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RUMOR MILL

Archive for August, 2011

No Need To Panic Regarding The Patriots Offensive Line

After watching Tom Brady being harassed the majority of the first half against the Detroit Lions, I can understand why fans, and media members would be concerned about the Patriots offensive line. However, the Patriots have consistently had a good offensive line over Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach. I have confidence that this year’s line can get the job done and protect Brady, and I don’t think there is a need to panic regarding the Patriots offensive line.


It was guys like Stephen Neal that have made New England’s offensive line so effective. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

Over the past decade, the Patriots offensive line has been solid. Some seasons have been a little better than others, but this unit overall has been consistent and there are a few reasons why.

First, the Patriots have had top draft picks as integral parts of this unit. In the beginning of the last decade you had center Damien Woody who was a 1st round draft pick and taken 17th overall in 1999. In 2001, offensive tackle, Matt Light was drafted in the second round. In 2005, offensive guard Logan Mankins was drafted in the first round.

To be a successful line I do think you need some highly talented lineman to anchor this unit. The Patriots definitely have had that leadership.

Another reason for the offensive line success has been the Patriots ability to find diamonds in the rough, with lower draft picks and un-drafted players to fill out the rest of the line. The Patriots were fortunate to get Dan Koppen in the 5th round in 2003, and who is still your starting center. They have also had over the years un-drafted players like Stephen Neal and Joe Andruzzi make considerable contributions to the line.

The last reason has to be offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. It is pretty well known that he has “coached up” many of the lineman that might not have elite ability, and made them more than functional. So, the fact that Scarnecchia is still coaching the line gives me confidence that he will have this line ready to go for the opening game against the Dolphins.

Now, just to demonstrate the mix of the offensive line over the years, I am going to list the offensive line starting lineups in the 3 Super Bowl Championship seasons. You will notice a pattern with all 3 teams. Each unit had a mix of high draft picks and diamonds in the rough.

2001 – Matt Light, Mike Compton Damien Woody, Joe Andruzzi, and Greg Robinson-Randall

2003 - Matt Light, Russ Hochstein, Dan Koppen, Joe Andruzzi,  and Tom Ashworth

2004 – Matt Light, Joe Andruzzi, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, and Brandon Gorin.

So this season the Patriots have a similar mix to their offensive line going into the season. You have Koppen who is a fifth round draft pick and Dan Connolly who is an un-drafted player. To balance it off you have Light, Mankins, Solder and Vollmer who were all drafted within the first 2 rounds.

The common denominator with all of these offensive lines is Scarnecchia. He has proven to be able to work with these lineman, and get them to effectively protect Brady year after year.

Now, if you want to focus on 2007 in the Super Bowl against the Giants and the pre-season game against the Lions, you can go ahead. You can pick out the few bad games, but over the course of the last 10 years the offensive line as a whole has been solid and consistent.

I have no reason to doubt that the line will be able to do its job this season. If history is any indication, I think by the time the season gets here, they’ll be just fine.

The Tony Massarotti Wager For Charity

Last season I made a wager for charity with Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub, and the Boston Globe. The wager involved the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. We picked which team we believed would have a better regular season record. Guess which team I took in this situation?

After the regular season was over, I was officially the winner of this wager for charity. My favorite charity is the Alzheimer’s Association, so I told Tony to please make his donation to this organization. Mr. Massarotti was nice enough to not only make the donation, but he ended up doubling the amount.

We might disagree often with his opinions on the Patriots, but Tony is a class act as he followed through on our wager. So, yesterday we both decided that we would make the wager once again for this season.

I actually believe the records between the Patriots and the Jets will be very close this season. As the “border war” continues between these AFC East rivals, I am glad that I have a wager where something good can come out of this rivalry that benefits a charitable organization.

What We Learned From Watching The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Lions

My last article I listed my¬†‚ÄúFive Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Lions‚ÄĚ. The next day I like to go back and look at those reasons and find out what we learned about watching the game.

Before I do that, I want mention that this was a very bad performance by the New England Patriots. They were dominated on both sides of the ball in their 34-10 loss to the Lions. The Lions looked like they were playing in a regular season game, and the Patriots played like it was a practice. There isn’t much positive to take away from this game.

On offense, Tom Brady was not sharp at all, and did have his share of bad throws. He was 12-22 for 145 yards, with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The running game was very pedestrian as well. The running backs ran for a grand total of 61 yards. The offensive line play was terrible. There is no easy way to describe it. Overall, it was shocking to watch how this unit played.

However, you have to give credit to the Lions defense, as they were aggressive, and put a tremendous amount of pressure on Brady. Whether it was running or passing, the Patriots offense could not handle this defense.

On defense, Matthew Stafford completely carved up the Patriots secondary. Stafford played like an elite quarterback ,and could do anything he wanted against the Patriots. He was 12-14 for 200 yards with 2 touchdowns.

The Lions offensive line completely handled the Patriots defense as they were not able to get much pressure on Stafford. At times they were decent against the run. In passing situations, the defensive backs had a hard time Lions receivers . Overall this was just a very poor performance.

Now, there were many positives to take out of last week’s pre-season game against the Buccaneers. I am hard pressed to think of one in this game.

While watching the game I was really focused on the players and positions I had mentioned in my prior post. As I do always I go back and compare what ultimately happened in these areas after the game is over.

Below is my analysis of my¬†‚ÄúFive Reasons To Watch the Patriots Pre- Season Game Against the Lions‚ÄĚ.


Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense struggled last night out in Detroit. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

1. Will we continue to see an attacking style of defense? Well, their intent was to get after the quarterback, and be aggressive. Unfortunately, they could not really get much pressure on Stafford. Mayo did blitz, and got to the quarterback once, but beyond that effort, the pressure was pretty weak.

The Patriots defense though was trying to be aggressive, and was actually caught in a screen to start the first drive for the Lions.  If that is anything to take away from this game is that I still see the potential from the defense to attack.

2. What can Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis add to the Patriots defense. These 2 players did not play in this game. I have to say it was disappointing not seeing these defensive lineman last night. I want to see what they can bring to the table.

3. How will the offensive line handle the defensive line of the Lions? The offensive line was completely manhandled by the Lions. Brady was under constant pressure the majority of the first half. Brady was hit repeatedly, including a sack in this game. This unit was led by Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, and Corey Williams – who made life miserable for Brady.

4. Will we see progress between Tom Brady and Chad Ochocinco? This combination is still not on the same page, and it is painfully obvious, it is going to take more time for them to get up to speed.  Ochocinco did not have a catch in this game. He is a player that I am going to have to watch to see if there is any kind of improvement.

5. Can Taylor Price continue to show promise in his play? Price did not have a catch in this game. He actually dropped a pass from Brady that he should have caught. Hopefully Price will show more in the next game than he did against the Lions.

In concluding, this was just a bad game overall by the Patriots. However, I will remind everyone that the Patriots played poorly in their 3rd pre-season game last season against the Rams. The Patriots still went 14-2 so there is no reason to panic.

Sometimes you need a wakeup call to move forward in your progress. Well, the Patriots certainly got that last night against the Lions. Hopefully we’ll see a different effort on Thursday against the Giants at Gillette Stadium.

Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Lions

Saturday night, the New England Patriots are on the road to face the Detroit Lions at Ford Field at 8:00 PM EST, in their third pre-season game of the season.

More starters on both sides of the ball did play in last week’s exhibition game against Tampa Bay, and I have a feeling you will see even more potential starters against Detroit as the third pre-season contest is generally looked at as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the opening game. As always, there are plenty of reasons to watch.

In last week’s game against the Buccaneers, the Patriots put on a dominant performance against their opponent on the road. The Patriots dismantled the Bucs 31-14 at Raymond James Stadium, and will be trying to build on that showing out in Motown against Matthew Strafford and the Lions.

As we head into tonight’s game, it should be interesting to see if the Patriots can continue to improve on offense and defense. Will this game be a strong indication that the Patriots are ready to start the season?

Once again, there should be plenty of reasons to tune in. On offense, will the wide receivers be on the same page with Tom Brady? On defense, will this unit once again be able to put pressure on the quarterback?¬†With all that said,¬†Here are my¬†‚ÄúFive Reasons To Watch The Patriots¬†Pre-Season Game Against The Lions.‚ÄĚ


Tonight’s game is considered to be the ‘dress rehearsal’ for Tom Brady and the Patriots. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

1. Will we continue to see an attacking style of defense? Whether it is 4-3 or 3-4, I will be looking to see if this unit is still shooting the gaps, and just going after the quarterback. After so many years of watching the read and react defense of the Patriots, I want to continue to see the aggressive style they have showed in camp, and in the previous pre-season games.

The two things that have excited me about the potential of this unit has to be the pressure on the quarterback, and the negative plays they are forcing. I will be watching to see how often the Patriots defense is in the Lions backfield.

2. What can Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis add to the Patriots defense. I expect both players to be in action against the Lions. The defense looked great last week. However, you have two impact players that you could be adding to this unit.

I want to see if Haynesworth and Ellis can push the pocket back in both running and passing downs. Could the defense be even better with these players? We might finally get an indication tonight against the Lions.

3. How will the offensive line handle the defensive line of the Lions? Ndamukong Suh is an intimidating lineman that can put pressure on the quarterback. Suh had 10 sacks last season, and is a game changer.

I want to see how the line will hold up against this quality pass rusher, and his teammates. Dan Koppen could have his hands full with Suh, and you could see rookie Nate Solder tested as well. I think we will get a strong indication if the line is ready for the opening game after playing the Lions.

4. Will we see progress between Tom Brady and Chad Ochocinco? There is no question that this relationship is a work in progress. Last game, Ochocinco had 2 receptions against the Bucs, although he did have a touchdown grab. I am hoping we see these two players more on the same page against the Lions.

Ochocinco did not look natural running his routes in the last game. It is going to take time, but I am hoping we see improvement.

5. Can Taylor Price continue to show promise in his play? Price looked great in the first pre-season game with 5 receptions for 105 yards, and 1 touchdown. However, he was out of action in the second game after taking a tough helmet-to-helmet shot. I will be be curious to see if he will get a chance to play with Brady.

He has an opportunity to really take that 4th wide receiver position. He will certainly be a huge focus of mine against the Lions.

As always there are going to be other reasons to check out this game. You could certainly focus on Jame Sanders as he could get his first action this season at safety against the Lions. You could also watch rookie Shane Vereen as he could be playing for the first time in a game at running back.

I don’t think fans are going to have a shortage of reasons to watch the Patriots in pre-season this year. Getting ready for the new season continues this Saturday night against the Lions.

High Expectations Have Affected The View Of Brandon Meriweather

Brandon Meriweather has been with the New England Patriots since the 2007 season. However, fans are now speculating if he will even be with the team in 2011.

Meriweather has been a lightning rod since he arrived from University of Miami, and I think part of the reason could be he is a first round draft pick, and also since he is a strong safety, a replacement for Rodney Harrison. After listening to a lot of the discussion surrounding him, I’m convinced that high expectations have affected the view of the Patriots safety.

Speculation of his future with the team has begun since it was reported by Mike Reiss last week that his reps in practice were reduced with the first team and shared with Sergio Brown. Also, the Patriots brought in safeties Darren Sharper and Renaldo Hill for visits.


Expectations have been so high since Meriweather got here, and he hasn’t lived up to them. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

I am not going to say that Meriweather is one of the top safeties in the game, because that is not true. However, the perception that he could be a bust, and a below average player, I just don’t buy that either.He is an average safety that has unfortunately been inconsistent over the course of his career. At times he has shined with solid play, but he’s had other moments where he has also taken bad angles, and has made mistakes that have really cost the team.

The high expectations that are put on him, I feel have affected the media, and the fan’s view of this player. I do believe if he was drafted in the 3rd round, and wasn’t replacing Rodney Harrison, there wouldn’t be as much negative talk about this player. It has been heightened by the burden of that first round draft pick, and trying to fill the shoes of a guy who will always be remembered as one of the best players to play the position here in New England.

Meriweather’s statistics are again just average. Over 4 seasons, he has 12 interceptions, and 261 tackles. He has also been active for every game since coming to the Patriots.

I am aware of his mistakes like the cheap hit on Todd Heap, and the bad angle he took against the Ravens in the play-off game a few seasons ago. However, I have also watched him over the years, make solid plays as well. I just don’t view him as this terrible player that some portray him to be.

Now, it is quite possible that the Patriots have been looking to replace Meriweather on the roster. Since he is entering his 5th season with the team, I have a feeling they obviously know what he is as a player.

If the coaching staff, and the team decide to move on from him, that doesn’t bother me. They certainly know much more about his abilities than I do.

But, I have watched enough football in my time to know a bust when I see it, and to me, Meriweather doesn’t fit that category. To throw a few names out there as players that I feel have failed with the Patriots, those would be guys like Ray Agnew, Chris Canty, Bethel Johnson, and Chad Jackson. Comparing him against those guys, I’d have to say that Meriweather is not part of that fraternity of Patriots busts.

So Meriweather’s status with the New England Patriots is very much up in the air right now. He could very well end up just like Laurence Maroney last season, and be traded. Also, he could be back with the Patriots for another season.

Regardless of what happens with Meriweather this year, I am hoping fans and media will put his Patriots career in perspective, because I think we all have been affected by who we thought he would become as a player. He may not be as good as we had hoped, but I think most people would agree – he’s not that bad either.

What We Learned From Watching The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Buccaneers


Tom Brady and the starting offense saw their first game action of the 2011 Exhibition Season, and completely dominated during Thursday night’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to improve the Patriots to 2-0 this preseason. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

 


My last article article I listed my ‚ÄúFive Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Buccaneers‚ÄĚ. The next day I like to go back and look at those reasons and find out what we learned about watching the game.

Before I do that, I want mention that this was another positive step forward for the Patriots. The final score of the game was a 31-14 win, but the score does not indicate how much better they performed than their opposition.

The Patriots were up 28-0 at the half, and honestly it could have been worse for Tampa Bay. New England’s first team players manhandled the Bucs starters the entire first half, and it was on both sides of the ball.

On offense, we got to see the starters play, and that included Tom Brady. Brady led the offense to three touchdowns on their first three drives, which were all in the first quarter. Brady moved them effortlessly down the field, and ended the day with 2 touchdowns, finishing 11-for-19 for 118 yards.

The Patriots offense last night was completely balanced as the running backs really shined as well. Danny Woodhead ran for 63 yards, and Benjarvus Green-Ellis chipped in with 51 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Bucs defense in the first half had no answers for the Patriots offense.

On defense, we got to see many players that will be starting this season. This unit was tremendous in the first half, and their aggressive style of play had huge dividends. The Patriots did play a 4-3 last night, but this defense was getting up the field, and putting pressure on Bucs starting quarterback Josh Freeman.

On the first 6 drives that the Bucs had the ball, they were forced to punt. The first two drives, they were three and out. The Bucs could not run, and they certainly could not pass. There seemed to be a Patriots defender in the face of the running backs, and the quarterback at all times in the first half.

The Patriots defense completely dominated their opponent. The scary thing is that this defense was without Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Brandon Spikes, and Jermaine Cunnigham, and this unit could actually get even better when those players return.

It might just be a pre-season game, but there are many positives to take out of it. Hopefully we will see continued improvement in their next game against the Lions.

While watching the game I was really focused on the players and positions I had mentioned in my prior post. As I do always I go back and compare what ultimately happened in these areas after the game is over.

Below is my analysis of my ‚ÄúFive Reasons To Watch the Patriots Pre- Season Game Against the Buccaneers”.

1.Will there be chemistry right away between Chad Ochocinco and Tom Brady? There is no question that the partnership between these players is a work in progress. Ochocinco dropped a couple of passes, but he did have 2 receptions, and caught a touchdown pass from Brady. Last night, the timing wasn’t quite there yet, but in time you could see this partnership really develop.

2.Will Andre Carter and Mark Anderson be able to get after the quarterback? The answer to that question last night was a huge “yes”. Anderson did flash at times in the game, and did have 3 tackles.

However, it was the play of Carter that stood out for me. He did not have any sacks or tackles, but he was constantly harassing the opposing quarterback. Bucs offensive tackle, Donald Penn stuggled tremendously, and was beat often by Carter. Carter has a strong motor, and he was seen constantly in the Bucs backfield. He might be the steal of free agency.

3. How will Brandon Meriweather play at safety? It was hard at times to focus on Meriweather, because the pass rush was so dominating, it probably made his job much easier last night. He did have 3 tackles, but again I did not see much of him. However, he is a player that will still need to be monitored in the upcoming pre-season games.

4. How will Jerod Mayo play in this new look Patriots defense? I thought Mayo was tremendous in this new 4-3 defense at outside linebacker. He was constantly around the ball as he was shooting the gap.

He had 5 tackles, and 2 sacks in the game. However, those statistics don’t really indicate just how dominant he was last night. If the Bucs game was any indication of how Mayo will play this season, he could be a huge playmaker for the Patriots defense this year.

5. Will Ryan Mallett continue to progress in his development as a quarterback? Unfortunately, Mallett took a step backwards in this game. He struggled at times, and threw a floating pass that was intercepted, and taken back for a touchdown.

Mallett was 9-of-14 for 71 yards, and had a passer rating of 47.0. He just wasn’t sharp, and that is to be expected from a young quarterback. Hopefully he will learn from this experience, and in the next pre-season game show progress.

In concluding, this was a very positive second pre-season game for the Patriots. If we continue to see progress in their third pre-season game, it could be a great sign that the Patriots could be very close to being ready for their opener against Miami. The Patriots will next be in action on Saturday August 27th against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Buccaneers

Tonight, the New England Patriots are on the road to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium at 7:30 PM EST, in their second pre-season game of the season.

Bill Belichick did not play many starters in their first pre-season game. Will we see more familiar faces against Tampa Bay? There are certainly plenty of reasons to watch this game.

In their first pre-season game, the Patriots definitely knocked some rust off of their game. It wasn’t pretty at times, but it certainly was a dominant performance as the Patriots beat the Jaguars 47-12 last Thursday at Gillette Stadium.

However, many Patriots starters did not play including Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. I have a feeling many of these players will play some kind of role in this next game.

There shouldn’t be a shortage of reasons to tune in. I know I want to see further development of the defense. Secondly, if Brady does play, it will be interesting to see where the offense stands, as we continue to build up for the opening game on the road against Miami. Also, many players are continuing to battle for positions on the team. With all that said,¬†Here are my¬†‚ÄúFive Reasons To Watch The Patriots¬†Pre-Season Game Against The Buccaneers.‚ÄĚ


It should be interesting to see Brady and the offense for the first time tonight against the Bucs. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

1.Will there be chemistry right away between Chad Ochocinco and Tom Brady? If these players are starting the game, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Brady get Ochocinco involved in the game right away. I am curious to see what type of routes Ochocinco runs, and to see is he already has a connection with Brady.

As we have found out, not all wide receivers can pick up this timing offense. I don’t think Ochocinco will go down the path of Donald Hayes or Joey Galloway. However, I would like to see Thursday if Brady and Ochocinco are on the same page. This might be a very important reason to watch.

2. Will Andre Carter and Mark Anderson be able to get after the quarterback? The defensive ends in the Patriots defense could have a vital role this season, and that is putting pressure on the quarterback. Anderson definitely showed a burst of speed last week against the Jaguars. I will be curious to see how he gets after the quarterback this week.

Reportedly, Carter has been very impressive in training camp. He has 66 career sacks. Two seasons ago he had 11.5 sacks for the Redskins. Last season he only had 2.5 sacks as the Redskins changed from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. I will be watching to see if Carter still has the ability to fly off the edge, and get after the quarterback in the Patriots 4-3 defense.

3. How will Brandon Meriweather play at safety? Reportedly, during one of the practices this week, he was splitting snaps at safety with Sergio Brown.

Meriweather could be on the hot seat, and it will be interesting to watch how he responds Thursday night, after an interesting week of practice. Meriweather has been an average safety for the Patriots, and unfortunately has been inconsistent. Will he rise to the occasion against the Bucs? Well, I will be watching for the former University of Miami player Thursday night.

4. How will Jerod Mayo play in this new look Patriots defense? If the Patriots do move to play more 4-3 this season, where will Mayo line up? Reportedly, he has been playing weak side linebacker in this alignment.

It will be fascinating to see if he becomes even a more active linebacker at this position in this defense. Will he be getting after the quarterback more? The role of Mayo this season intrigues me, and hopefully we will get a taste of what to expect.

5. Will Ryan Mallett continue to progress in his development as a quarterback? Mallett was quite impressive in his first game under center with the Patriots. He threw for 164 yards, and completed 12 out of 19 passes. He also threw one touchdown pass.

However, it was his command of the offense, and how comfortable he looked in the pocket that really stood out. I will be watching to see if he can build on that performance. Reportedly, he was taking snaps in practice during one of the practices right after Brady. Could he possibly be moving up the depth chart? With the Patriots you just never know, but he will be a reason to watch against the Bucs.

As always there are going to be other reasons to check out this game. You could certainly focus on Stevan Ridley, to see if he continues to develop at running back. You could also watch Dane Fletcher to see if he has another impact performance at linebacker.

I don’t think fans are going to have a shortage of reasons to watch the Patriots in pre-season this year. Getting ready for the new season continues this Thursday night against the Buccaneers.

Why Would The Patriots Cut Chad Ochocinco Or Albert Haynesworth?

Yesterday, there was talk generated by an article by Dan Pompei in the National Football Post regarding Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth. Pompei suggested that both might not be with the Patriots for the long term. His take is based on comments from an NFL executive. After reading that article, I have to wonder why in the world would the Patriots cut Ochocinco or Haynesworth?

Dan Pompei is a first rate NFL writer, and do not doubt his knowledge or sources at all. Before I comment, I wanted to share the excerpt from his article.

Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth might not be long for New England. One day before this story came out by my guy Mike Reiss, one NFL executive familiar with the Patriots ways told me he believes one or both of the big name acquisitions will be cut before the season starts. The front office man thinks coach Bill Belichick will use the controversial players to help control and send a message to his locker room.

Now, it is obvious that this NFL executive Mr. Pompei talked to is not with the Patriots. This is strictly an opinion that this front office man is putting out there. It is not based on any knowledge of what the Patriots are planning to do on their roster this season.

The NFL executive in this story is certainly entitled to their opinion. Well I have mine on this subject as well.

The Patriots don’t bring in players to just send a message to the team. They only acquire players that they believe will make them a better team. I honestly think that part of the commentary is ridiculous.

Now, let’s get to the main reason why I don’t think the Patriots will cut either player. Both players fill possible “needs” the team has on their roster. Many fans, and obviously the Patriots coaching staff themselves, think they need another quality wide receiver. If Ochocinco can learn the playbook, and get in tune with Tom Brady, you have just upgraded your offense.

Even on a very bad Bengals team, Ochocinco had 67 receptions for 831 yards last season. He could still be a very reliable option for Brady, and might also have the speed to stretch the field.

With the Patriots obviously changing their defense, why not bring in a player that in the past has been a game changer on that side of the ball? If the Patriots are going to play more 4-3 this season, and are going to be aggressive, than Haynseworth might be a serious upgrade on the defense.


Fans should expect Albert Haynesworth to make some serious contributions for the Patriots this season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

At one point Haynesworth was considered to be one of the best defensive linemen in the game. If you partner him with Vince Wilfork in the middle of your defensive line, you could potentially have a disrupting force now on your defense. Who is going to be able to run on the Patriots against those two players? Also, imagine in passing downs trying to contain Haynesworth. He could put serious pressure up the middle on the quarterback.

I also know that some fans and media are concerned with the fact that he has not practiced much since the beginning of training camp. However, it is possible the Patriots are just being cautious with Haynesworth. He could also have an injury that he is working through to get him back on the field. I will remind fans and media alike that Randy Moss did not play a down in the pre-season in 2007. How did that work out for the Patriots?

Now, I have heard the arguments of why these players could be cut. Those reasons are there could be a problem in the locker room, or they just can’t play anymore. The first one has some validity, however both players are probably looking to ignite their careers again, so it is in their best interest to be on their best behavior. In my opinion, if they can’t play that would be the main reason they could be cut.

With both players, I see the possible rewards far outweighing the negatives they each bring, and I expect both to be on the 53 man roster. I also wouldn’t be surprised if both end up making significant contributions to the 2011 Patriots.

What We Learned From Watching The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Jaguars

My last article article I listed my¬†‚ÄúFive Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Jaguars‚ÄĚ. The next day I like to go back and look at those reasons and find out what we learned about watching the game.

Before I do that I want mention that this was a pretty positive effort from the Patriots overall. The final score of the game was a 47-12 Patriots win, but the score is obviously pretty irrelevant in the pre-season. To me it’s still a great chance to evaluate players, and watch for the development in all 3 phases of the game.


Brady sat out last night’s game, which gave us a chance to get a look at some new faces. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

With Coach Belichick sitting many starters in this game, it gave a great opportunity to really focus on young and new players. On offense, you did not see Tom Brady play, along with many players from the starting unit. On defense, Vince Wilfork and many of the starters did not get into the game. Believe it or not, I still found the game fairly entertaining.

On offense, this Patriots unit was sloppy at the outset, and that is to be expected. However, Brian Hoyer was very sharp, and really showed he belonged to be Brady’s backup. He looked very comfortable in the pocket while playing with mostly backups on the offensive line. Hoyer threw for 1 touchdown, finishing 15-of-21 for 171 yard and was in complete control of the offense.

On defense, the front seven were pretty effective the majority of the game. The first drive, they weren’t that sharp, but as the game progressed they really settled in. The defensive line, and the linebackers also showed the ability to get after the quarterback, which was certainly nice to see. The problem in this game was the secondary. Darius Butler continued to struggle in this game, and Patrick Chung dropped a ball that he should have intercepted. Overall the defensive backs played poorly, which overshadowed a nice performance by the linebackers and the defensive line.

The special teams was certainly a mixed bag. Stephen Gostkowski converted on two field goals. However, on one extra point their was a botched attempt, when the ball sailed over Zoltan Mesko’s hands. On kickoff coverage, on a few attempts the Patriots were solid. However, on one return they got burned badly as Deji Karim had an 84 yard return. This unit was definitely inconsistent.

Overall, I think there were many positives to take away from this game. In the next game I hope to see more of the starters, and continued progress from the backups.

While watching the game I was really focused on¬†the¬†players and positions I had mentioned in my¬†prior post. As I do always I go back and see what I¬†have learned in these areas by watching the game.¬†¬†Below is my analysis of my¬†‚ÄúFive Reasons To Watch the Patriots Pre- Season Game Against the Jaguars.‚ÄĚ

1. How will Patriots Defense be aligned Thursday Night? Well, last night the defense played for the most part in a 4-3 alignment, although the majority of the players were backups. However, what I noticed was a defensive line that was aggressive, and trying to get up the field. I thought Darryl Richard had a nice game at defensive tackle with a sack and 2 tackles. Landon Cohen was another player who seemed to do a solid job at that position.

However, the standout of the defense had to be Dane Fletcher who seemed to be all over the field from his middle linebacker position. He was seen often shooting the gap, and stopping the Jaguars running game on many plays. Fletcher also had 4 tackles, and was a real force.

Overall, the defense seemed to be pretty aggressive, and intent on getting after the quarterback. We might have seen a glimpse of a change in the Patriots defense from what we have become accustomed to.

2. I want to see What Steven Ridley can bring to the table for the running backs. Ridley was definitely a huge positive in this game. He gained only 64 yards on 16 carries, but finished with 111 all purpose yards (he also had 47 yards receiving) and ran very hard with serious purpose. He also ran for 2 touchdowns, and had one touchdown reception. At times he didn’t have much room to run, and it showed early in the game. However, it will be interesting to see how he runs when he has the first team offensive line in front of him. This game was a definite positive first step for the rookie.

3. How will Nate Solder adapt quickly on the offensive line? Solder I thought did a very nice job in his first game. He did open a few holes for Ridley, and kept the quarterbacks clean in the passing game. He is young, and it will take time for him to develop. However, this was another young player who took a solid first step last night.

4. The battle for the 4th wide receiver begins. Well, if this battle was a professional boxing fight, it would have been over in the first couple of rounds. Taylor Price took a giant step forward in this game. He was very impressive, finishing with 5 catches for 105 yards, and 1 touchdown. He also made a spectacular effort on his touchdown reception, adjusting his body while making the catch and keeping his feet inbounds on the play. He also showed the ability to run after the catch, and really looked solid.

On the flip side, Julian Edelman did not look sharp. He dropped a ball early in the game that a pro wide receiver really needs to make. He ended the game with only one catch for 4 yards.

Brandon Tate did not play in this game, and the bad news for him may be that Price now has the early advantage in the battle for the fourth receiver.

5. Will Ryan Mallett show us a glimpse of the future? I thought Mallett was very good last night. He really surprised me in how comfortable he looked in the pocket. Mallett threw for 164 yards, and completed 12 out of 19 passes. He also threw one touchdown pass.

What impressed me most was his command of the offense in such a short period of time. For the most part his decision making was pretty good. He was also right on target with many of his passes, and also displayed a rocket of an arm.

One pre-season game may not make Mallett the future starting quarterback of the New England Patriots in years to come. However, it will be interesting to see if he can build on this performance in future games this pre-season.

In concluding this was a very good first step for the 2011 New England Patriots. As stated earlier, I hope we see most of the starters in the next game when the Patriots take the field next Thursday August 18th against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots Pre-Season Game Against The Jaguars

This Thursday night, the New England Patriots will be playing the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium at 7:30 PM EST, in their first pre-season game of the season. Football is back, and fans certainly have many reasons to watch.

There is no question that the Patriots will be rusty in all phases of the game. Without the proper off-season that is to be expected. However, it will be interesting to see, and judge how far along the Patriots are in there preparation for their opening game against the Miami Dolphins.

In this game, I think there really is a great deal to watch for. I won’t be just watching players, but I’ll also be looking at the defense, and watching if I notice serious changes on that side of the ball. There are also some real good positional battles that are likely to begin in this game. Here are my ¬†“Five Reasons To Watch The Patriots¬†Pre-Season Game Against The Jaguars.‚ÄĚ

1. How will Patriots Defense be aligned Thursday Night? The question so far in training camp has been are the Patriots changing from a 3-4 to a 4-3? Well, we will get our first look in this game to see which defensive alignments they are in, along with some of the personnel groups. The majority of training camp they have been in a 4-3 set, but it wouldn’t shock me to see Coach Belichick come out in a 3-4. Also, I want to see if they are playing the “read and react style of defense”, or will they be “shooting the gaps”, and just going up field? Will they be conservative or aggressive on defense? ¬† Obviously this is an exhibition game so we’re probably not going to see anything to get too crazy about, but I’ll still be focused on the front seven of the defense Thursday night.

2. I want to see What Steven Ridley can bring to the table for the running backs. Reportedly, Ridley has gotten a good amount of reps in training camp. He is a power back, and I am very curious to see what he can offer to the Patriots offense. He is a third round draft pick out of LSU. Could he contend with Benjarvus Green-Ellis to become the starting running back? I think we will get an idea where he stands on Thursday. This is a player to seriously keep an eye on in this game.

3. How will Nate Solder adapt quickly on the offensive line? The Patriots playbook is complicated, and I will be curious to see how far Solder has come in a short period of time. He is a first round draft pick from Colorado and plays tackle. It might be asking too much for him to contend for a starting position, but we might get a glimpse of the future with his play in this game. Hopefully he can learn from Matt Light and someday be his successor. His play in this game is a definitely on my radar.


The battle for the 4th wide receiver spot should be interesting to watch tonight. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

4. The battle for the 4th wide receiver begins. With Brandon Tate being out of practice for a bit, Julian Edelman and Taylor Price have a chance to get a leg up in this competition. Edelman in his time has flashed, and especially in the pre-season. I want to see if we see continued progress from this player.

Price reportedly has looked very good lately in practice. However, this will be his first chance to show it against another team this season. The opportunity for Price to take a leap forward is there for him. I will be watching to see if he jumps.

5. Will Ryan Mallett show us a glimpse of the future? The rookie quarterback is a third round draft pick from Arkansas, and is expected to get some reps tonight. Some scouts had him going in the first round. He certainly has the arm for the position, but his attitude has been questioned. Also, does he have the quick decision making ability we expect here from our quarterbacks?

Watching him will be fascinating to see what kind of talent he can display. I watched him a great deal in college and while he does have some ability, I wonder if he have the mentality to be a pro quarterback? We will get our first look at Mallett in action Thursday night.

I know there are many other reasons to watch this game as well. There will be many fans that will be interested in seeing how Chad Johnson  looks and performs in a Patriots uniform. How about Tom Brady, and does he look rusty or sharp? How will the new defensive lineman like Andre Carter and Mark Anderson play?

Whatever reason you have as fan to watch, this should be a fascinating pre-season game. It all begins Thursday night against the Jaguars.