FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's hard to argue that the most maligned unit for the New England Patriots in the first half of this season was the secondary.
The Patriots' pass defense, which is a combination of both the pass rush and secondary play, ranks 28th in the NFL in yards allowed, and has given up 10 completions of 25 yards of more over the last four games.
Cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer spoke to reporters on Thursday, giving a glimpse into the coaching points being stressed to his positional group. Here's a recap:
Stay the course. "The thing we talk about is to stay the course. Try to improve. I know it sounds redundant, but that's how we approach it," Boyer said. "That's how I approach it. We need to get better. Things that we've done well, let's keep doing well, and just stay the course. Try to get better today. In the end, all that really matters is that we're improving each week, and we're playing our best ball down the stretch, and that's the direction that we're looking to go."
Play with patience, not panic. "One of things that we talk about is that you have to play with patience. You can't play with panic. The most important play is the next play," Boyer said. "Whether the play that happens, good, bad or indifferent, you need to move on and play the next play, which is again the key process of our whole learning process here, is just trying to get better with each play, each day. That's why today is so great, and the bye week, it gives us an opportunity to improve on techniques today, and try to get better today, and then moving forward next week."
Be in the best position; finish the play. "Our focus from the defensive perspective, no matter what the offense does, is: 'Are we in the best position? Did we play it correctly?' I think that's where it starts," Boyer said. "I think there's some plays out there where the quarterback makes a good throw, and the receiver makes a good catch, and stuff like that. But even then, there's always a way to finish the play. That's what we're always talking to our guys with. We have to finish the play. For us, I think it all starts with us, and defensively how we approach it. I don't think we ever say 'Well OK, it's OK to give up this pass, or it's OK to give up this pass.' Whether it's a good play, bad play, or if the receiver makes a good play, it's all indifferent to us."
Boyer was asked if there were overarching technique changes that could be made during the bye week to improve the unit's performance.
"There are some technique things that we can improve on. A lot of times it's different with different guys. Maybe one guy is struggling with something, maybe another guy is struggling with something else," he said. "Maybe there are some things that we can do structurally to help that, which those are all things that we take into consideration every week going into the game. Those guys are working on individual things that they can do to get better."
Boyer, 35, is among a group of Patriots coaches who are in the coaches' booth during games. He was asked on Thursday if not being on the sideline was a drawback, preventing him from having face-to-face interaction with his players during the game.
"I think for each coach, it's probably a personal preference. I think one of things here is I think every coach does what's asked of him," Boyer said. "There's obviously advantages to being up in the box: you can see the whole game, you can see the pass routes, you can see everything develop.
"Our coaches here, we all have a pretty good working relationship. There's constant communication going on between being upstairs and downstairs, and that information is all relayed to the players, so really whether you're up or down, it's inconsequential," he said.