By: Russ Goldman
Each week I like to mention different subjects that are on my mind regarding the Pats, and last week gave me plenty to think about.
Last Thursday night we watched the Patriots lose 36-35 to the St. Louis Rams at Gillette Stadium, and this game was difficult to watch as a fan. After taking another look back I have some very strong opinions on what I saw and there are also other issues regarding the team that made me think this week as well.
So below are my “Ten Things I Think About The New England Patriots” for this week.
1. The Loss to the Rams was obviously very disappointing. After watching the Patriots play two very good pre-season games I was expecting more progress to be made. Instead, I saw concerns that I had about this team going into the season.
The defense did not play well at all, and couldn’t rush the passer. They also couldn’t get off the field on third downs, and these two factors I watched them deal with all last season and was hoping not to see a repeat of it again this year.
It is only the pre-season so even for me it is way too early to make a judgement on this defense. They certainly looked sharp in the first two games, but that’s also why the pre-season is a difficult time to make any rash opinions. I am concerned, but I know this young defense is a work in progress. I am just disappointed that I didn’t see another step forward. Unfortunately instead, we saw that the Patriots took a step backwards.
2. Brandon Tate I feel is going to make an impact this season. Tate was definitely a positive to take out of the game Thursday night. He returned a kick-off back for a touchdown, and also had another nice return as well. He also got open, and made some decent catches.
His impact at first appears to be on special teams. He could give this unit a real boost in gaining valuable field position for the Patriots and looks to be a solid return man.
However, I am not ruling him out as a threat at wide receiver. I think he just needs more time to blossom in the passing game. As he gets more experience he could really be an asset as the season goes along on offense. He is a player to keep your eye on.
3. Rob Gronkowski continues to impress at tight end. Aaron Hernandez might not be the only tight end to be a factor this season. Gronkowski is showing the ability to block and catch the ball, and put up quite a performance last week.
Gronkowski is a physical presence on the field at tight end. I think he could be a help at first in the running game with his blocking ability, but I’m looking forward watching what he does this season inside the red zone. He could turn out to be that receiver Brady can count on to catch touchdown passes.
4.The defensive backs are talented, but could really use some help with a pass rush. Even after this loss I am still encouraged by this unit. They are young, and still learning their jobs. Players like Devin McCourty, Darius Butler, and Patrick Chung have shown me the potential to be solid contributors this season. They appear to have the speed and the skill to be effective, and I think they’ll definitely get better.
To make their job easier would be some help from the front seven with a pass rush. The defensive backs then wouldn’t have to cover for such a long period of time. Hopefully we’ll see some improvement there as the season goes on.
5. Tully Banta-Cain needs a partner on the other side to step up. I am still hearing criticism of this player and I just don’t understand it. He’s been a solid pass rusher, and I have seen him being actively involved in the rush defense.
What Banta-Cain and the Patriots really need is for the other outside linebacker be able to do his job. I watched Derrick Burgess last week get exposed in the running game, and also wasn’t able to rush the passer. His job could be vital to the Patriots defense this season, and I’m hopeful we see an improvement from him. As for Banta-Cain, I think he’s doing his job. He just needs Burgess or someone else to step up on the other side of the defense.
6. Zoltan Mesko did not have a good game punting against the St. Louis Rams. The punting has been an issue for several seasons with the Patriots. We know the potential is there after watching him drop one of them inside the five yard line, but he was inconsistent. He has the potential to be a good punter and just needs to keep working and getting better.
7. Tom Brady looks sharp and ready to go for the opening game of the season. Against St. Louis, Brady was 18 – 22 for 273 yards, with three touchdown passes. He looked just like the old Tom Brady I have seen lead the Patriots to three Super Bowl Championships. I wouldn’t be shocked if this season he ends up being the MVP of the NFL.
8. The Patriots know what they have in Laurence Maroney. I already wrote about this, but I think it is important to discuss once again. I’ve been watching the television shows, and listening on the radio bringing up the question of Maroney’s future with the Pats.
I think Maroney will still be on this team when the season begins. I also think he will have a postive impact on the Patriots this season. He knows this is the last year of his contract so he needs to have a good year. That usually brings out the best in the majority of players and I have no reason to believe Maroney will be any different.
9. Bill Polian and the Colts need to stop complaining in the media about the rule changes. This subject indirectly effects the Patriots. The umpire starting this season is now behind the quarterback instead of being behind the linebackers on defense.
This change does effect how quickly you can hike the ball. A quarterback has to wait until the umpire is behind the running back. If he hikes the ball before the umpire is set, it is a penalty.
Bill Polian has already spoken out about this rule change – which he voted for. But let’s face it, the positioning of the umpire effects all the teams – not just Indianapolis. Needless to say I am sick and tired of this general manager complaining in public about the rules.
If Polian has a problem with it, talk to the League. Why does the public have to know about every issue Polian has with the NFL? I am sick and tired of hearing about his complaints.
10. The last pre-season game is a complete waste of time. I don’t think you will see the starters playing much this Thursday against the Giants. I would be in favor of eliminating this game to give the teams one extra week to prepare for the opening game. I think the coaches probably know at this point who is making the team.
Well, I certainly had a good amount on my mind and would love to hear your feedback. I am sure I will have plenty to write about next week, so be sure to look for next week’s edition as well.