By: Steve Grogan & R.R. Marshall - Presented By Frank 106.3 Frank FM
September 11, 2012

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PatsFans.com is proud to welcome former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan back for the 12th straight season. Grogan played in 149 games with the Patriots from 1975-1990, and was named to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1995. Steve will join us each week to provide his insight on the progress of the Patriots during the 2012 football season.

R.R. Marshall: The Patriots opened the 2012 season with a thorough 34-13 trouncing of the Tennessee Titans. After a lackluster preseason, were you surprised to see the Patriots turn in such an impressive all around effort in their first game?

Steve Grogan: Yeah, it was a little bit surprising, but good to see. I think sometimes we read more into preseason than we probably should. I think they were trying a lot of different people in different positions and they certainly brought it all together Sunday against the Titans. I was really impressed with the way the whole team played for being the opener.

RRM: Pats rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower combined for a strip sack and a touchdown that seemed to signal the emergence of a new and improved Patriots defense. What did you think of the new look Pats on 'D' this year?

SG: You know, I think those two guys are going to be a major impact on this defense. The front seven was very impressive, totally shut down the running game of the Titans, came up with the big play, the strip sack and the touchdown. If you look at the stats, Jake Locker threw for a lot of completions and picked up a lot of yards, but most of that was because they were stopping them on first and second down and putting them in a 3rd and long situation where they just wanted to keep everything in front of them and they let him complete some passes and then came up and made the tackle. So I'm not overly concerned about the yardage that he got, or the completion percentage. I think this defense is going to be pretty solid.

"He just hit the hole and made big plays that way and it was fun to watch." - Steve Grogan on Stevan Ridley's play on Sunday.
(PHOTO CREDIT: USPresswire)

RRM: There were a few surprises in this game, perhaps none bigger than second-year runningback Stevan Ridley rushing for over 120 yards. Have we witnessed the return of the Patriots' vaunted running attack this year?

SG: Well I hope so. I think they've been lacking a running attack, putting too much pressure on Tom Brady with the passing game, it was nice to see. Ridley's the kind of kid that hits the hole and slashes through and there wasn't a lot of dancing around and trying to make the big play. He just hit the hole and made big plays that way and it was fun to watch. I enjoy a team that can run the football and it looks like this is going to be a team that can do that.

RRM: Has Ridley staked his claim to being the new Patriots' featured back, or does his small stature prevent him from getting 20+ carries a game every week?

SG: Well, I think that remains to be seen, but right now it looks like he can carry the load and as long as he keeps pounding it the way he did Sunday, I think they're going to keep feeding him the ball. Offensive lineman love to play that kind of football, especially late in the game when they had the lead and needed to kill the clock and run a lot of time off of it. They just kept handing him the football and he did a great job.

RRM: Despite a bloody nose, Tom Brady turned in his usual "Brady-like" effort, going 23-for-31 for 231 yards and 2 TD's. Isn't it good to see that some things never change?

SG: Yeah, I mean Tom Brady is Tom Brady, he's just so solid. It looks like they're going to revolve their offense around those two tight ends that they've got locked up now with new contracts for a long time. He's very comfortable with them. I was interested to see what [Brandon] Lloyd would do being added to this offense, but he looks like he can slide right in and make an impact. Wes Welker wasn't much of a factor Sunday, but that doesn't mean next week he won't be a factor. But I think they're going to revolve this offense around those two tight ends in the passing game and running the football.

RRM: I thought one of the overlooked aspects was the fact that last year this team's defense couldn't get off the field on third down, and Tennessee was only 5-of-14 converting third down. That's a pretty good way to start the season?

SG: It's a very good way to start the season and hopefully they'll continue to improve and grow and get those young guys on the defense playing well. I thought Jerod Mayo played an excellent football game on the inside for them defensively. They've got the tools to work with this year, it's just going to be a matter of molding it and blending it and doing the right things at the right time to be successful.

RRM: Kamerion Wembley's jarring sack of Brady resulted when new left tackle Nate Solder, who was replacing the retired Matt Light, failed to protect Brady. As someone familiar with breaking in new left tackles, is this transition going to be a painful one for the future Hall of Fame quarterback?

SG: I don't think so. I think Solder struggled just a little bit Sunday, but he's still young, learning, and has all the tools. He's a huge kid with great feet, long arms, I think he'll get it figured out before long. In the meantime if Brady has to get his nose broken once in a while, it's about time somebody hit him [laughs]. They've done such a great job over the years of keeping him clean. He's not used to getting knocked down too often so I don't think this is a trend that will continue. I think Solder will get better as the year goes on, and I'm not worried about him.

RRM: If the reports are true, All-Pro Guard Brian Waters has not returned because the Patriots have asked him to take a salary cut. Now when you're talking about protecting your franchise quarterback, isn't this the wrong guy to be nickel and diming?

SG: You would think so. I'm not sure what they're thinking is in that regard, but you know the Patriots, they put a price tag on players and if you don't want to play for what they're considering your price tag to be, then you don't play for them. They may come to some kind of an agreement if they start getting a couple of guys hurt here and there, but right now they're going to go with the people they have and make it work.

RRM: This leads to a bigger question about the Patriots' philosophy and you can't help but wonder about Bill Belichick's overall reasoning regarding his offensive line. It appears he prefers having several players that can play multiple positions along the offensive front to account for injuries later in the season as opposed to having an All-Pro player at each position. I'm thinking since you have to pay All-Pros a lot more, is this motivation largely due to salary cap considerations do you think?

SG: I think it has a lot to do with what they have to pay their offensive line, and I also think he's got a great deal of respect for Dante Scarnecchia, the offensive line coach, that he can take guys that might be an average player on another team and teach them the system that they run in New England quickly and get their best performances out of them, and that saves them money under the salary cap that they can use for other things.

RRM: Tennessee's Jake Locker was one of 10 starting quarterbacks on Sunday who were either rookies or in their second year. We've talked in the past the last few years how there seems to be a lack of overall quality and depth at the quarterback position across the NFL, so what does that statistic tell you about the quality of the quarterback position in the NFL the past few seasons?

SG: Well, I think there's a lot of good young quarterbacks coming out of college now that have been exposed to the passing game from their high school level all the way through college and now into the NFL, and you're just seeing them playing them earlier. There used to be you'd sit a young guy around for 3 or 4 years and let him learn the system, learn the game and what he's supposed to do in the passing game. But now their experience coming in allows them to throw them in there right from the get go. I think it's great. There's a lot of new blood at the quarterback position and it's going to be a fun league to watch.

RRM: Are you amazed when you see guys like Cam Newton last year, and Robert Griffin III this year just slinging the ball for 300 yard games and putting up 30 points for teams that were happy to celebrate getting a first down prior to their arrival?

SG: Yeah, it's amazing that they can do it that quickly. But again, they've come from college systems where they've thrown the ball 40, 50 times a game. Those two guys you mentioned, Newton and Griffin III, both are athletic and can get out of the pocket and hurt you with their running and that saves them a lot of mistakes they can make up for with their legs. As far as 10 guys with 2 years or younger starting the season openers, that's a little bit remarkable, but at the same time, again, I can't stress enough that they've been exposed to the passing game far more than guys have in the past.

RRM: Did you get a chance to see Peyton Manning's debut in Denver orange Sunday night, and did he look like the same old gunslinger to you?

SG: I saw most of the game. He's still a great player. I didn't think his arm strength looked quite like it used to, but he's still so smart, knows where to put the ball, when to put the ball there. It looks to me like he's back in form and has got some pretty good players around him and he's going to make Denver a very good football team this year.

RRM: Well the Patriots return to Gillette for their home opener this week against the Arizona Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald is one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL and certainly worth the price of admission alone, but other than that, do you think the Cardinals will present much of a challenge this week for the Patriots?

SG: I don't see a whole lot of challenges. I haven't really taken a hard look at the Cardinals right now. Fitzgerald is a great player, but that's about all they have from what I have been able to pick up to this point. So I don't see a huge challenge there, but again, any given Sunday in the NFL, a little bit of let down and you can have a problem. So it's never easy, but this one looks like it shouldn't be a problem.

RRM: So what are Grogan's Grades for the 34-13 thumping of the Titans in the season opener?

SG: Well, I think the offense, you have to give them an A. They were just very solid in all aspects. The defense, probably an A- just because they gave up a lot of yards passing, but I'm not overly concerned with that. And then special teams, I'd give them an A. I think at one point in the game Tennessee hadn't started any drives outside their own 30 yard line. So the punting game was pinning them back and the defense was taking over from there. It was a pretty solid performance all the way around, the overall grade was an A.

Grogan's Grades: Week 1

Offense: A
Defense: A-
Special Teams: A

Overall: A


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