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Chargers @ Patriots; Five Key observations

The Patriots went a 10th straight season with a home opening win in defeating the San Diego Chargers 35-21 on Sunday evening. It was another statistically poor day for the defense but statistically great day for the offense. Tom Brady extended his record unbeaten streak at home to 28 games whilst being only one of 7 NFL Quarterbacks to have thrown for 400 or more yards in consecutive games and, if he makes the achievement again against the Bills, will be the first QB to ever have three consecutive 400 yard games. It’s also the team’s 10th consecutive win with 30 or more points scored, closing in on the NFL  record held by the St. Louis Rams of 14.

Here are a few observations and key points from the game.

  • The offense are already in mid-season form. As well as Tom Brady’s consecutive 400 yard games, the Patriots have collectively pulled together over 500 yards of total offense for two games in a row now and are sharing the wealth in doing so. Tom Brady has hit nine different targets in two games (including seven yesterday) and it appears the Pats are continuing to put the emphasis on ball and clock management.
  • The Tight Ends are the Patriots’ key cogs. Tom Brady has hit Hernandez and Gronkowski for 337 yards off of 24 targets, 5 of which resulted in touchdowns, and averaging 14 yards a throw. The Patriots primarily line up with at least one of their TEs on the field and, more often than not, both of them. This is for the matchup nightmares they create, especially against base defenses. The unpredictability and vast options they bring to the team’s offense has made it as successful as it has been over the last year or so.
  • The game plan was Antonio Gates, and the Patriots executed it to perfection. The Patriots had relative success against Reggie Bush as their game plan last week, and they did an even greater job of it this week when they highlighted Antonio Gates as the Chargers’ biggest threat. They held him to zero receptions and he was only targeted once, when Sergio Brown undercut a poorly lofted ball and turned it over for the Patriots. Unfortunately when you put huge emphasis on one player it makes other areas vulnerable and Vincent Jackson took advantage of that. He was a mismatch nightmare as it was with his size and speed and he punished our secondary all game long!
  • The Patriots played a conservative defense….but didn’t break. For the second game running the Patriots rarely blitzed and spent the majority of their plays in sub packages, utilising the 3-3-5 formation mostly. I thought we failed to get any pressure from our down linemen which didn’t help the Patriots’ young and inexperienced secondary and didn’t help us over the course of the game. We saw some big gainers again against us through the air but came up with 4 key turnovers and a goal line stop in situations which called for it. This ‘bend but don’t break’ style of defense has become very common in this Bill Belichick run system however I would like to see us bring some more aggression against the Bills…the same aggression we saw against Tampa Bay in preseason.
  • The young and revamped secondary needs time…and some help. The Patriots have been dropping back in coverage a hell of a lot over the first two games of the 2011 season and it’s exposing our key weakness. The team have new additions Dowling, Molden and Ihedigbo whilst Barrett and Bodden didn’t play at all last year and Brown saw very little action. This was the biggest area of concern and rightfully so but I expect it to gel with time. It hasn’t helped that our D Line didn’t generate much pressure in yesterday’s game and it is going to need to do a lot more when the Patriots drop back in coverage!

So those are my five key observations from Sunday’s game. I feel the jury is still out on the defense and the secondary will gel with time whilst the offense has done nothing but fill me with confidence. It was nice to see Ochocinco getting a little more involved and I expect him to be even more so with the loss of Aaron Hernandez for at least a couple of weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for more reaction from this weeks game and Patriots news over the course of the week as well as previews to our upcoming game with the Bills!

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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Bruschi; Overreaction or Valid Point?

After Tom Brady’s 517 yard, 4 TD performance in the Patriots’ 38-24 rout of the Miami Dolphins, Ochocinco tweeted  in ‘awe’ of the 3 time Superbowl Champion Quarterback: ”Just waking up after a late arrival, I’ve never seen a machine operate like that n person, to see video game numbers put up n person was WOW.”

Tedy Bruschi was swift to react during his weekly segment on WEEI Sports Radio saying that Ochocinco needed to ”drop the awe factor” and “stop tweeting and get in your playbook.”  Out of Brady’s 517 passing yards, only 14 of those went Ocho’s way on one reception. There were five receivers who finished with more yards, including Mathew Slater who got his first ever NFL reception as well as the two Tight Ends Hernandez and Rob Gronkowksi.

Bruschi clearly wasn’t impressed. He continued to say, ”You’re not someone who’s on another team or watching TV…You’re not an analyst. You’re a part of it. They want you to be a part of it. So get with the program because obviously you’re not getting it and you’re tweeting because you’re saying, ‘It’s amazing to see’? It’s amazing to see because you don’t understand it. You still don’t understand it and it’s amazing to you because you can’t get it.

“Wake up! If you’re just waking up now — I don’t know when this was, six minutes ago? — get out your bed and get to the stadium and watch some film if you still think it’s amazing. If you’re in it and you know what you’re doing and you execute out there, you don’t think it’s amazing. You know why? Because it’s what you’re supposed to do.”

This is the most passionate I have heard Teddy Bruschi since he retired after his 13 year career with the New England Patriots but was his rant justified? Was he hitting the point?

I don’t think so.

Ochocinco joined one of the most complex offenses in the NFL and, coming from what is described by some as one of the simplest in Cincinnati, it was always going to be tough to pick it up quickly. On top of that, he came without the usual Organised Team Activities and off season workouts with his team mates. He was coming in and competing with the likes of Welker, Branch, Gronkowski and Hernandez who were already accomplished players in the team’s unit.

There was so much hype over Ochocinco coming to the Patriots that there was almost a little too much pressure put on his shoulders to perform. That was, in part, down to the supposed need for a down the field threat and I am on record as saying a number of times that we just didn’t need one. People overreacted and tried to dig deep to find an excuse for another first round playoff loss after a spectacular 14-2 season with an offense which broke numerous more records. The simplicity of it was we were out-coached, and out-played on that day.

Saying that, I still liked the signing. He added another dimension to our offense and it shut the people demanding for that  deep threat up. However those same people wanted Ochocinco to come in and put up big numbers and that’s when he started to put more weight on his own! On top of his eagerness to show Belichick, someone he has described as a father figure that he was right in bringing him in, he had the fans and that has pushed him to what I believe is trying almost too hard. He needs to settle down…chill a little. The fact of the matter is Chad doesn’t need big numbers and nor did I expect him to get them. He adds another dimension just being on the field as teams respect the threat he poses.

Is he not trying hard enough? That’s the most stupid assumption there is. We all know from what was seen in Training Camp and what the likes of Mike Reiss reported that he was putting in a lot of work. He seemed to come down on himself a little too hard when he made a drop or ran a route wrong as well…but most know the best players have short memories and just learn and forget.

I don’t think Chad needs to stop tweeting…or playing FIFA for that matter. Half the Patriots’ team have twitter and I have definitely noticed a considerable drop off in his activity on there since he came along. You have to let Ochocinco be Ochocinco; to an extent anyway. You take away the man and you take away the beast of a player that he has been and can potentially be for us.

He’s struggling. Will he pick it up? I think so yes but it’s going to take some more time. You may not see him catch on and play an active role until later in the season, but I’m okay with that. People need to get off his back and allow him in return to lighten the weight he puts on his own shoulders and Bruschi…he’s not in that locker room anymore. I respect his opinions greatly and no other player can preach the Patriot Way better than he can but he isn’t there and he doesn’t see how hard Ochocinco works. Granted neither do I, but you don’t have to look far on the web to find out just how much effort he really is putting in. Therefore Bruschi massively overreacted with his comments.

Chad will continue to put in effort, that effort will bare fruits as the season goes on, and analysts like Bruschi need to lay off of him and let him do his thing. If Bill gets tired of it, we know what he will do!

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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Padded Stats Do Patriots’ Defense Little Justice

The general consensus around Monday’s victory against the Miami Dolphins is that our offense has picked up where it left off last year in it’s mid-season form already, and Tom Brady seems to mature with age like my Granddad’s bourbon that has been sitting in the cupboard for as long as I can remember! His 517 yards was a career and team high and iced the cake with 4 TDs, one of which went 99 yards. However Patriots Nation do not seem to be satisfied with the 488 yards allowed to the Henne lead Dolphin offense. I have heard numerous people say we didn’t rush the passer very well and we didn’t cover at all. Well I think when we go back and look at the stats a bit more in depth, some of you may change your minds.

The Dolphins accumulated 213 yards in the final 8:48 of the game and it’s important to point out that we had a 14 point lead at that point. The Patriots were very much in ‘prevent’ mode at the time and were allowing Henne the short throws underneath, as you do in that situation. When you take that away from the total yardage, it brings you down to 275 yards.Then take into account the opening drive; they opened up on their 16 yard line and drove all the way for a TD in 12 plays and over 7 minutes. Take that 84 yards away and you have 191 yards. So in theory, roughly 3 quarters separated the first score and the final 8 minutes in which the Pats only allowed that yardage.

In between the first drive and the final 8:48, the Dolphins had 8 series which totaled 33 snaps (an average of just over 4 snaps a series) and half of those 8 series were 3&out holds by the New England defense. That brings me to third down conversions on the night which saw the Dolphins go a pitiful 2/14; they didn’t convert a single third down in the second half, but did have a handful of fourth down conversions afterwards. The important thing to point out is that they were getting the Dolphins into these third down situations. This is a huge stat considering the Patriots ranked dead last in the league in terms of third down conversions allowed on defense last season.

I’m also going to look at the points scored in the time lapse I am focusing on. Miami put 10 points on us in that time. The one TD scored was a converted turnover after a Brady interception, which saw the Dolphins get the ball on the New England 9 yard line. An easy situation by a long distance for them to convert. Some may argue the Patriots could have got the stop but if that wasn’t enough for you, they made two goal line stops from the one yard line in the second half.

Someone also mentioned to me that the Patriots gave up quite a high 98 yards rushing.  I’m going to tie this point in with one of my key factors of the game plan, which was to contain Reggie Bush. Only 38 of those rushing yards came from Bush (and 39 total from Running Backs)  meaning he averaged just 3.5 yards a carry. whilst he did have some success in the receiving game, he averaged 6.2 yards which, considering the threat Bush posed, is a good achievement. 59 of the rushing yards came from Henne scrambling ouit of the pocket under pressure and one QB draw which led to a TD. This does show they need to learn how to keep track of the QB.

The Patriots job on defense was to ‘contain’ and that is the style of defense they played for much of the game. They blitzed only 26.7% of the time; that figure includes Henne drop backs and blitzes against the run. Despite that pretty low number the Pats got 4 sacks and pressured Henne a total of 35 times; a considerably high number. They consistently collapsed the pocket and got hits on Henne, who had a stellar game considering the circumstances. The stats show the Patriots main aim was to contain Reggie Bush, and considering his average yardage I would say they did a pretty good job. He didn’t break out for a long gainer once (I class a long gainer as 20+ yards).

That does lead me to talk about the number of plays of 20+ yards however. We gave away  total of nine of those plays and whilst none of them were to Bush, they need to pay attention to stopping that big play ability down field, especially with the likes of  San Diego who we open up our home campaign to on Sunday!

I’m not a complete homer; I just acknowledged we had coverage issues down field. With a new and extremely young secondary, it’s going to take a little time. However the pass rushing was more than adequate as was the defense as a whole. Statistics don’t lie. Simple facts. Sometimes they don’t tell the whole story (such as the 488 total yards allowed) which is why people like myself like to dig a little deeper into them.

So what is the story? We started slow and its never nice to see a long 12 play, 84 yard, 7+ minute drive on your team. However we picked the tempo up from there. You could argue the offense didn’t capitalise enough on the opportunities it had and left points on the field after numerous stops by our defense. The Dolphins got a lucky break on a deflected ball and good field position which kept them in the game briefly, before we ran away with the 14 point lead. At this point the Pats went into their usual conservative mode. I’m not saying I like it; I have always said ‘prevent defense prevents nothing’  and it didn’t, allowing the Dolphins to seriously pad their stats chasing a two score deficit. However I’ll live with it.

Therefore I would be extremely confident in this defense’s ability, especially as it is very early on in a season which saw a lockout-shortened off season. That combined with the Offensive performance should have all Patriots very excited for this season!

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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Dan Connolly; The Patriots’ Unsung Hero!

Dan Connolly is another one of those Patriot success stories. An Undrafted Rookie Free Agent in 2005, he was picked up by Jacksonville and spent his time there battling the roster bubble before being released in September of 2007. The Patriots soon picked him up and placed him on the Practice Squad where he spent much of his time until called upon in 2009. He filled in for Stephan Neal at Right Guard for four games and put on a performance that earned him a contract extension through 2011.

It wasn’t long until the Patriots would call upon him again. In 2010, the (at the time) 2 time Pro Bowler and 1 time All-Pro selection Guard Logan Mankins was holding out and the Patriots thrust Connolly into the starting Left Guard position. After Mankins returned, Neal went down with injury once again and Connolly was asked to start the rest of the season at Right Guard. He held up fine, helping Patriots’ Running Back Benjarvus Green-Ellis to becoming the team’s first 1, 000 rusher since Corey Dillon in 2004. He also helped to keep Brady well protected for the majority of the season; a season in which the Patriot’s Offensive Line won the Madden Most Valuable Protector Award.

One of the biggest highlights of his career however did not come on the offensive line, but on Special Teams. The Patriots were down 17-7 in the dying seconds of the first half when Connolly returned a squib kick 71 yards down inside the Packers’ ten yard line and swung the momentum of the game. He helped set up a score that would take the Patriots into the half just 3 points down. No one downplays the significance of that game changing moment which seemed to fire up a lethargic Patriot offense.

Then in 2011, after a very up and down Preseason, Connolly was replaced at Right Guard by 5 time Pro Bowler and 2 time All-Pro Selection Brian Waters and he was pushed back into the backup role. Until yesterday’s season opener against Miami when starting Center Dan Koppen was carted off of the field with an ankle injury. Ryan Wendell, the projected backup Center, was out still and that thrust Dan Connolly back into the limelight.

Patriots Nation held a collective deep breath as Connolly lined up and took his first snap as a Patriot center. It was perfect. As was the one after that, and the one after that…and every single snap until the game ended. A lot of linemen would have buckled under that pressure but, to cap off his perfect snapping, Connolly wasn’t solely responsible for a single sack on Brady all the while he was in.

Dan Connolly is another one of those Undrafted players who went unnoticed but is making a name for himself in Bill Belichick’s offense. Brady’s performance overshadows that of Connolly’s but I am sure he would agree, his 500 yard passing game was made possible by the guy that was forced to play a position he had never played in the NFL before. His significance in last ngiht’s game was even overshadowed by Nate Solder’s solid Rookie debut against Cameron Wake.

Dan Connolly is the unsung hero of last nights offensive pounding over Miami. He was the unsung hero of the offense which broke numerous NFL records last year. He has filled in countless times when called upon to an exceptional standard, and that is why he is the unsung hero of the New England Patriots!

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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Patriots Declare Five Players Officially OUT for Miami!

The Patriots today announced the following 5 players will definitely not play in the season opener against Miami on Monday Night:-

  • (OT) Sebastian Vollmer (Back)
  • (DL) Jermaine Cunningham (Hamstring)
  • (WR) Taylor Price (Hamstring)
  • (OL) Ryan Wendell (Calf)
  • (LB) Jeff Tarpinian (Knee)

Sebastian Vollmer was almost a certainty before this announcement to miss tomorrow’s game as he didn’t practice all week. Taylor Price being out may be a slight concern at receiver and may result in Mathew Slater needing to step up for one game at least.  Wendell hasn’t been seen all preseason so it is of little surprise that we aren’t seeing him and despite limited participation, it is clear Price, Tarpinian and Cunningham are not game ready.

The Patriots still have two more players to deactivate for the game day roster.

Keep your eyes on my blog for more game updates and follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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Patriots Preview (With Mike Carlson): Pats @ Miami

Some of you may remember my Q&A session with Mike Carlson a few months back when I first joined the guys here on patsfans.com. He is an American reporter presenting the NFL here in the UK out of Wesleyan University, just like Belichick, and a massive Patriots fan. Well he’s back with some more input into some of the key matchups in Monday Night Football’s game between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins! This is the 2nd time in 3 years the Patriots have opened up against a division rival on MNF, previously against the Bills, and I’m sure this matchup will provide just as many thrills! The Patriots have appeared on MNF 10 times against the Dolphins, and the series is split with 5 wins apiece.

Monday will mark the first time in 7 years that the Patriots have not opened the season at Gillette Stadium. The last time happened to be 2003, when we opened the season with a painful loss to the Lawyer Milloy led Bills. The team have won their last 7 opening day battles since then, but the fact that that this will be the first time in all those years we open up our campaign away from home might be something worth taking into account, despite the Dolphins being a pitiful 1-7 at home last season.

We saw a mixed preseason with the Patriots. A strong first two weeks quickly quietened some optimistic fans after week 3 and 4 saw big drop offs. I asked Mike if he expected a slow start or he felt Belichick had seen enough in the first two weeks. He responded, “They were probably further along offensively earlier, and their reserves are good–look how many cuts they’ve had claimed. But I suspect the latter is more the case. No one cares what your preseason record was, and keeping guys healthy and evaluating and giving backups time is more important.”

The biggest matchup of all is the Miami defense against Tom Brady. This will be interesting to watch as Right Tackle Sebastian Vollmer will be out with a back problem and is going to be replaced by Rookie Nate Solder. Watch for the dolphins to exploit this right side by lining up Cameron Wake against him. Mike makes a valid point in saying, “Solder isn’t Vollmer, but it will also be interesting in the sense that we might see whether he’s a long term LT (keeping Vollmer on the right) or RT. Wake will be a challenge, but look for the Pats to throw behind him when he rushes…” The Dolphins have 10 of 11 starters returning so expect a disciplined and tough unit.

He could potentially also line up alongside new addition, Right Guard Brian Waters. Dan Connolly was at practice this week, but with limited participation after an injury to his ankle and many see Waters as a big upgrade on that right side. This adds to the question mark hanging over the right side of our Offensive Line however. “It will be interesting to see how ready Waters is,” Mike Carlson says, adding, “He’ll fit what the Pats do very well, especially as they don’t ask their guards to pull all that much–they are a team that likes to control and redirect rushers.” Carlson pointed out that Waters is heavier than usual despite telling him he intended to lose weight when contemplating retirement. It will be interesting to see how he fits the system.

The next big matchup is the Patriots’ Defensive Line against the Dolphins’ O Line. Jeff Darlington highlighted in our Q&A session that their right side could be a problem that gets flared up on Monday night, although he feels Jake Long will solidify that left side. He added, “Center Mike Pouncey has made nice developments in his rookie training camp, but going up against Wilfork and Haynesworth should provide a massive gauge of where he currently stands.” On the right side of the line Darlington believes, “Vernon Carey is still growing comfortable with his new role at right guard, and Marc Colombo has not looked any better this year than he did last year in Dallas.” Look for the Patriots to exploit this weakness.

The main thing Patriots fans will be looking for is if Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth line up alongside each other, and what effect this has on the Patriots new base scheme. “A healthy and motivated Haynesworth would give the Pats a pass rush they are sorely lacking,” Carlson says, “but right now I’d consider Mayo their most explosive rusher.” He justifies this by mentioning that Belichick has passed up on some big name pass rushers in the draft, and is convinced Belichick still thinks he can ‘scheme’ sacks. Haynesworth is questionable with an unknown illness so keep an eye out for whether or not he plays. Will the Patriots be able to consistently pressure Henne and force him into making errant throws?

The biggest concern for the Patriots in my opinion is not the Dolphins’ defense but their new addition, Running Back Reggie Bush. This is a potential mismatch nightmare for the Patriots’ who’s Linebackers are not renowned for their pass coverage skills. Bush adds a dual threat at the RB position as well as a special teams concern and is not someone the Pats should be taking lightly. When I asked Mike about how the team should game plan against him he said, “You contain him if he runs, pursue so he can’t cut back. You bang him off the line so he can’t get into pass patterns. And you cover the damn punts.” It’s really that simple. Containing him and forcing him to run in between the tackles is a huge key to Monday night’s success. He is not a between the tackles runner. Throwing the timing off between him and QB Chad Henne is also massively important and the Patriots may chose to kick away from him on Special Teams!

There is always a position of massive concern on any team and I am sure you will all agree with me that it is currently the Safety position for us. “Josh Barrett I liked a lot when he was drafted, and it’s just a question of how much he’s learned,” Mike says, “while Sergio Brown is another physically limited guy (like James Sanders); but he’s smart and played in a Patriots’ style secondary at UND. I suspect we will see more three or four corner nickle and dimes, with only 1 or 2 safeties than in the past when the Pats often went 2 corners 3 safeties in nickle and 3-3 in dime.” This would make a lot of sense. The Patriots kept Antwaun Molden over underachiever Darius Butler and drafted Ras-I Dowling; these are two big, physical but fast corners and will enable the Pats to do this and play the run at the same time whilst being more physical up front on slot receivers. Keep an eye out for how the team utilises these players, as it will be a big indication of what is to come and against a talented receiving corps. This will be an adequate first test for this new look secondary.

So we’ve gone over the key matchups and got Mike’s input but what do I think? I think the Patriots match up very well against a Dolphins defense that struggled when it came to covering TEs. They were ranked 28th in the league last season and until they can prove otherwise,  Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez offer them a huge nightmare. It is important for the Pats to establish balance on the ground and protect Tom Brady which, if they do, the team will have just too much for Miami to handle. A fast start would move this game out of Miami’s reach fast and put the game to bed.

Mike agrees saying, “Pats ought to be able to burn the Miami secondary,” but stresses we must, “watch to see if they can get the outside receivers open against two big physical corners…”

Score? 28-14 Patriots and we extend our opening game winning streak to 8 games in a row!

Enjoy the game!

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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Pats @ Dolphins: A Q&A With Jeff Darlington

As part of my blog, in the build up to games, I am going to be speaking to rival beat reporters and getting their take on the upcoming games and match-ups. This week I spoke to Jeff Darlington of the Miami Herald who has covered the Dolphins and other aspects of football for over ten years now. He’s a local UF graduate and sports fan.  Here is what he had to say:

1) The Dolphins revamped a lot of their coaching positions in the off season. The big standout for us is former Patriots coach Brian Daboll who joins your team as the new Offensive Coordinator. What does his knowledge bring to the match-up? He had huge success as the Cleveland Browns’ Offensive Coordinator against the Patriots last season.

“Far more than Daboll’s knowledge of the AFC East, which is only decently important from my perspective, are two other ingredients that he brings to Miami: Energy and trust. First, it’s clear his passion during practices is rubbing off on the players, and they’re pushing the tempo with a great degree of urgency. Second, and more importantly, Daboll seems to be shedding the handcuffs from quarterback Chad Henne’s wrist. He is placing a level of trust in Henne that didn’t exist under former offensive coordinator Dan Henning – and it’s allowing Henne to play more within his skillset. Along with the ability to audible at the line of scrimmage (something he didn’t have last year), Henne also has been able to win over his teammates by having more control over the offense. So yes, I think Daboll will definitely help the Dolphins’ chances against the Patriots. But for far more reasons than just his familiarity with the division.

2) The Patriots made many personal moves  whilst appearing to switch their base defense from a 3-4, to a 4-3. How much of an impact do you think this change will have on the Dolphins’ preparation/game planning and how they tackle this game?

“I think the Dolphins probably realize the same thing about New England’s defense as everyone else: The Patriots might say they are a 4-3 defense, but they’ll be much more of a hybrid than that. Miami is expecting to see a defense similar to the one it currently runs under Mike Nolan – one that’s unpredictable on a play-to-play basis. I’m sure the Dolphins will keep in mind the Patriots’ plans to implement a 4-3 scheme. They’d be crazy not to. But it isn’t likely to cause them to also dismiss the possibility of seeing the 3-4, as well.”

3) A lot of the talk around the Patriots this season has been about Albert Haynesworth and the impact he is going to have alongside Vince Wilfork this season. They also added considerable threats such as Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter How do you think the Dolphins are going to game plan in order to deal with this new threat?

“Considering the offensive line has been among the biggest question marks of the preseason, this will be a very interesting key to Monday’s game. Center Mike Pouncey has made nice developments in his rookie training camp, but going up against Wilfork and Haynesworth should provide a massive gauge of where he currently stands. I have no question that Jake Long will continue to dominate on the left side, but I’m very hesitant to suggest the Dolphins will be fine when it comes to the right side. This is an obvious point of weakness that New England will try to exploit. Vernon Carey is still growing comfortable with his new role at right guard, and Marc Colombo has not looked any better this year than he did last year in Dallas.”

4) The Dolphins have had considerable issues covering TEs in the past. Football Outsiders had you ranked at 28th against the Tight Ends last season. Do you feel the team has made strides to improve on this and how much of an impact could TEs Hernandez and Gronkowski have?

“If the offensive line is the biggest question on offense, the ability to cover the tight ends is the biggest question on defense – especially when you consider the duel threat of Hernandez and Gronkowski. You’re absolutely right: The Dolphins struggled badly in coverage against tight ends. Actually, they struggled covering them two years ago also. The team might be better suited to handle pass coverage because of the addition of inside linebacker Kevin Burnett to replace Channing Crowder, but Miami also needs to get better coverage from Yeremiah Bell at the safety position. To say the team has made “strides” with this area would be going too far. We just don’t know yet. But this will be one hell of a test.”

5) The Dolphins acquired Reggie Bush in Free Agency. The dual threat back adds another dimension to your offense and certainly has that ‘home run’ ability. How do you see them utilising him against the Patriots? They aren’t famed for their pass coverage at the Linebacker position?

“The Dolphins have made it very clear they plan to utilize Reggie Bush as their featured back. They fully intend for him to get more carries than any other running back. But I still have a hard time believing he’ll carry the ball between the tackles upward of 15 times. Instead, if he does indeed get 20 touches out of the backfield, I expect the team to try to get him into space more often than not. Obviously, they’ll also try to utilize his ability to catch passes out of the backfield as well. That’s going to be a big part of his contributions. But by all means, you’ll also see him run the ball on multiple
occasions Monday.”

6) Finally, what are your key match-ups in this game and what to the Dolphins need to do in order to shut down a high powered Patriots offense, freeze their new look defense, and notch a mark in the win column?

“I think you already mentioned two of the biggest matchups: The interior of the offensive line against the Patriots’ defensive front and the Dolphins’ coverage of the tight ends. But as always, the Dolphins need to apply as much pressure to Tom Brady as possible, and much of that pressure is going to need to come from Cameron Wake. I’m sure Wake is going to see more double teams and chips than he has seen at any other point in his short NFL career. How he handles those looks could dictate how much pressure Miami is able to get – and ultimately, how successful Brady will be. If the Dolphins’ defense can live up to expectations, and if the offense can get on a very different track
than the one they ended last season on, I think it’d be crazy to discount Miami’s chances. That said, they still have a lot of questions left to answer. They’ll get their chance Monday.”

You can follow Jeff Darlington on twitter (@JeffDarlington) and keep up to date with his thoughts and opinions.

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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Patriots Release 8; 19 more to go.

The Patriots got their final round of cuts underway this afternoon in order to get down to the 53 playeres as required by tomorrow’s deadline.

The cuts included:

  • WR/DB Buddy Farnham*
  • CB Jonathan Compas*
  • LB Ricky Brown
  • RB Richard Medlin*
  • OL Corey Woods*
  • OL Mike Berry*
  • DL Darryl Richard*
  • TE Carson Butler*

* Players elligable for the practice squad.

The Patriots still need to release 19 more players by tomorrow’s deadline.

Follow me on twitter: @DamoJarrett

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Projecting the Patriots’ Final 53; The Final Cut

Preseason is finally over for the Patriots and it’s no time to start discussing who will make the final 53; who will be the 2011 New England Patriots! It’s been a fun off season which, once the lockout had ended, was full of twists and turns! Shock signings, trade rumors, cuts rumors and predictions of Superbowl success have filled the air since we got back underway but none of that mattered. Now everyone has had a chance to prove their worth to the team and it’s time for the coaches to decide who they want to take through and build on all the preseason excitement surrounding this team!

That means it’s also time for us fans, bloggers and analysts to speculate…and then maybe cry out in despair when we get proven wrong…at who Bill Belichick will be taking through to the regular season. So here it goes!

You can use my previous predictions Predicting the Patriots’ final 53: Version 2.0 as a reference to any changes I may or may not have made!


Quarterback: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett (3)

No change from my previous two predictions and no change to the depth order. There has been talk about Brian Hoyer having potential trade value however, Ryan Mallett is nowhere near ready yet to assume the role of backup! I would rather go with 2 QBs, but it’s in our best interests to go with all three right now.

Running Back: Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Sammy Morris (5)

No change again from either of my previous two projections. Some may object to me taking Sammy Morris through, but he has been getting regular reps on 1st team offense at Fullback which is both telling and  justifiable. Dan Connolly, our starting Right Guard, assumed these roles in Morris’ absence last year and got hurt once in the process. I don’t want to see that again. Good running games need a designated Fullback and Morris is it!

Wide Receiver: Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Taylor Price, Julian Edelman, Mathew Slater (6)

Again no change here. Mathew Slater proved his worth and fought for his spot well against the team in last night’s Preseason finale against the Giants. He got 1st team reps with the offense in Taylor Price’s absence ahead of Brandon Tate, who looked lack-luster on special teams and in the passing game. Slater recorded a big gainer for 64 yards with Tom Brady and made a couple of nice tackles on Special Teams.  I expect Price to assume the 4th receiver role this year and even push for some reps at #3 and steal some from Deion Branch. Despite some bogus media predictions of Chad Ochocinco getting cut, this will not happen.

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Will Yeatman (3)

Will Yeatman wins the 3rd TE battle. He saw reps with the offensive first team unit ahead of fellow rookie Lee Smith who has Practice Squad potential. He will join the two second year Tight Ends, allowing us to implement the 3 TE sets that were so successful last season with the cut Alge Crumpler, whom he replaces.

Offensive Tackle: Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Steve Maneri (Tackle/Guard) (4)

No changes here. Steve Maneri makes it in as the 4th Tackle based on the fact he is versatile and can play Guard on both sides also. He has shown impressive stints so far during Preseason!

Offensive Guard: Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell (Guard/Center) (3)

No changes from my projections last week. Rich Ohrnberger comes out. He and Ryan Wendell are both very similar players and, with Steve Maneri’s ability to play Guard, we can remove Ohrnberger to make way for another player elsewhere. Whilst Ryan Wendell has been hurt, he is showing signs of coming back, and if it was between the two, I would have to take him. If Wendell can’t remain healthy through to Week One of the Regular Season, he could hit IR with Ohrnberger taking his place. Ohrnberger could be a Practice squad candidate if he doesn’t make the team and clears Waivers.

Center: Dan Koppen (1)

No change. Ryan Wendell will back him up.

Total: 25/53


Defensive End: Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis  Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Mark Anderson (5)

After seeing  Shaun Ellis play in yesterday Preseason match, I think it’s safe to say he will be used as a Defensive End in our new system. Ellis had his two best years at 4-3 end when the Jets made the temporary change. He may come inside, but I saw no evidence of that last night. No change to the others.

Defensive Tackle: Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren (6)

Despite some people’s speculation, Albert Haynesworth will easily make this team. He played last night like Ellis and showed us what he can do the very first play, collapsing the pocket and getting in the Quarterbacks face! As said last week, Ron Brace could be cut or go to IR, whilst Gerard Warren holds his spot and Mike Wright gets cut or goes to IR also. We stay with last year’s sack leader.

Linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Dan Fletcher, Rob Ninkovich, Tracy White (6)

No change here. Tracy White makes it in successfully after a solid showing last night on special teams. As I said last week, had Jeff Tarpinian stayed healthy I would have him making the roster over White however he makes the practice squad or hits IR for the season.

Cornerback: Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Kyle Arrington, , Ras-I Dowling, Antwaun Molden (5)

Here’s where I throw my spanner in the works. Bill Belichick always does something that makes us scratch our heads in disbelief and amazement; to be honest, would Darius Butler making way for Antwaun Molden be a big shock? Molden came in and made the most of his opportunities whilst Kyle Arrington was out and Butler has had his time. the Patriots have watched Molden ever since he came out of college and like him. He made some plays last night.  We saw Ras-I Dowling for the first time last night and he did a solid job for us. Jonathan Wilhite is the victim.

Safety: Brandon Merriweather, Patrick Chung, Josh Barrett, Sergio Brown (4)

After James Sanders was cut, Josh Barrett take his place. Barrett saw a lot of reps last night ahead of Merriweather and I believe this was to get a good look at what he could bring to the table against the best opposition possible. It’s widely known the coaching staff like this guy! Sergio Brown has been consistently getting some first team reps throughout Preseason also. These are the four I think we go with. Ross Ventrone to the practice squad!

Total: 25/53


Place Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski

Punter: Zoltan Mesko

Long Snapper: James Dearth

No real explanation needed. James Dearth is the only change after he replaced Matt Katula who was cut earlier this week.

Total 3/53

Sp there it is! My final 53 that I feel we could take through to the season!

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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NFL Films Release; Belichick Mic’d Up!

NFL Films today made a press release, revealing a 2 part documentary documenting the life of 3 time Superbowl winning Head Coach, Bill Belichick. It documents his roles as a Coach and a family men, as well as showing him in a whole new light as a person.  Considering we have little, if absolutely no input, into Bill Belichick’s personal life and thoughts, this is a must see for all Patriots fans. Belichick agreed to be wired up for the entire 2009 regular season becoming the first coach to ever agree to it.

“Bill Belichick doesn’t only make history – he studies it; he understands his place in it; and he appreciates our desire to capture it,” said NFL Films President Steve Sabol. “Like Vince Lombardi’s Packers in 1967, Belichick and the Patriots gave us access to his football life and what we created is a portrait of the coach, the father, the taskmaster – and most importantly – the man.”

The two part series will air on Thursday 15th September at 9pm EST (that’s 2am GMT for my British readers), followed by the second part a week later on Thursday 22nd September, but this time at 10pm EST (3am GMT).

The documentary will track the Patriots’ coach from his off season break in Nantucket, through training camp and all the way to the end of the season, which culminated in a Wildcard defeat to the Baltimore Ravens. There were many highlights to this season; most infamously LateGate, when Randy Moss and others were sent home for arriving late, the fiery relationship between Belichick and Adalius Thomas, on top of the memorable 4th & 2 call against the Colts.

This is a never before seen look into Bill Belichick as a father, a coach and just as a regular every day person as well as a look into how the Patriots’ Way works behind closed doors. The 2009 season marked Belichick’s 35th  consecutive year as a coach int he NFL and the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary as a team. Don’t miss it.

NFL Films Trailer

NFL Films Press Release

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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