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Archive for October, 2011

Taking a Closer Look at the Patriots Injury Report

The Patriots released their final injury report prior to their week 5 matchup with the New York Jets today and there were four listed as doubtful; Julian Edelman (ankle), Jerod Mayo (Knee), Danny Woodhead (ankle) and Sebastian Vollmer (back). All have failed to participate in practice this week, therefore it is unlikely any will see the field on Sunday.

With Edelman injured, it is likely Taylor Price, who fully participated in practice for the first time this week and is off of the injury report, will see his first roles of the 2011 season with the team. Woodhead’s absence leaves an opportunity for Shane Vereen to potentially show what he is capable of as many see him as the 3rd down back of the future.

Mayo’s absence may lead to Gary Guyton taking the green dot (ie: the play calling role for the defense) but it is unclear yet as to how Belichick plans to tackle the loss of the defensive playcaller. Dane Fletcher, who is now listed as probable, may well also see extra snaps as a result of this; he participated fully for the first time this week as well.

Most worryingly is the presence of three members of the secondary listed as Questionable; Leigh Bodden (Groin), Ras-I Dowling (Hip) and Josh Barrett (thumb/hamstring), who were all on the list. The team could survive with two of these backs and I think we could settle for either Bodden or Dowling, who has shown the Patriots he could have been a very valuable pickup if he stays healthy, but we definitely need Barrett on the field. Sergio Brown is arguably the worst player on the defense and is becoming more of a liability than Brandon Merriweather was (I can’t believe I’m saying that). The more snaps Brown gets, the worst position this secondary is in.

Thankfully, Kyle Arrington (who leads the team in interceptions) was not seen on the final injury report which is a small piece of good news for a struggling and battered secondary unit. Another worry was Guyton, who could potentially take over play calling responsibilities on the defense in Mayo’s absence as stated above, and he appears to have gotten over his hamstring issues.

Other full participants, who are now listed as probable, were safety Patrick Chung (thumb) and defensive lineman Shaun Ellis (knee). Chung adds that leadership he brings to the secondary while Ellis adds depth to a defensive line which was drawing some concern over its health also.

Mike Wright may be ready to return, but it’s a dangerous thing to put him back in the line-up if he’s not ready. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Defensive Linemen Mike Wright (concussion) and Kyle Love (ankle) are both Questionable and saw limited participation in practice. If either one could make it back it would result in much welcomed depth to the unit who are set to go up against a struggling Jets offensive line. Keeping our players fresh and rotating them in is integral to our success in this match-up. Personally I feel Wright will not play; questionable with a concussion is a very dangerous thing to send a player back in early with so I expect him to be rested until he is able to fully participate in practice.

The final two listed as Questionable are the two biggest names; Aaron Hernandez (knee) and Albert Haynesworth (back). If Hernandez could make it back into the lineup it would throw a huge spanner in the works for the Jets and add another much needed weapon to Brady’s arsenal. Haynesworth’s return would be much welcomed against a Jets offensive line which hasn’t generated any run game or protected Sanchez and could be the game where he makes his first mark as a Patriot. Both will be game-time decisions as will the majority of those who are Questionable.

In summary, this is a worryingly long list and the Patriots are incredibly banged up early on in the season. With Dallas still to play before the bye week, I don’t expect to see Belichick rushing players back unnecessarily. The four listed as doubtful will not play. I would expect Wright to be rested for one more week, leaving two more inactive spots to fill. One member of the secondary and a defensive lineman would be a good shout in my opinion.

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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A Look At Stevan Ridley’s Continuing Development

Patriots fans have watched runningback Stevan Ridley continue to get more and more reps with the Patriots offense in recent weeks, and he is certainly justifying his increased role through week 4.

On Sunday against Oakland, Ridley rushed for 97 yards off of 10 carries, one of which was a 33-yard run for a touchdown, and averaged a more than respectable 9.7 yards per carry. In total he has 18 attempts for 148 yards with an average of 8.2 YPC. It’s been a great start, causing plenty of excitement to build around this young prospect.

So far Stevan Ridley is showing signs each week that he deserves to continue to get more reps on the field. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

There is a lot of talk about how much his role will increase as the season goes on, and many argue he could be our feature back by the end of the regular season and going into the playoffs. I commented on this myself in the review during our “Patriots Fourth and Two” podcast (a new Patriots podcast show which can also be found on ITunes) and said that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ridley start getting a bulk of the carries.

He needs to do a lot to be that guy.  However, lets talk about the pros of Ridley first.

The rookie runningback possesses a style of running that can see him potentially becoming a 3 down back.  He can take the ball  north and south, and run over would-be tacklers in the 1/2 and 3/4 gaps but, most importantly, he possesses a burst of speed which enables him to run off-tackle….a burst I don’t think Benjarvus Green-Ellis has. This burst was something NFL Scouts were not sure Ridley had either, and something else they criticized him on was his ability to catch passes out of the backfield and blitz pick-up.  Instead he seems to have proven these scouts wrong in recent Preseason and Regular Season performances, and has definitely shown me he can be the future at the position.

Despite all the pros, there are still a lot of cons to his style of running. He runs very upright, likes to spin out of and turn his back on would-be tacklers and doesn’t always wrap both arms around the football when running outside. These are recipes for disaster, including injury and turnovers. Green-Ellis hasn’t fumbled in his NFL career, nor his College career, and some teammates from his high school days argue he never fumbled then either. This reflects in his style of running inside and outside of the tackles and Ridley needs to learn a lot more from “The Law Firm” until he is ready to take the reigns.

So what does this mean for the Green-Ellis himself? I often wonder why the Patriots only offered him his tender and not a long term deal, albeit it was a second round tender. In today’s NFL, feature backs who carry the load often have very short careers, which is why teams like the New York Giants adopt a ‘two back’ approach with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Jacobs is your downhill running back who bares the brunt of the carries down the middle, while Bradshaw is your cut-back runner who offers an air of unpredictability and can do both, thus getting more of the opportunities. Jacobs takes some of the load off of Bradshaw so to speak.

Therefore I could see Green-Ellis taking this role up perfectly. While Ridley is actually a little heavier than Green-Ellis, I would argue he is as good, if not better, inside of the tackle and these backs aren’t always easy to find; the type that don’t take one step back, but go full speed forward, putting their bodies on the line.  Having both Green-Ellis with Ridley would increase the rookies ‘life expectancy’ in the NFL and prolong his career, while also giving us a two back approach that makes the Giants so successful in that area of the game. Vereen and Woodhead would obviously be the other two running backs looking forward.

I’m guessing Ridley will see an increased role throughout the season, and may well be that feature back if he improves on the factors I feel he needs to improve on; as do others I might add (the guys on PFW In Progress recently commented on it also). However, I feel it is integral to Ridley’s career to re-sign Green-Ellis and maintain that two back approach which I feel will aid the Patriots’ running game a great deal. There is every chance Ridley could see the bulk of carries by the end of the season depending on his progress, which coaches believe he is making on a day to day basis.

Let us hope so, because so far after what we’ve seen so far through four games, Ridley is proving to be an absolute steal in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft.

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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