By: Russ Goldman
After a successful opener for the Patriots, the Patriots are now getting set for a showdown against the Chargers this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
There’s certainly plenty to talk about, so here are some thoughts for this week ranging from comments on some of the players performances in Miami, along with my concerns going into the Chargers game.
1. Winning in Miami is always difficult, and should never be taken for granted. Before the opener I was reading some over-confidence from the local media, and fans regarding this recent match-up. The Patriots historically have had a tough time playing in Miami.
Even in 2007, I was still concerned about Miami, and I have history to thank me for that. However, in this game there were valid reasons for concern. The Dolphins brought back a top 10 defense, and you had the unknown with a new offensive coordinator in Miami.
However, the Patriots took it to the Dolphins, and very early on I could see their dominance in this game. But, in the future, an opponent in the division will always have me on alert. These teams in the AFC East always know eachother so well, so Miami on the road should never be chalked up as an automatic win.
2. Ras-I Dowling I thought had a nice debut at cornerback for the Patriots. He is a taller cornerback than I am used to seeing from the Patriots, and it is a refreshing change. He looks like he could have the ability to be phyiscal with your more athletic wide receivers.
He had 2 tackles but his game will be measured in coverage, and I thought he held his own. It was a good beginning for the young corner out of the University of Virginia.
3. Kyle Love and Myron Pryor could be larger contributors on the defensive line this season than first thought. The fact that the Patriots have so many defensive lineman will allow this unit to stay fresh.
However, I am starting to believe that Pryor and Love could offer more than just a breather to his fellow lineman. Myron Pryor had 2 tackles, 1 assisted and a half a sack against Miami. However, it was his explosion on a few occassions that gave me hope that he could become a factor on this line. Love has played solid in camp, and didn’t look out of place at all against the Dolphins. The defensive tackles could be a real strength of this defense if these 2 players continue to improve.
4. Chad Ochocinco is a luxury right now at wide receiver. The Patriots offense looks like it is already in mid-season form. I am not concerned about Johnson because as of now he is not a distraction.
He looks eager to become part of the offense, and is still trying to pick it up. I do think playing the no-huddle affected the amount of snaps Johnson saw against Miami.
I expect him to pick up the offense at some point, because he obviously really wants to be a part of that unit. I think it will only take some time, and it will be a bonus to the Patriots offense. Needless to say I don’t see a negative this season moving forward with him.
5. The Patriots pass rush was not as bad as has been portrayed against the Dolphins. I have listened to the talk shows, and heard the comments by some media about the poor pass rush against Miami. I disagree with this assessment regarding the Patriots defense.
They did have 4 sacks, and I did see often the Patriots making Miami quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket. To Chad Henne’s credit, he actually made several great throws.
I think part of the misconception surrounding the pass rush is game-plan related. Patriots linebackers Gary Guyton and Jerod Mayo dropped into coverage a great amount of the game.
If we saw them blitzing more, I think it would have changed the perception of the pass rush. This was not an all out attacking defense against Miami, and I think the threat of Reggie Bush in space had a great deal to do with that.
So before you think that the defense is the same as last season, let’s wait a few weeks, because I feel you will see what you are looking for. I think it has to be the right match-up in my opinion to see the aggressive defense that fans want.
I expect Jerod Mayo to be a playmaker for the Patriots this season. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
6. Jerod Mayo’s impact was in coverage against the Dolphins rather than rushing the passer. As stated earlier, Mayo I believe will be attacking this season a great deal, but in this game, I feel his responsibility was in coverage.
He was often seen around Reggie Bush, and I think that was his responsibility in this game. He did have 5 tackles in this game and I still see him as a potential huge play-maker this season.
7. Dane Fletcher continues to grow his role with the Patriots. Fletcher is definitely a player to keep your eye on this season. I noticed him come up and make a nice stop on a play. I also saw him on offense playing the “Mike Vrabel role” on offense as a tight end. You could see Fletcher catching a few touchdown passes this season from Brady.
His growth is another indication of why Belichick loves versatile players. However, if Brandon Spikes continues to struggle to get on the field, he could be passed on the depth chart by Fletcher. He has shown flashes that he has the potential to be a solid inside linebacker.
8. Dan Connolly did a great job filling in for Dan Koppen. Connolly has now been with the Patriots for a few seasons , and it is obvious he can get the job done.
There were doubts about this player when he filled in for Logan Mankins last season. Now, I am hearing those same questions about him filling in for Koppen. At some point you have to give a player his due. Connolly deserves that, and I have confidence that he can more than fill in while the starting center is out.
9. Chad Henne played a very good game for the Dolphins against the Patriots. Now, I have heard the last 2 days, the amount of yardage that the Patriots defense gave up to Henne. How about noticing some of the great throws and catches the Dolphins made with Patriots defenders right there? It really is fine to give credit to the other team.
However, I do have concerns about the secondary as they will have to improve as the season goes on. The secondary play against Miami was not good at all. For the Patriots to have a successful season, this unit needs to get much better.
10. The Patriots will need to cover the middle of the field much better against the Chargers. Working off of my last thought, I have a huge concern about defense in this part of the field against San Diego.
Phillip Rivers has Antonio Gates who is a match-up nightmare for the Patriots. He can feast in the middle of the defense. With Vincent Jackson being a huge deep threat again, Gates could have his way with this unit. Whether it is a safety or a linebacker, my biggest concern going into the Chargers game is covering Antonio Gates and his attack in the middle of the field.
Those are my 10 thoughts for week 2, but feel free to leave some of your thoughts or concerns on this upcoming game in the comment section below.
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