Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Week 6 Report

Patriots vs. Bills

As Belichick described it after yesterday's win, it was a bittersweet victory. The Patriots played very well on both sides of the ball at times during the game, but in the process they lost the QB on defense Jerod Mayo and workhorse RB Stevan Ridley for the season due to leg injuries. Outside of these two huge blows to the team, the Patriots really put together a nice game. The pass offense exploded for 360 yards and 37 points and the defense made timely stops and forced turnovers. Finally, we are seeing the Patriots that everyone expected out of the gates to open the season.

Out of the gate, we saw some struggles for the offense. The Pats tried to establish the run a little but the Bills weren't allowing any holes to open as Ridley was having a tough day. The offensive line was not opening up the holes and struggled to be consistent. We saw the revolving door back this week for them. Dan Connolly getting hurt really didn't help the situation either as Jordan Devey, who really shouldn't be out there, was forced to play. The Bills have one of the better front 7's in the NFL so the offensive line struggles were kind of expected. In the second half, we saw Ridley take a big blow to the knee and go down and from there the run game was pretty much given up on. Brandon Bolden came in to try and take the load, but he really didn't excel either. Filling the void of Ridley will be tough in my opinion, because he was running hard and really gave the offense some balance this season. I don't know if Bolden will be able to fill that role. Vereen certainly shouldn't be the lead back. He definitely will see more touches, but I don't want him running 10+ times between the tackles. The Patriots need to find a lead RB and they need to get the offensive line healthy again to get back on track. Maybe Jonas Gray gets promoted and we see a RB by committee approach with Bolden, Vereen, Gray and White all seeing looks? It will be very interesting to see what Bill does with that situation.

The pass offense really led the way Sunday. Most of the damage was done in the second half for Brady and Co. We saw Tyms for the first time and immediately he looked to be the missing deep threat. Tyms and Brady connected on a beautiful 43 yard bomb for a TD taking the top off the defense, something this offense has been missing for years. If Tyms can consistently bring that to the table for the offense, just one or two shots downfield a game, this offense now has a whole new look. Rob Gronkowski continues to get closer to bring 100%, making him a legit threat out there. LaFell also is carving out a nice niche here in New England having another good game with 2 TD catches. Tim Wright only had his TD catch, but still was on field some more Sunday. This grouping of LaFell, Edelman, Gronk and Wright looks to the favorite for the Patriots. If LaFell, Gronk and Wright can continue to grow in this offense alongside Edelman the pass offense will be a machine as it used to be, but obviously much of this falls on the O-Line to protect Brady and give him time to make the plays. Brady looks just fine when given a clean pocket. The offense is certainly trending up after another solid week.

Defensively we saw Revis Island yet again at it, and this time Sammy Watkins was its victim. Sammy wasn't even looked at by Orton until the second half. I think it's safe to say that Revis is exactly what we expected him to be, a shutdown corner.  It's disappointing that Browner wasn't able to play Sunday and hopefully he gets out there Thursday so we know how he fits with this defense. It's interesting how Logan Ryan is almost non-existent for the defense now that Dennard is healthy again. Kyle Arrington continues to have a very modest season as well in coverage. The secondary really has turned into the group we expected them to be. Patrick Chung has been very good considering the expectations I placed on him. He hasn't made any egregious errors and has been solid in run support. The secondary has been great so far and I expect them to only get better with Browner soon returning.

Now time to look at the front 7. This group was looking just fine days ago, but the injury to Jerod Mayo pretty much leaves everything up here in question. The Pats LB depth was sketchy to begin with and Mayo’s injury leaves a dark cloud over the group. Who takes Mayo’s role? Last season we saw Hightower has some problems taking over Mayo’s spot as he was not in a position to succeed. Collins may be to raw to take over Mayo’s role and I also think he is suited to be on the outside making plays rather than in the middle. Skinner played decent Sunday vs. the Bills so he will definitely be sticking around now. I believe the Pats should maybe bring in Anderson again and just see what he has. Right now, the LB situation is shady at best and the Pats could use a LB badly. Nobody will be able to replace Mayo, since he was the defensive leader and communicator on defense. It sucks to see him go down for a second straight season. It’s really time to see what Collins and Hightower can do for the Pats. A big question mark hangs there. As for the D-Line: wow! Chandler Jones continues to make plays and be a game changer and Ninkovich really stepped up Sunday as well. The defensive line should only get better with Easley hopefully returning soon. Chandler is turning into the stud we all hoped he would be, as he made a huge play late in the first half to turn momentum. The front seven really took a hit losing Mayo Sunday, but the playmakers that are up front can make up for it, they just need to step up their play big time.

Overall, it was a big win for the Pats as they went into a tough road game vs. a divisional opponent and handled business. This team is completely different than the one we saw two weeks that took a thrashing at the hands of the Chiefs.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Week 5 Report

Patriots vs. Bengals

WOW!!! For the Patriots, this game was pretty much a must win. Personally, I just wanted to see any form of improvement from them not necessarily a win. But, the amount of bull that the media was throwing around this week made this game a must win to silence the haters. Of course, as only the Patriots could do, they came out and put an absolute spanking to the then undefeated Bengals by 26 points. I thought the Patriots were going to bounce back and win, but not in this fashion. The Patriots thoroughly controlled the game right from the get go.

The first drive really set the tone for this team and this game. The Pats came out showing a bigger formation with Develin and TEs swapping in and out. They simplified the offense and finally got Hernandez 2.0 aka Tim Wright involved on a big pass play to set up Ridley's TD. From there, you could just feel it. The fire was burning inside them last night. Brady looked like a totally different player last night, like we wanted to be out there leading the team and running the offense. The offense made a concerted effort to stay under center and run the ball between the tackles into the tough Bengals D. This made throwing the ball much easier for them. The play action passes were working perfectly most of the night due to great balance and a commitment to the run.

The offensive line was an entirely different animal last night. They only allowed one sack, one QB hit and three tackles for loss. The run game shredded this Bengals D for 220 yards. There were open holes all night as Ridley ran for 4 yards a carry and Vereen sliced the D for 10 yards a carry. Brady had time to throw on many plays and was able to look like himself hitting his spots. Gronk looks really good. He may not be 100% healthy yet, but he's certainly close to it which adds so much this offense. It also looks like the Patriots have the 2 TE offense they love with the arrival of Wright last night. If this OL play can keep up, it will be very hard to slow down the Pats offense with these weapons coming together.

Then, we have the defense, or Revis Island I should say. What a job Darrelle Revis did on AJ Green last night. Yes the stat line will show you that AJ had 5 catches for 81 yards and TD but that's the quietest numbers you'll ever see. The entire first half Revis put Green on an island and held him to just one catch, on which he forced a fumble.  Absolutely shut down. The Patriots defense FINALLY let loose and went man across the board last night and it paid off big time. Dalton had nowhere to go with the ball on many plays and forced balls into tight spots.

The Patriots front 7 played a very sound game, as they held star RB Gio Bernard to just 65 yards. We saw a pretty big change on Sunday night along the front 7. Chandler Jones, who struggled vs. the run last week, was used situationally on obvious passing downs and rookie Dominique Easley took his spot at LDE on most 1st and 2nd downs. I like the idea of this because Easley is a penetrator and he can set the edge on run plays with his jump off the line. This also takes Jones off the field for over 90% of snaps that he used to see, which will keep him fresher deep into games to be still an effective pass rusher. Another surprise was the play of #98 Walker who, I bet, nobody even heard of until last night when he was packing in the middle. Jamie Collins played his best game of the season last night as he seemed to be flying around the field all night making tackles. Getting Hightower back, hopefully soon,  will only make this front 7 better and more diverse.

What a game it was for the Patriots in a must bounce back situation. They came out with some fire and intensity for once and imposed their will on the Bengals. The defense smothered them and the offense was firing on all cylinders. The Patriots finally looked like the team I expected to see from the beginning of the season. Hopefully they don't slow down at all and the injury plague doesn't come again. This team has the talent to be great and finally looks like it can reach its potential. As long as Revis Island is healthy you can expect this every week in my opinion.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Week 4 Report

Patriots v. Chiefs

Well, at this point, I don't even know where to start. I mean, really, there wasn't one positive thing that happened Monday night. The offense looked inept again and couldn't sustain a drive. The defense looked like it reverted back to its old ways of getting dominated in all facets.  Brady looked defeated after the first series. The defense was a wounded duck after the first series. The moment that game was 14-0 you knew this game may not have ended well, and well it didn't, at all. This was easily the most pathetic performance I've ever seen out of the Patriots.

Offensively, I guess there are two lone positives: we didn't get shutout and Jimmy G looked pretty good being thrust into the game. And after that, wow. That's all I really have to say. The amazing thing is, the offensive line really wasn't as atrocious as it's been this season. The offense just failed to move the ball and so many dumb plays were made. Brady throwing deep to Edelman on a 2nd and 6, Brady forcing one into double coverage to Gronk, and Brady, for god knows why, deciding to throw to Edelman on a 3rd and 3 when he had 5 easy yards and a first down. Plays like that just stick out as to why this offense couldn't muster up one good looking drive. Not to mention the couple sorry picks thrown as well by Brady. But, it also doesn't help that both Dobson and Thompkins were inactive for this game too. 

It's tough to really pinpoint why the offense wasn't productive last night, because every part the offense sucked. The offensive line, while better, still allowed a couple strip sacks. Two first round picks, Solder and Vollmer, were benched at various points in the game. The run blocking wasn't consistent. Brady looked like he was ready to leave the game after one quarter. He barely made any attempt to go through progressions. You can blame that on him or the OL for failing to block continually.

I hated the run game and overall play calling this game. Why were we running all of these draws out of the gun? Why didn't we drop into and I-formation and give it to Ridley 20 times to steady the offense? The Pats were persistent on spreading out the defense and forcing draws to the edge only to see the edge easily contained by KC. The passing calls were not even close to diverse. It felt like everything was either slants or in cuts. This could be a personnel issue since we had a solid two healthy WRs. I was amazed that we saw NOTHING from Tim Wright even though Dobson and Thompkins were inactive. What did Belichick expect trotting out LaFell, Edelman and Gronk as the only viable options?  Pathetic. Everything was just a joke on offense.

Defensively, BE AGGRESSIVE. In my opinion, the biggest issue with this defense is easily it's scheme. I keep hearing people say Revis is washed up, which makes no sense. Yes, he gave up 3-4 passes last night, but they were all in a zone defense when the Pats rushed 4 and gave Smith 7 seconds to throw. Like, how can you blame Revis for this? You can't. The defense is running a vanilla ass scheme. They are being reactive. You go out and sign Revis for 12 million dollars and run zone D's and barely blitz? Pathetic. Revis thrives when you say, "alright you got this guy, take him out this week". Boom. Problem solved. Then that allows you to blitz more than 4 and actually get pressure on the QB. Hopefully the entire defensive scheme changes next week with Browner back. Hopefully BB says alright Browner and Revis on the outside man up and I'll be aggressive.

The run defense and front 7 was sorry again last night. Chandler Jones and Ninkovich looked sorry as hell against the run. Charles and Davis beat them to the edge on almost every single run. Jones especially looked very weak vs. the run. Speaking of weak vs. the run, Vince Wilfork looks done. He missed a couple easy plays last night and looks a step behind everyone. Maybe if Kelly was still here this wouldn't be an issue? With Siliga on the IR the interior line is already in shambles. Jamie Collins, up to this point, isn't what we thought. He isn't flying around the field making plays like we expected. Hightower was practically invisible last night, too. Maybe this has to do with the reactive instead of aggressive defense? Personally, I think it is. Mayo looks old and sorry in coverage. On the quick out to Jamaal for a TD, the moment he made the cut, Mayo gave up. He knew he was toasted right there.

That's another issue I've seen with this team through the first quarter of the season, they have absolutely no fire or intensity. Brady looks like he's ready to retire by the second half of each game. The defense looks defeated all the time. It's really sad to watch. There are major changes that need to be made on each side of the ball, like major overhaul of everything. This team needs a fire lot under its ass and maybe this game is the thing to do it. I can see this team going two ways: we end up a mediocre team and struggle to make the playoffs and are a one and done team or we come back from this game with some fight and turn this season around into what it's supposed to be. The talent is there on defense, but the scheme isn't. The offensive has work to do, but Gronk will be healthy eventually and then maybe the offense can be a force. I really have blind faith right now that this game lights the fire in this team to go out and get a huge win next week at home versus Cincy.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 3 Report: Raiders

Week 3 Report: vs. Raiders

First off, what a very sloppy game played by the Patriots on Sunday. I expected them to come in and play much better offensively and that simply did not happen. I believed that this offense would move at will on the weak Raiders defense. I expected the defense to play well, and they did just that only surrendering 9 points and 240 yards to the Raiders. It was a very rough one to watch, but a win is a win, and the Patriots are currently even with the Broncos at 2-1, which is all that matters.

The offensive line, yet again, was very inconsistent. Brady had some clean pockets throughout the day, but for the most part, he was under duress a lot. The offensive line also couldn't run block consistently either. In the first half, Ridley ran for 45 yards and couldn't even muster up 20 yards in the second half. One play in particular that sticks out was when Ridley was taking a stretch run to the left and Solder was pushed so far back that he hit Ridley coming off the handoff. Another play, four of the five offensive linemen let their man by on the pass rush. Only Connolly at center held up his man, the rest just left Brady out to dry. These two things are never good sights to see from your OLine. This offensive line needs to figure itself out. Solder and Vollmer, two guys I thought we could count on, haven't been close to themselves. The interior line is still a mess. Devey should not be on the field and if BB thinks Stork isn't ready to start at center then he should at least try Kline at RG over Devey at this point. I'm still hoping that Stork can develop fast and become the starter soon. This way, the offensive line could finally see some continuity. The biggest glaring weakness on this team is without a doubt the offensive line. They have looked very good on some plays and really really bad on other plays. Right now, the bad is certainly outweighing the good for this unit. It all starts there. If they can finally become a cohesive and consistent group, the offense will become a lot more effective and productive. If not, we will continue to see this inconsistent offensive play where they struggle to move the ball and put up points.

Outside of the offensive line, I think Brady played a so so game. He certainly missed a couple passes that should have been made, but he was also taking consistent heat most of the day. He never looked completely comfortable back there, and rightfully so the way his protection has been. His pass to Gronk in endzone sticks out most to me. I think that play should have been an easy TD, but the pass was short. That was the glaring miss I saw from Tom. I hated the time management by the offense at the end of the first half as well. I think they killed too much time and ended up screwing themselves with the bad snap play. Overall outside of that, he hit many of his throws, but just didn't get enough help from his O-Line to make more things happen. 

It was good to see Ridley running hard. He was very decisive and hit the hole hard. If the offensive line set him up with more holes, he would have had a much bigger day. He ran hard and got nineteen carries without fumbling, which is always a plus with him. Vereen wasn't much of a factor on Sunday and really hasn't been much at all this season. I expected him to be used in a lot of different situations (spread out wide, slot, etc), but we haven't seen that yet either. Hopefully McDaniels can find a way to get Vereen in spots where he can expose defenses.

As for exposing defenses, the WRs do nothing close to that. Outside of Julian Edelman, who again had a ten catch game, the wide outs were almost nonexistent. Whether that is on them for not getting separation, or on Brady for not finding them, it doesn't matter. This offense needs other players to step up and be difference makers. Once this offense plays a good defense (like Cincy in 2 weeks), Edelman will be doubled and someone else must find a way to take over. I think Gronk is closer and closer by the day to becoming the matchup nightmare he normally is. By Week 6-7 I think he'll be back to form. One thing that is very concerning is how KT and Dobson have both been swapped on the inactive list. Are they both competing for a roster spot? If so, I don't see how BB moves on from a second round pick this early. Brandon LaFell looked pretty good on Sunday to me. He's coming along and I see him becoming a solid wide out in this offense. The biggest question mark is still Danny Amendola. His production has been pretty bad considering the money he is being paid. I think he's a candidate to get cut once Browner returns from suspension or even a chance we trade him. He just isn't the player we thought he was. He's very good with the ball in his hands, but the ball never finds him. Hopefully KT, Dobson and LaFell can continue to grow in this offense and show some production. If two of three can step up and become consistent contributors, the passing game should be fine. The main problem for the wide receivers may again fall on the offensive line not giving enough time to make plays. It doesn’t matter who is to blame, because everyone needs to step up their play at this point.

The defense deserves props for their performance yesterday. They held an NFL team to 9 points and just 240 yards of offense. All three units on defense played a very good game in my opinion. The defensive line lost Siliga early, but didn't let that ruin the day as Wilfork looked very solid in the middle. The D-Line was getting a good push on most plays and slowed McFadden down a lot. Jerod Mayo was all over the field again on Sunday as he had his second straight very good game. Dont'a Hightower also had another good game coming off arguably his best game as a Patriot last week. Hightower playing at the LOS a lot more has improved his effectiveness by a mile. He looks much more comfortable where he is this season. Chandler Jones had another good game being very disruptive off of the end. Revis allowed a couple passes to be completed, but overall I still feel he is playing very well. He isn't in total lockdown mode yet, but he hasn't been assigned a WR where he would need to step up and play. We will see just how good Revis is in two weeks when AJ Green and the Bengals come to town. The secondary looked solid. Logan Ryan didn't look as good as he did last week. He definitely regressed and I'm hoping Dennard can play next Monday to relieve Ryan. I don’t want to rush Ryan too much and then ruin his confidence for good. If we can take it slow with him, then that’s what we should do. We also need to remember that this defense isn't even 100% yet. Jamie Collins certainly wasn’t 100% on Sunday. Vince Wilfork looks to only be getting better, same with Jones and Hightower. Also, Brandon Browner's return is right around the corner and this defense will unleash its real weapons then. We will see what Belichick really has up his sleeve once he gets Browner for this defense. This defense is unproven so far as they haven’t seen any real offensive talent just yet, even though they have won games for the team. Players on this side of the ball will keep developing and improving as the season progresses. This defense has a chance to be scary good by mid-season if all goes as planned. I really like what I’ve seen out of this defense the first three weeks and hopefully they keep up this dominant play vs. Kansas City on Monday night.

So overall it was a rough game and really was too close for comfort against a team that isn’t very good. The Patriots should have gone out and won by two/three and handled business, but that did not happen. It’s time to regroup and find ways to get better in every area and slowly improve as the season progresses so this team is peaking at the perfect time.

Positives: Wilfork, Jones, Mayo, Hightower, Edelman

Negatives: The entire O-Line, Ryan, Amendola

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Week 1 Report

Week 1 Patriots vs. Dolphins

The Patriots opened the 2014 season with the tough task of heading down to Miami in the sweltering heat. The Patriots always get their best from division opponents and this would be no different. On top of that, the weirdest things always seem to happen down in Miami, which leads to losses for the Patriots. The Patriots were looking to start the season off strong with a win on the road, but sadly things did not come anything close to that plan.

The game for the Patriots started with a three-and-out, which then turned into a blocked punt setting up the Dolphins in their red zone for a quick touchdown score to Lamar Miller in the flat. So before most fans in the stadium even found their seats, the Patriots were down 7-0 off of a special teams miscue. The Pats responded with a very nice 13 play, 80 yard drive highlighted by a couple flashy plays by Julian Edelman. Throughout the drive, the Patriots were in total control of the Dolphins and doing whatever they pleased. The drive was capped off with Shane Vereen punching it
in from 2 yards out to tie the game at 7. Just a mere three plays later, Jamie Collins was able to come up big for the defense by making a huge hit a forcing a fumble that was recovered by Jerod Mayo. The defense set the offense up with great field position, but sadly the offense wasn’t able to muster up anything and had to settle for a field goal giving the Patriots a 10-7 lead. The Patriots were able to control the game throughout the 1st quarter and should have been walking away with a 10-0 lead instead of 10-7 if it wasn’t for a boneheaded special team’s mistake.

The 2nd quarter opened up with the Dolphins looking to answer the Patriots, but only four plays in, Ryan Tannehill threw an errand pass intended for Mike Wallace that fell right into Alfonso Dennard’s hands. The Patriots defense had now set the offense up at their own 6 looking to build on their 10-7 lead. The Patriots offense really got the drive going when Brady found Edelman for a 44 yard gain down the seam. The pass wasn’t a perfect one, but Edelman made a great play on the ball to complete the catch. The Patriots continued marching inside their 10 yard line, where Brady then found Rob Gronkowski cutting across the end zone for a 6 yard touchdown score. Now the Patriots were up 17-7 and looking to be in complete control of the game on both sides of the football. The Dolphins got the ball back yet again looking to answer the Patriots, but yet again, the defense came up with a big play forcing another turnover on a Miller fumble. Sadly, the offense wasn’t able to do anything with the ball this time and punted it back to Miami. The following drive, Miami got off to a hot start after a horrible roughing the passer penalty call on Hightower.  Miami then was able to finish off the drive with a field goal cutting the Patriots lead to a touchdown. The Patriots hopped into the two minute offense and were able to net a field goal before half giving them a ten point lead. The Patriots played a very solid half of football to open the season with the defense forcing three turnovers and the offense controlling the game as well. It certainly looked like the Patriots were on their way to another opening day win, but Miami had other plans.

The second half opened up well for the Dolphins as they were able to put together a nice drive led by some very strong running from Knowshon Moreno. The Dolphins were able to drive all the way inside the 10, but the Patriots defense stood tough and forced a field goal, holding the lead to just seven. The Patriots offense got the ball back looking to score, but only four plays into the drive, the offensive line allowed quick pressure and Brady fumbled the ball which the Phins recovered. From this point on, you already knew how this game may be turning out. Four plays later Tannehill forced a throw into zone coverage and Darrelle Revis tipped the pass, but Wallace was still able to haul it in for the touchdown. With the game now tied, the momentum had obviously switched at this point and you could sense the Pats were in trouble. Next possession: three and out. The offense line and
Brady’s accuracy were quickly going down the drain. Moreno kept carrying Miami on his back as he was slicing through the Patriots defensive line and linebackers. The Dolphins were able to take a field goal on the drive and take back the lead 23-20 with all the momentum. The Patriots offense needed some sort of spark to get the game under control, but a holding penalty and a horrible sack ended those hopes really fast. The Patriots were again punting the ball back to Miami.

The fourth quarter started out with four consecutive three and outs combined between the two teams. On a third and nine, the Patriots really could’ve used a first down to possibly spark a drive, but Brady missed a wide open Edelman and the Pats had to settle with another three and out. The Dolphins got the ball back again and continued to push their way around the Pats front seven. The Patriots were close to holding the Phins to another field goal on a third and four, where Wilfork had Moreno dead to rights, but somehow, Moreno got away from the tackle and found pay dirt. The Dolphins now took a 30-20 lead with only six minutes remaining. That third down play that Vince missed was a huge killer as the Pats could’ve held the lead to only six. The Patriots needed a score, and fast. But, of course on third and ten, the Pats OLine let Cameron Wake almost go untouched rushing Brady. He forced a fumble which the Dolphins recovered and that all but ended the game. Miami ended up with another field goal making the score 33-20. The Pats offense got one more chance to improve the score but couldn’t even come close to scoring. The Patriots had completely fallen apart in the second half being outscored 23-0 in the second half.

Conclusion: The Patriots have many things that need to be improved on going forward. While both of the lines looked god-awful in the second half there are still easy improvements that can be made fundamentally. The Patriots need to find the right combination on the offensive line and stick with it to build continuity. Solder and Vollmer both played an awful game in particular as did the entire offensive line for that matter. Personally, I would like to see the offensive line look like this: Solder, Connolly, Stork (eventually), Cannon and Vollmer. I think that’s what they need to go with and stick with it. Defensively, I didn’t like the use of the 3-4. Dominque Easley is a penetrator, but was forced to play a two gapping role on Sunday, which killed his effectiveness. Vellano was pushed around all day and looks like he doesn’t belong out there. I hated the cutting of Kelly, but now I really hate it. Chandler Jones was invisible outside of his two roughing the passer penalties. Both Collins and Mayo did a terrible job in penetrating through the holes and making the tackles. The secondary looked good as they held Tannehill to under 200 yards and didn’t give up any egregious plays. Revis in particular wasn’t as good as I thought he would be, but he was still solid.

Offensively, the run game was sorry due to offensive line blocking and the pass game really couldn’t get going as the offensive line didn’t want to block and Brady missed some passes. The coaching in this game was suspect to say the least in my opinion. I didn’t like how the offense moved toward the pass so much. I also don’t like how Vereen is getting the most snaps at running back. It pretty much tells the defense that the play will be a pass. I think Ridley needs more opportunities, which can settle down the offensive line too. I also didn’t like the defensive calls. The 3-4 scheme is not a good fit for this defense. I hope we switch back to a 4-3 so the run can finally be stopped. I also hate the lack of pressure being applied to opposing offenses. I think this defense, with Revis, should man up every play and blitz at least 5-6 on most plays. That, in my opinion, would be the best way to utilize Revis in this defense. This defense needs to play aggressive and take chances instead of dropping into a zone and waiting for the quarterback to make a mistake. I think the Patriots still have all the talent in the world to win the #1 seed in this conference and be a Super Bowl contender, but they need to figure out their offensive and defensive lines quick to start winning again. I expect them to get back on track Sunday in Minnesota and pick up the first win of the season in a blowout.

Positives: Brady (1st half), Revis, Dennard, Gronk, Edelman                    

Negatives: The offensive line, Brady (2nd half), Jones, Vellano, Easley, Collins, Mayo

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 Patriots Season


What to Make of the 2014 Season

          The 2014 off season could go down as one of the more
memorable ones in Patriots’ history. Bill Belichick stepped outside of his shell a little bit by going out and signing the game’s best corner (arguably) in Darrelle Revis, a very good corner in Brandon Browner and a solid wide out in Brandon LaFell. These additions to the team on top of the talent coming back from injury last season could equal that elusive fourth ring for the Pats. All of these additions and the previous talent on the team now has for higher expectations this season than ever before. The Patriots are closing in on a decade long drought for a title and now they are primed to make it happen.

            Bill Belichick, being himself, made a couple of ballsy moves this preseason which surprised many to say the least. First he cut three veterans which many had pegged to make the team in Kelly, Smith and Anderson, and then, Bill went out and dealt Logan Mankins for a fourth rounder and TE Tim Wright. The cutting of Anderson and Smith was a smaller surprise, but the cutting of Kelly came as a real eye opener, as the Pats interior DL is very young (Siliga, Jones, Vellano, Easley) and very old (Wilfork). Trading Logan Mankins was a move made purely for money reasons. Mankins was asked to take a pay cut and denied that so, he then, in turn, was dealt off to help fill a weak TE spot and gain a draft pick.

            So even with these surprises, the 53-man roster is set and this team looks like the same old Patriots who will win the AFC East and win about 11-14 games on the year as they always do. The overall talent on this roster is the best we have seen since the 2007 season, which we all remember vividly. The Patriots are primed to have a Top 5 defense with the secondary’s additions and a Top 5 offense if Gronk can stay healthy. There is a chance that this is the Patriots most dominant team ever (remember I said chance). While some spots on the roster looks to be deep and very talented other spots are weaker and could be prone to some issues. Here’s a quick look at each position with thoughts on their expectations for the season:

·         Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo

o   When Tom Brady is around and healthy there’s nothing less you can expect than an elite QB leading the Patriots. He may be 37, but even with last season’s struggles he made some very nice things happen. He hasn’t showed signs of slowing too much just yet either. Hopefully we don’t have to see Jimmy G this year, but man this kid went and beat out Ryan Mallet for the backup spot in just 3-4 months; impressive.

·         Running Back (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, James White, Brandon Bolden, James Develin

o   Some fans will probably be spilt on this depending upon how you feel about Ridley’s fumbling issue and Vereen’s health issues. Personally, I think Ridley is a great RB and if he is given the carries his production could be near the top of the league. I also think he can get over the fumbling issues and it may also be a little overblown of an issue, too. RBs fumble, it happens. Ridley is a very productive back given the shot and that’s who I want carrying the load for us on Sundays. Vereen has struggled throughout his entire career to stay healthy consistently, but when he is healthy he is one of the most dynamic backs in the league. If you are an optimist on both of these players and both turn out in a positive light, then the RB situation will be looking very pretty for the Patriots. If not, they could be in some trouble at this position with White not looking too good in preseason games and Bolden being just an average player at best.

·         Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, Tim Wright

o   This position could be back to the dominance of 2012 if Gronk can play 16 games (huge IF) and Tim Wright can fill the Hernandez role that everyone keeps talking about. If Wright can be that mismatch in the middle of the field and Gronk can play a healthy 16 games, this positional group could be a reason for offensive dominance.

·          Wide receiver (5):  Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins

o   The addition of LaFell adds some veteran and taller presence to the WR corps. Julian Edelman will continue to be Brady’s go to WR target in this offense. If Amendola can stay healthy, he can make himself one of the go to guys as well, but again, this is a big if. The talent for Danny is there but the health isn’t. Outside of that, Dobson has a very high ceiling as a young WR, but the foot injury may have slowed him down a little bit. If Dobson can reach his potential though, he could put up some big games with Brady and maybe be that deep threat on the outside that the team has been missing since Moss. Kenbrell Thompkins could be a solid producer in this offense, but I don’t see his ceiling has being too high so I don’t expect much more than he did last season. Overall, if Amendola can stay healthy, this group is pretty diverse and talented compared to last season. Instead of causing Brady headaches, this group this season could make his life much easier.

·         Offensive line (10): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, Ryan Wendell, Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey Cameron Fleming (R), Bryan Stork (R), Chris Barker

o   The Logan Mankins trade has left the Patriots with very big questions at guard. The tackle positions should be fine with Solder, Vollmer and Cannon all very good to start there. The guard spot is open to a lot of questions since Mankins is now gone. For some reason, Cannon hasn’t turned into the guard he was supposed to be and there are rumors around that Vollmer may be used at guard. This sounds a little sketchy to say the least. Dan Connolly will be the other guard, but he really slowed last season and struggled. He was voted as team captain, so hopefully that can translate into more consistent play from him too. The center position is also scary. Ryan Wendell really struggled last season and is primed to start this season too, which I’m not a fan of. Hopefully Stork can eventually step up and win the starting job by mid-season. The biggest question still remains at left guard and who will fill the void. Will it be Cannon, Vollmer, Kline or Devey? I don’t really care who it is, but that person better be able to protect the franchise and run block effectively. The offensive line killed us at times last season and sadly, nothing really changes my mind about them this season. Hopefully they improve and are a lot better than last season.

·         Defensive linemen (9): Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley (R), Chris Jones, Joe Vellano, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Michael Buchanan, Zach Moore (R)

o   Like I talked about before, the cutting of Tommy Kelly was a real surprise that still has me scratching my head. The interior line outside of Big Vince is very young and has a lot of question marks. Nobody knows the status of Siliga, Jones or Easley and Joe Vellano just isn’t that good in my opinion. I think BB could be banking a lot on a big season from Siliga and Easley for this line. Hopefully they produce because I don’t see Vince Wilfork being his old self all season long at this age.

o   Looking at the DE spot, there is a lot of potential there. Chandler Jones seems to be due for a monster season in which he could rack up a high sack total. Rob Ninkovich will most likely continue to be the solid player that he always is, making the right play consistently. From there, the depth is a little weak with only Buchanan and Moore as the DE backups. This may leave Jones and Nink gassed as they were a lot last season too. Hopefully Buchanan can make a leap in his performance and become a solid sub rusher to give Nink and Jones some rest at times. Overall the DE and DT spots are not as deep as most would like, but the front lines are still very strong. If everyone can stay healthy, I think they can be fine.

·         Linebackers (5): Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Darius Fleming, Chris White

o   This group could be the most talented on the team. Jerod Mayo is the QB on defense and one of the team’s leaders and one of the best LB’s in the league. Jamie Collins showed us all what his full potential could be as a playmaker in the playoffs last season. If he can keep that same level of play all season and grow on it, we really have a special talent on our hands at LB. Dont’a Hightower is primed for another season of getting better. He will also be playing a better suited role for himself this season as the loss of Mayo last year made things tough on the young LB. I expect both of the young LBs to have big seasons for this team.

·         Defensive Backs (10): Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Malcolm Butler (R), Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson

o   This group is easily without a doubt the deepest position on the team. BB went out and signed Revis and Browner to anchor the position with talent while we still have a solid player in Arrington and a couple growing young players in Dennard and Ryan. McCourty is primed for a huge season as he will be benefitting a lot from Revis’ presence. The other safety spot is still a big question mark though. Chung looks to be the starter Week 1 but hopefully Harmon can further develop and win the job or even the seldom talked about Tavon Wilson. Outside of the other safety spot, this defensive backfield has few weaknesses. This group of CBs will be able to match up vs. any team in the league.

Overall, I believe that both the offense and the defense can be Top 5 units in the league. Obviously health will play the biggest factor here. If this team can stay relatively healthy, then they will be looking at 12+ wins on the season. The talent this team has is insane and could be the most talented team BB has ever fielded depending upon how some players develop. The raw talent on the defensive side of the ball just makes me starry eyed. There has been rumor of the defense obviously dropping into a 3-4 most of the time which sounds amazing since this puts all players in the front 7 in positions suited for them. Chandler Jones as a stand-up OLB could mean a monster season from him add that onto one of the league’s best secondary’s and line backing corps and you have a Top 5 defense. The offense will be fine as long as Brady is around. If Gronk is healthy, they can be lethal. Obviously he just makes things so much easier for Brady and the other WRs and makes the offense go. If Gronk is healthy and the other weapons (Dobson, LaFell and KT) can develop then there is no reason why the offense can’t be a Top 5 unit again.

            The expectation for this season, for me, is a Super Bowl victory. It sounds greedy, but I think this team has more talent than some of the previous Super Bowl teams. The league’s best QB and CB are in NE, what else would you want? This defense could be as good as the 2004 squad while the offense could get back to putting up the number they did in 2011-12. This season is definitely Super Bowl or bust for our lovely Pats. The talent that BB put together leaves us no other option but to expect to be in the thick of it again in January. Hopefully this is the season we get over the hump.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Preseason Game 1 Thoughts

Patriots 6         Redskins 23
Preseason Game 1 Thoughts

            First off, this game was pretty tough to watch. The team looked flat the entire night and never really found themselves. The legit starters for the Patriots didn’t get to play either so while the team didn’t look too good the best players didn’t even touch the field for the Patriots. The list of players who didn’t play Thursday night includes Brady, Mayo, Revis, Gronk, Edelman, Mankins, McCourty, Hightower, Collins, and Amendola. Thursday night was a showcase night for many of the depth players on the roster to earn their place on this team. While it was tough to watch most of the night, there were certainly some bright spots in there as well. I’m going to take a look at this through positives and negatives even though the negatives will outweigh the positives after this dismal performance by the Patriots.


·         The Offensive Line

o   This mainly applies to the first half, but could be applied to the entire game too. The pass protection for Mallet throughout was suspect. Early on, Mallet made a nice throw to LaFell to convert a 3rd down only to see it taken back because of a Solder holding penalty. The rest of the half Solder struggled. Mallet’s struggles could be directed toward the OL play in front of him. They struggled to contain the Skins pass rush all night.

o   The run blocking was rough as well. On the first attempt of the day, Ridley saw at least 4 Redskins in the backfield the moment he took the handoff, luckily he found a way to gain 2 yards somehow. As a team that Patriots had 24 carries for 63 yards and a really crappy 2.6 YPC average and a lot of that falls on the offensive line for not opening up holes for the runners.

·         Ryan Mallet

o   Yes, I know the OL play was bad, which could be a reason for Mallet’s struggles but still he did not look very good. He didn’t look comfortable in the pocket and rushed his movements and progressions. The easy play to look at with a magnifying glass is the quick slant to LaFell that was thrown at his feet killing the chance at a first down. The offense didn’t do anything when Mallet was at the helm, which sucks because this was sort of a showcase game for him.

·         The Front 7 (Anderson, Beauharnais and Fleming in particular)

o   Didn’t come close to hitting the quarterback and did a really poor job penetrating the LOS on run plays. All of the LBs took really bad angles all night and looked to be caught out of place a lot. The defensive line rarely set the edge well, too. Granted, the team did not have the entire starting LB core and the starting DL only played a couple series, but still these depth players did not do their jobs very well out there.

·         Logan Ryan

o   This is mainly because I have very high expectations for Ryan heading into this season to develop into a better player. Two plays in particular stick out from Ryan’s play the other night. One was in the first half I believe and the Pats had the Skins backed up on their own 1 and Ryan let Robinson slant right in front of his face for an easy 15 yard pickup getting them out of trouble. Then, a second play Ryan got beat down the sideline on a nice throw and catch. Overall I thought he looked subpar. Hopefully he can turn it around and become the player we all expect him to be.


·         Jimmy Garoppolo

o   Yes, he was playing vs. vanilla defense against Washington’s 2s and 3s but still this kid looked good. He looked to be very comfortable in the pocket and made a lot of very good decisions. He throws a beautiful deep ball, that’s for certain. He had 3 throws that beyond impressed me; all of them were thrown toward Tyms. The first was the deep ball in the third which was incomplete, the second was the first play of the 4th quarter where Jimmy sent a beauty down the sideline to Tyms for a huge gain, and the 3rd impressive throw was the TD toss to Tyms, yet another perfectly placed pass over the shoulder. IF Garoppolo can continue to make throws like that in these situations Mallet may be on the chopping block.

·         Brandon LaFell/ Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms

o   LaFell didn’t do much, but he looked good when he was out there and did do something. I thought he looked smooth running routes and seems to have a lot of length to offer on the field which Brady will use to an advantage. Boyce made a couple catches but again just looked electric to me once he touches the ball. This kid is certainly talented, but he can’t seem to fully put it together yet. Hopefully he does, because he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The obvious positive here was Tyms as he put up 120 yards and the lone Patriot score of the game off of a beauty pass from Jimmy G. Tyms may have been playing vs. vanilla defense and not much contact at the line, but he still went out and produced in the stage that demanded it. It will be interesting to follow him the rest of preseason and see how he and Garoppolo develop together.

·         Malcom Butler

o   Effort is the first word that comes to mind when I think of his performance. Butler was all over the field all night. He should’ve had at least 2 interceptions as well which really would’ve helped his chances at a roster spot. He is a smaller corner but his effort makes up for that. He showed very well on Thursday night and with Brandon Browner suspended the first 4 games of the season Butler could find his way onto the roster if this type of play keeps up.

·         Tavon Wilson and Patrick Chung

o    BB was pretty obvious in his attempt to give Harmon, Wilson and Chung all equal reps on Thursday and I think Wilson did the most with his. He was the most active out there making a lot of tackles looking pretty big but not slow. He didn’t make any glaring mental mistakes, which shows growth on his part. He looked pretty good in my opinion coming up and playing the run game. Chung didn’t rack up the same tackle number as Wilson but he still looked smooth out there. He didn’t impress me as much as Wilson, but he looked better than I thought he would for some reason. I am rooting for Wilson to win out in the safety competition and take the starting role but I also like Harmon a lot too and wouldn’t mind seeing him take it either. We also can’t rule out Jemea Thomas making a push in the coming weeks for the spot either. The competition at the second safety spot is the most interesting to me at this point in the season.

Overall the game wasn’t pretty for the Patriots, but there were the bright spots that I outlined above. The team heads back to Gillette to joint practice with the Eagles before their game on Friday night. Friday night should see more action from the starters and it should also answer more questions about position competition and who will stick on the roster.