It has been only three games, but the changes made on defense haven't seemed to help the Patriots' Achilles' heel last season — their pass defense.
The "D" did just enough to get New England to 14-2 in 2010 by creating a league-high 38 takeaways, and that was with starting CB Leigh Bodden out for the season. Bodden is back, and the team used its second-round pick on CB Ras-I Dowling and returned last year's standout rookie corner, Devin McCourty. Kyle Arrington is making an impact as the fourth corner with three picks, as all the corners are getting plenty of snaps. According to ESPN Boston, the Pats have used five or more defensive backs on 77.9 percent of their plays through three games.
Yet the starting corners have been struggling. Bodden and McCourty each got beat deep on plays in the loss to the Bills, and McCourty especially has been giving up a lot of yards. He had to face Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson and Stevie Johnson in consecutive weeks, but that's not what is such a concern.
"What is alarming is that he's being targeted so much," said one daily team observer. According to Pro Football Focus, McCourty saw 19.4 percent of all targets thrown at Patriots defenders through three games last season. Through the first three games in 2011, McCourty has seen 28.8 percent of opponent targets.
Granted, McCourty tends to cover the opposing team's top receiver, but he had seven picks last season and doesn't seem to be striking fear into opposing QBs. The way we hear it, though, McCourty is known as a very hard worker who studies a lot, and he should be able to fix his early miscues.
On the back end, the Patriots parted ways with two veteran safeties, Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders, and went with a pair of youngsters to start alongside SS Patrick Chung — Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown, both of whom made mistakes in the Week Three loss. We hear the Patriots still like the duo because of their athleticism and they knew that growing pains would occur, but what wasn't expected was an injury to Chung that kept him out of the Bills game.
It warrants mentioning that a lack of consistent pressure on the quarterback has not helped the cause, and if the poor pass rush continues, the corners and safeties will have to pick up their game to create turnovers like last season.
Follow Kevin Fishbain on Twitter