FOXBORO -- What Blake Bortles said about the Patriots defense following Tuesday's practice was either a) a sign that Bill Belichick is already getting somewhat exotic with his scheme, or b) a sign that Bortles is having a tough time reading vanilla coverages.
What typically happens around the league in the preseason, especially early on, is that teams keep things relatively vanilla when it comes to their design. The goal is to have the basics down before starting to meddle. You also don't want to show anyone too much too early.
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But what Bortles described Tuesday sounded like a Patriots defense -- and in particular a Patriots secondary -- that has already blown past vanilla and has moved on to chocolate peanut butter pretzel with a caramel swirl.
"They do a lot of different things in coverage with their safeties, whether they’re sprinting their guys down or staying too high and doing different stuff," Bortles said. "It’s been good going against different looks. It’s definitely different than what we see in Jacksonville."
It's very possible that the Patriots are already mixing things up, even in joint practices, because they have the personnel to do it. Not only are they deep with starting-caliber players at both safety (with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon) and corner (with Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones), but only one of those players (Gilmore) is brand new to the system.
Combine their skill level with an in-depth understanding of Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense, and they can afford get creative this early in camp. On Tuesday, when the Patriots defense took the field for the first 11-on-11 period, McCourty, Harmon and Chung were all out there.
"I think they do a lot of different stuff with their safeties," Bortles said. "They do a good job disguising coverages. I think schematically they mess with you a little bit and take away different things. They make you think they are taking something away so you go the other way. You have to be sharp in what you are doing pre-snap."
Maybe that's just a 25-year-old quarterback who's unsure of what he's looking at. But it could also be that the Patriots are pretty far along in terms of their ability to execute multiple defensive looks. They'll have four preseason games, two more joint practices against the Texans, and about a month on the calendar to get even more creative before the Chiefs visit Gillette Stadium for the season-opener.