half, J.C. Jackson rebounded nicely as the Patriots’ top cornerback on Sunday, notching his ninth interception on the season, the most by a Patriots defender since cornerback Asante Samuel tallied 10 in 2006. — We charted the Patriots in man coverage for 51 percent of Jets passing plays on Sunday. New England stuck with it’s single-high schemes for the most part, with Cover 3 and Cover 1 being their most-used coverages. — The most common man coverage assignments were Jonathan Jones on Jamison Crowder in the slot (8), Devin McCourty on Jets tight end Chris Hernodn (8), J.C. Jackson on Breshad Perriman on the perimeter (7), Kyle Dugger on Jets running backs (6) and Jason McCourty on Jets rookie receiver Denzel Mims (5).