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NE vs BUF: Tales from Training Camp

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by reamer, Aug 13, 2009.

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  1. reamer

    reamer Rookie

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    On Sunday I had the privilege of visiting the Patriots practice while on a trip to the Boston area. I decided to take detailed notes in order to compare the Pats with the Bills, whose training camp I visit annually, since it i's only 15 minutes down the road from me. While both camps featured football (imagine!), the schedule, set up, and quality of the practices could not be farther apart. Buffalo is laid back, haphazard, unhurried. They spend most of their time working on the same few drills, and every small victory elicits a cheer from the crowd, while mistakes are shrugged off. The Patriots run a tight ship, with numerous drills, an attention to detail and situational football, and an overall sense of urgency and excellence. Players not only knew what was expected of them in each drill, but they also knew how to 1) self-correct a mistake, 2) hold each other accountable, and 3) focus more on football than the fans. Night and Day.

    More than a basic comparison, however, I'd like to take a look at both team's skill sets and relative quality of depth, with an eye toward both the individual development of younger players and also the overall cohesion of the units. Consider this an amateur scouting report in preparation for opening weekend, from a biased homer attempting to be objective. ;)

    First off, the news of the day is the return of Crable, Warren, and Seymour, the first practices of Pryor and Richard, and Burgess joining the team. Yes, everyone knows that by now, but it made me excited. I sure picked a great day to drive down from Rochester, NY! I'll mention more about our tardy friends later, when I break down each position player by player. My aim is to spotlight players who stood out to me and explain why others missed the cut.

    The biggest surprise of the day came early on, when the Patriots first team offense and defense squared off. The Pats opened in a 43, with Green inside and TBC next to him at RDE. I believe Brace was next to Green inside, but I didn't catch who was at LDE. Apologies, dear readers! What intrigued me so much about the 43 was not the fact they were playing a 43 subpackage--they've done that often enough--but rather the strength and versatility of the various 43 personnel they rotated in for subsequent plays. For the first time I remember in the past half a dozen years, we have both a 34 and a legitimate 43--both a heavy, run-stuffing variety, and a potentially explosive pass-rushing kind. Our players fit either scheme fairly well, which makes it easier to disguise what we're doing. The ability to shift fronts this year should give us unprecedented flexibility to mix and match personnel, and I'm super excited for the season.

    I think I'm going to serialize my posts, with a different position breakdown each day or two. In the morning, in honor of our first preseason game, I'll start with the lines. I'm a huge fan of trench warfare (I always play on the line when friends and I have a pickup game; ironically, I'm 5'7 and a slender 175). This is where the game is decided, and the difference between the Patriots and Bills is astonishing. Buffalo is in for a huge shock if they really truly believe their offensive line will hold up all year. They simply lack athleticism. On defense, they still have Stroud, but the rest of the unit is mediocre, old and injured, or still in unproven, underdeveloped rookie mode. I'm super-impressed with the Pat's lines this year, however, and with some of our newcomers in particular.

    I look forward to generating some good discussion, and I hope my fellow Pats fans tune in tomorrow for the first installment of what I hope is a fairly interesting and enlightening series. Go Pats! :)
  2. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    :enranged: Damned tease! Hurry up and post! :beatingcoming:
  3. nashvillepatsfan

    nashvillepatsfan Rookie

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    Ive never been to a Bills camp, but what you're describing doesnt surprise me. As you mentioned, the potential versatility of this defense is off the scale. Can you imagine the opposition trying to game plan? They'll never know what BB has planned. Whereas, with our offense, they know whats coming. They just can't stop it :D
  4. bbaptiste

    bbaptiste Rookie

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    Re: NE vs BUF

    Nice set up. Interesting observation about the formation flexibility. D. Burgess will be a beast in this defense (Seymour too). I'm interested to read your thoughts about Burgess.
  5. Gwedd

    Gwedd PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #61 Jersey

    Yeah, thanks for this. I look forward to the rest of your posting... :)
  6. Dagg

    Dagg Rookie

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    #95 Jersey

    Nice to see we have more Pats fans in Rochester than just me. I usually do go to Bills camp at least once a year to have a look but this year I just didnt have the time to make it ove there even being 10 min away. Looking forward to the comparison.
  7. betterthanthealternative

    betterthanthealternative Rookie

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    Not sure if this is just coincidence or not, but that's a reflection of my experience of the cultures of the two cities.
  8. signbabybrady

    signbabybrady On the Roster

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    #24 Jersey

    The last sentance I bolded I totally agree with and have noted myself and am really intrigued to see how it works out. they have been flexible with their fronts in the past but I think this year could be even more crazy.

    I do think and this is just my opinion that people are over stating the 4-3 a little though. I think it will be a short yardage package and also situationally if BB thinks a certain team will fair worse against it. When you mention the explosive pass rush kind I am assuming they were in a nickle or dime and not the 4-3 and the 4 man line likely included LBs and Burgess who I am not sure whether to call a LB or DL.
  9. DarrylS

    DarrylS PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    The possiblities on D seem endless, and do not think we will be in the bottom of the Red Zone D this year...

    As far as the laid back Bills camp goes, surprised at Jauron, all I know is the tight ship that the Patriots run... prefer the latter as we all have witnessed the results.
  10. reamer

    reamer Rookie

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    Thanks for all the kind replies. :)


    NEW ENGLAND

    Defense Line

    With Warren & Seymour back, and Pryor & Richard joining the practice, the DL came out at full strength. (Aside: This was the first time I'd ever seen Wilfork in person, and holy crap, he's massive! I finally know who the "huge friggin' guy" is.) I was extremely impressed with their ability to hold ground fairly well in the running game, and also get upfield when they needed to apply pressure. They seemed to communicate well, and were very coordinated on stunts.

    Seymour looks explosive. He always gets in proper position, uses his hands well in conjunction with his feet, and displays textbook technique. Primed for a huge year.

    Warren moved well, which was encouraging given the severity of his injuries and offseason surgeries. He seems trim, fluid, and healthy. I feel like he's overshadowed by his linemates, but he plays at a pro bowl level, and I expect him to make a huge difference for us this year if he stays healthy. Given our newfound depth, I believe we'll have a much stronger rotation than in the past, which should help everyone's stamina and health.

    Wilfork has to weigh at least 360. He's just spectacularly huge and powerful. Nothing new here, I know, but it's good to see him on the field and not holding out. I had to force myself not to watch him much, because he just sucks in all the attention like a black hole. Let's hope he's more motivated than ever in his contract year.

    Brace will be the top backup this year, if his performance on Sunday was indicative of his entire training camp. At the risk of extrapolating too much, he appeared to have very good, very clean footwork, exceptional playing strength, and better speed than I expected. I'm particularly pleased by his versatility to play either end or nose, and I think he'll eventually spell the starters in the second half of the season, keeping everyone fresh for the playoffs. Despite his newness to the system, I really believe he will pass Wright and Green as the top rotational players, though they should still contribute. He will develop into a fantastic lineman for us.

    Green played inside and outside, displayed good mobility, and looks much more fit than I expected. I think he'll rebound well from last year and prove a valuable cog in the rotation. I was pleased with his play, though he didn't have any sacks or tackles that I saw. Even so, he was around the ball, created problems for his blocker, and generally acquitted himself well.

    I don't recall seeing Wright; anyone else remember if he was there? Apologies, my friends!

    Smith didn't particularly stand out. Neither did Williams. Maybe I missed them, or perhaps they weren't there the day I attended, but I was a little disappointed. I hoped to see Smith in action, because his athleticism intrigues me. According to a recent Patriots.com article, he still does backflips at 6'3, 308. As a gymnast, I have mad respect for that kind of body control at that size.

    (Shameless self-promotion: Here's a YouTube clip of my first attempt at a double backflip a couple months back--I'm better now, but I don't have more recent footage.)

    Adams had one really nice play where he absolutely crushed Faulk--33 just flew through the air after the pop by the big guy. It was actually somewhat humorous, but I liked the hustle Adams showed on the play. He recognized the draw play, shed his block, worked back down the line of scrimmage, and made the hit after a one, maybe two yard gain. Nice instincts, nice technique. I think he'll make the practice squad, and could eventually work into the rotation next year.

    Pryor is quick. He's smaller than I expected--not a good 34 nose tackle candidate, in my opinion--but very smooth and coordinated, with excellent body control. He rushes very well, and he's got good power. I'd like to see him make the 53, but I think he's going to be caught in a numbers crunch. I worry about him making it through the practice squad, though; he's a really good looking developmental guy who would give us a great passrush in a 43 alignment.

    Richard understands two-gap principles. I don't think he makes the team, but he's clearly an intelligent, savvy defender who does one thing very, very well: he knows how to complete his assignment. As we know, doing your job goes a long way with BB, so perhaps he slips onto the final roster? All I know is that he's better than I expected, but clearly not at the same level of athleticism as some of the other linemen. If he's cut or put on the practice squad, I can almost guarantee you that he makes a career for himself in KC or DEN. Good kid.

    One last thought on the defensive line--even though they all looked extremely good, and individually beat their blockers on numerous drills, they still didn't completely shut down our offense. Our OL looked very good in recovering from the DL's initial surge and allowing TFB or the running backs to make plays. A very good, very spirited battle with no clear winners, just lots of top-notch players preparing for monster seasons.


    Offense Line

    Captain Obvious, reporting for duty: The German is massive. While he's not quite as agile as I expected, he does look pretty smooth in pass blocking, although the casual observer can tell that he's still learning a 3-point stance. After he's already upright, he moves frighteningly fast. Getting out of his stance, however . . . well, Pryor almost blew by him on a stunt, and Seabass barely got back in position to seal him off. The good news? He did, in fact, stonewall his fellow rookie. He's raw, but I can see the vast potential there. He runs very well for his size, and I'm interested to see how he does in live action. Chances are he's the swing tackle this season.

    (Oh, and for all of you who can't wait for the linebacker's update: Crable sprinted past him on one rep that I saw, but there's no shame in that--Crable is even faster than advertised, and looks pretty good out there.)

    Light looks trimmer than in the past, and I expect a good year from him. He seems motivated by all the competition (maybe drafting 3 offensive lineman lit a fire under him?), and he moved very well. Quicker feet than I remember.

    Mankins is a beast, and I'm looking forward to another pro bowl caliber season from our soon-to-be-free-agent. Here's hoping we can resign him.

    Koppen played pretty well, though I particularly remember a funny play where he was an eligible receiver on a fake punt, and he beat his man in coverage (humorous enough), but then dropped Hanson's pass. It was pretty light-hearted, and I didn't think it detracted from his otherwise professional day. For all of the rumblings and grumblings about his performance last year against top nose tackles, I think he'll do well this year, and should give Brady plenty of time in the pocket. He looks bigger, and a little more athletic.

    I don't remember seeing Neal. Bummer. He's my favorite lineman. :(

    Kaczur had a pretty good day, despite Burgess flying past him on one rep. He looked focused and motivated, and got a great push in the run game. He seems to be more comfortable on the right than he was, so I'm looking forward to a big year from him.

    LeVoir held his own, but didn't make any plays for which I felt I simply had to commend him. He probably makes the 53, but I am not expecting greatness from him. Still, it says a lot for the team's depth when he's 4th on the tackle depth chart.

    Hochstein lined up at fullback several times, especially in our super-heavy formation, which included an extra lineman playing on an unbalanced line. I don't remember who the receiver split wide was, but I do recall thinking that I'd hate to try to stop the rushing attack with that lineup.

    Ohrnberger is nasty. He plays mean and hard, and I think he wins a roster spot. Oh, and the training camp roster lists him at 300, so it sounds like he's put on weight since the draft. I like the look of him, even though I wasn't thrilled about the pick originally. We seem to have good depth on the edges and on the interior of the line, and I think we'll see a significant uptick in play. No more leading the league in sacks, that's for sure.

    None of the other players caught my eye. I don't even remember seeing Britt, O'Callaghan, Wendell, Yates, Connolly, etc. Once again, perhaps my fellow posters with sharper eyes and steadier memories can fill in the gaps for me.

    Whew! This is longer than anticipated. I think I'll write up the Bills report later tonight, to break up the monotony of my rambling. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the game tonight. I wish I could see it out here in Rochester, but I don't think they'll broadcast Patriots games in Bills country. Sadness.
  11. Deus Irae

    Deus Irae PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Disable Jersey

    Thank you for another quality post, and keep them coming!
  12. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Excellent read!
    -- #64 (LeVoir) is still on PUP, #65 (Britt) or #68 (O'Callaghan) would have been the other tackle choices you could have been watching.
  13. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #11 Jersey

    Thanks for the thorough observations!

    Titus Adams has been "almost there" for a long time...he was drafted in 2006 and has bounced from practice squad to practice squad ever since. (Maybe out of eligibility?) I doubt he makes the 53, but somebody like Cleveland could pick him up this time around.
  14. Gwedd

    Gwedd PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #61 Jersey

    yes, thank you! You have a good conversational writing style that gets the info through without being pedantic.

    Keep it up.. :)
  15. PatsWickedPissah

    PatsWickedPissah PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    A fun and informative read. 5 stars Can't wait to read about the Williams' training camp!
  16. reamer

    reamer Rookie

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    Whoops! :blush: I honestly don't know who I observed, then. Sorry about the mixup, guys. I've got a busy evening, but I'll try to get to more of this soon. I took a LOT of notes. I just hope the rest of them are fairly accurate!
  17. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Don't be picking on us pedants! :mad:
  18. reamer

    reamer Rookie

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    It's ironic that people note my 'conversational' style, because I've worked hard over the past several years to shed the periphrastic pleonasm and pedantic prolix that plagued my prose.

    Box, I appreciate your style. :cool:

    Dagg, do you know any other posters in the Rochester area? I'd love to catch a game together sometime.

    Deus, thanks for the vote of confidence. Now I just have to live up to the pressure!
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2009
  19. Deus Irae

    Deus Irae PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club PatsFans.com Supporter

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    No pressure, man. We're just a bunch of internet geeks talking football. Whether the man behind the mask is barely above homeless or batting Bill Gates for richest man in the world, on here, we're all just shooting the breeze.
  20. smg93

    smg93 Rookie

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    #54 Jersey

    What a great thread. Thanks for the work!
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