Plastering: The coverage concept that can help Patriots stop Russell Wilson

Plastering: The coverage concept that can help Patriots stop Russell Wilson

Anytime the Patriots face a mobile quarterback who can restart plays and make improvised throws, there’s a coverage concept that comes into play. It’s called “plastering.” And you can expect the Pats to have to plaster tonight.


I’d never heard of the term before 2014, when Darrelle Revis spoke to our Phil Perry about it. Done well, it can result in picks, sacks and broken plays. Done poorly and David Tyree can make a helmet catch on you and send your team to a stunning Super Bowl loss.

The idea is this: once the quarterback begins to break the pocket and scramble, coverage players yell “plaster” and, regardless of whether they’re in man or zone, find the nearest receiver and shadow his every move.

Wilson is, generally, a quarterback who moves with the intent to keep the play alive for a completion until that chance is exhausted. Other mobile quarterbacks won’t spend as much time surveying once they take the ball down and light out for the territories. Tyrod Taylor, for instance, or Colin Kaepernick.

The obvious challenge when a quarterback begins to move is that receivers break off their routes and begin to freelance.

That’s a little bit of what happened in Super Bowl 42 when Eli Manning broke the pocket, ran for his life and threw a balloon down the middle of the field in the direction of Tyree. Nobody checked Tyree. He was unplastered. Which left Rodney Harrison in a position to come from a different zip code to try and make a late play on the ball. And he wasn’t able to succeed.

Here’s a story from 2011 detailing how the Jets under Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine would carry out the concept. This was prior to a game against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.

Once Roethlisberger starts to scramble, the Jets will scream out "plaster!" At that point, Jets defenders will take the nearest Steeler and try to stick to that receiver as long as they can no matter if they are in zone or in man coverage.

And if there are two Steelers in the vicinity, the defensive back will take whoever goes long to prevent a big play.

"The plays can last 10 to 15 seconds," Revis said of Roethlisberger's ability to improvise. "Plastering is basically just latching on to your guy. A receiver might run a curl route or a slant, but his next read, if he sees Ben scrambling, then he'll break it off and run vertical or maybe turn around and run to the sideline to get a catch."

The Jets have been practicing plastering all week long. The scout team quarterback was told to scramble often and the receivers have scramble rules, such as going deep while another receiver comes back to the quarterback.

"It's organized street ball, where if the original play is not there, now it kind of turns into a second play," Pettine said. "It's a playground-type mentality. He'll scramble. And three steps into the scramble, he's throwing it." 

Seahawks receivers Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockette are the beneficiaries of Wilson’s mobility and understand to keep their feet moving and work in concert with each other and Wilson.

Baldwin has described Wilson’s mobility in these terms: “He doesn't turn the ball over. He makes smart decisions with his legs. And also when he's doing that, he's still looking down the field to make plays in the passing game. That's huge for us as receivers. We know that on any given play anything can happen. We could have a play and guys could be covered up and Russell can scramble out of the pocket and make something happen for us. To have that on your team, it’s extremely rare. The capability he has in terms of not turning the ball over when he does scramble also is rare.” 

Generally, the coverage concept of plastering means to just cover up tightly on receivers. Last week, Seahawks corner Richard Sherman went next level with it by not just plastering Walter Powell of the Bills in terms of coverage but plastering him with a devastating hit in the end zone that decleated Powell. 

This is a good example of the nuance involved and judgment necessary from officials and defensive backs. When the quarterback breaks the pocket and is not in a passing stance, his guys downfield are allowed to be contacted. 

As a Patriots defensive back explained to me, the reason Sherman got such a clean hit on Powell was that Taylor took off before Powell even completed his route so Powell wasn’t expecting contact and Sherman ID’d Taylor as being out of his passing posture.

Additionally, Sherman has plausible deniability that he was defending his space and Powell could have begun blocking him. According to this voluminous breakdown of the rule by a site dedicated to covering the Bills, the argument could have gone the other way, though. 

There’s a lot of rules interpretations, exceptions and articles here but you get the point. It isn’t cut-and-dried.

Bottom line, the Seahawks come to town with a less than impressive running game and a leaky offensive line. The Patriots will mush-rush Wilson and try to keep him from breaking the pocket and running for free yards. That means that extended plays are going to be the order of the evening. And plastering will be done.  

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year. 


Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

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Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry go over the moves the Patriots have made this offseason and rank their favorite moves and what to expect from those players.

(1:00) Ranking the Patriots acquisitions so far.

(5:30) Will Danny Shelton or Jason McCourty have a bigger impact n the Patriots defense?

(13:00) What can Patriots fans realistically expect from Cordarrelle Patterson?

(16:00) Are the Patriots a better team now than they were at the end of the Super Bowl?

(17:00) What is the next position in need for the Patriots?

(23:00) How concerning is the tension level between Belichick/Brady/Gronkowski, when should Patriots fans start to panic?