Waking The Sleeping Giant
Since the injury of Tom Brady the Patriots had not looked themselves. Even when they won they still did not seem to have that same attitude, focus, and leadership. Last night they seemed to have gotten out of their Tom Brady withdrawal and looked like they did last year. Matt Cassel has a lot of success, but the reason is because they finally made the offense "quarterback friendly". The Patriots were able to do screens which is the best way to get a quarterbacks confidence up. The screens were executed well. Welker was constantly getting 5-10 yards. The blockers were able to get into great position and let him do his thing. Randy Moss was even able to make a big play on a screen. But what was such an improvement especially over the previous game was the fact that the Patriots were able to get themselves into reasonable 2nd, 3rd, and even fourth down positions. The previous week against the Chargers the offense was unable to have any true consistency. This was because they were many times in 3rd and long situations. The opposing defense was able to gear their defense toward the pass and put pressure on the young quarterback. With Cassel still trying to get a good feel for the position it is much harder on the defense if they are not sure if whether to expect a normal type of pass, screen, or run. Last year the Patriots running game was not anything to brag about. Maroney averaged 4.5 yards per carry last year but he was injury prone and not consistent. Maroney could not constantly get 4-5 yards every run. It was 2 yards, 3 yards, 2 yards, 14 yards. He was explosive but spent too much time dancing instead of hitting the hole. Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, Kevin Faulk, and Benjarvis Green-Ellis are a perfect backfield for New England. New England's success has always been through efficiency, not flash. Sammy Morris is a good north and south runner with a good mixture of speed and power. LaMont Jordan is a north and south runner too and is physically very similar to Corey Dillon; he has good speed and quickness for his size and is very powerful. Kevin Faulk is not a speedy back with great hands, agility, and speed. He can cut well and every now and then can drag someone with him through pure determination. Benjarvis Green-Ellis is very similar to Sammy Morris in style. The only problem with the backfield is the tendency to get injured. Jordan has been injured frequently through out his career and Sammy Morris missed over half of last year, it is vital that they have depth.
The Patriots look like they will continue to improve but they have issues they need to work on. Matt Cassel has been sacked over 20 times, that is unacceptable. The reason is because defenses know to blitz Cassel because he does not have a quick release, he tends to hold onto the ball too long. Last night they were able to counter this problem with screens. If they can continue to be efficient on screens the defense will not be able to blitz as much as they want. The offensive line needs to protect better too. Last year Brady was able to get a lot of time in the pocket last year, but Brady's quick release may have had a lot to do with the defenses scheme. I think if the Patriots can have someone constantly in the backfield to pick up any rushers that get through the line to block will be huge for the Patriots' success. The Patriots also need to make sure to get the ball to Moss and Welker. Moss and Welker are perfect complimentaries for each other. Moss is the best deep threat the NFL has ever seen, while Welker is the best possession receiver in the game today. If the Patriots can find ways to get them the ball it will cause defenses to try to double cover them. This is when it can open up things for the other receivers. Jabar Gaffney and Ben Watson need to get more involved in the offense and if the defense is focussed on the dynamic duo they will be able to make in impact. If they are able to get going like last year the defenses will have too many weapons to account for and cause them to be confused.
On the defensive side the secondary needs to step up through out the season like they did against Denver. The front 7 are not the problem, the secondary is a major weakness. With Rodney Harrison being out for the year this really hurts the secondary. This will not hurt the play of the safeties too much but the leadership of Harrison will be gone. James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather will be the two starting safeties. Both of them make a good safety combo. The reason it hurts the secondary so much is because Meriweather was playing at cornerback much of the game while Sanders and Harrison were playing deep. The Patriots are very week at corner and now they have gotten weaker. Meriweather taking over for Harrison at safety is not much of a downgrade but taking Meriweather away from playing his secondary position of corner could really hurt. I think the Patriots need to try and pick up a free agent or two to fix this problem. Ty Law has been talking with the Dolphins but what seemed to be a team on the rise doesn't look too promising. Maybe the Pats can bring him back and bring some old veteran leadership back on the defense. Also bringing back John Lynch could be a good idea. Like Law, he isn't what he used to be, but he can still play and he is very intelligent. If Lynch is brought in Meriweather will be able to alternate with Lynch at safety so he can play at corner.
The Patriots have work to do, but finally seem to be back on the right track. If the Patriots can get back to playing good defense like in previous years, make it easy on Cassel, and get Randy Moss involved early and often they could become a very dangerous team.
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