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Old 09-18-2012, 10:23 AM    (permalink
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I am getting really excited about Chandler Jones. What is kinda strange though, in my opinion the play that really caught my attention ended up with Arizona scoring on a quick screen at the goal line.

Jones had his hand in the ground rushing the passer, noticed Kolb taking a quick 3 step drop, got away from the blocker and put his hands up to try to deflect the pass. He didn't get it but the fact he is showing enough awareness already is encouraging. This was a guy who was pegged as being extremely raw coming out.
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Old 09-18-2012, 04:28 PM    (permalink
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The Patriots just released Greg Salas (and Mike Rivera and Lex Hilliard)

Kind of shocking.

edit: They also signed Kellen Winslow Jr. :/ (I'd rather have Sr)
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Old 09-18-2012, 06:38 PM    (permalink
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Nice to see Branch and Winslow on the squad. I'm alright with losing Hilliard and Rivera, but Salas getting cut is a surprise. Maybe New England won't have to trade that choice after all.
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Old 09-19-2012, 06:04 AM    (permalink
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If Salas clears waivers he has practice squad eligibility. That would be a bonus.

It really bemuses me though how the team can go from an offensive juggernaut to quite pedestrian in the space of a season. Outside of Ridley I didn't think the offense looked that great in the first game either. Maybe I'm just being overly pessimistic, after all it's only been two games. Some of it may be Josh, though, and how's he trying to force things to Lloyd - that, and I agree with everyone else the play calling against Arizona was just ... bad.

At any rate, I'm not feeling too confident against the Ravens. I actually expect us to get killed- they play exceptionally well at home, and Flacco looks much better. I just hope they come away unscathed in the injury department. Replacement refs and ****face doesn't bode well.
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Old 09-19-2012, 07:15 AM    (permalink
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If Salas clears waivers he has practice squad eligibility. That would be a bonus.

It really bemuses me though how the team can go from an offensive juggernaut to quite pedestrian in the space of a season. Outside of Ridley I didn't think the offense looked that great in the first game either. Maybe I'm just being overly pessimistic, after all it's only been two games. Some of it may be Josh, though, and how's he trying to force things to Lloyd - that, and I agree with everyone else the play calling against Arizona was just ... bad.

At any rate, I'm not feeling too confident against the Ravens. I actually expect us to get killed- they play exceptionally well at home, and Flacco looks much better. I just hope they come away unscathed in the injury department. Replacement refs and ****face doesn't bode well.
I think it's way too early to right the offense off. There have been miscues and protection issues, but I fully expect this unit to turn it round. It may not become a league leading unit like previously but I would be shocked if they weren't top ten by midway through the season.

As for the Ravens, they are a bit of a weird team at the moment. Their defense just isn't getting it done. Philly absolutely carved them up and they are currently ranked 27th in the league. As for their offense, Flacco hasn't been as improved as he is being talked up. He is still shaky in the intermediate game. I fully expect the Pats to focus on Rice and try to take the deep ball away from Torrey Smith. Force Flacco to work his way down the field to Boldin and the TEs and I think we will see his accuracy issues arise again.

Overall neither team has been as advertised going into the season and this game could be a lot different than previous ones between the two.
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Old 09-19-2012, 08:04 AM    (permalink
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Honestly, I think there is something to the idea that teams have to gel and that (albeit cliche) every team is different. This team will find its legs eventually.
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Old 09-19-2012, 08:25 AM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by descendency View Post
Honestly, I think there is something to the idea that teams have to gel and that (albeit cliche) every team is different. This team will find its legs eventually.
I definitely agree, specifically with the offense. This defense has been together for the last few years with the odd new player added in. However, compared to last year the offense which played the bulk against Arizona was hugely different from last year

Light, Mankins, Connolly, Waters, Solder to Solder, Mankins, Wendell, Thomas, Vollmer on the offensive line

Branch, Hernandez, Gronk, Welker, BJGE to Edelman, Welker, Gronk, Lloyd and Ridley at the skill positions.

There is only two or three constants on offense from last year, it's going to take some time
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Old 09-19-2012, 08:42 AM    (permalink
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I know we are only two weeks into the season but it is never too early to start talking about or needs, and this is the first year in a while we dont have an obscene amount of early picks.

The defense finally looks retooled, it isn't a finished product but we are in much better shape than we were two years ago.

The ol looks like the spot that needs to be addressed and it could be any spot along the line, we have obvious issues inside but with Vollmers injuries and impending free agency, cannons struggles, and solder not taking the next step I could definitely see us looking at a tackle. I am not saying solders future here is in jeopardy, but we have gone from a logjam at tackle to suddenly a team that is looking for answers.

We need another guard and could use a center too. Even I'd waters comes back he will be retired soon and mankind was getting whooped by the cardinals. Mankind has been battling injuries for a few seasons which gives us all the more reason to look at a guy like chance warmack in the first.

Chung is an upcoming fa as well and even if he wasn't our overall safety play has been unspectacular since Rodney Harrison retired. Adding a gamechanger back there even if Chung stays would be a welcome addition.

Wide receiver is another problem as our revolving door problem continues. We know what the tight ends bring and we added Brandon Lloyd, but all pats fans agree that we need to add go to receiver. Welker has regressed, I don't think Lloyd is THE guy, and there isn't much else to get excited about after that.

I'd say our early needs are ranked as;
OL
WR
S
DE
CB
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:02 AM    (permalink
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To be honest with you guys, I am really happy with our current situation. For the first time since 2006, our offence under Brady is the part who is struggling and our defense who is our strong side. I´ll rather have our offence to have "child-problems" in the start of the season than our defense to have..

I am sure, that Brady and co. will be right where they shall when it counts.. Defense wins championships !;)
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:10 AM    (permalink
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Originally Posted by Don Vito View Post
I know we are only two weeks into the season but it is never too early to start talking about or needs, and this is the first year in a while we dont have an obscene amount of early picks.

The defense finally looks retooled, it isn't a finished product but we are in much better shape than we were two years ago.

The ol looks like the spot that needs to be addressed and it could be any spot along the line, we have obvious issues inside but with Vollmers injuries and impending free agency, cannons struggles, and solder not taking the next step I could definitely see us looking at a tackle. I am not saying solders future here is in jeopardy, but we have gone from a logjam at tackle to suddenly a team that is looking for answers.

We need another guard and could use a center too. Even I'd waters comes back he will be retired soon and mankind was getting whooped by the cardinals. Mankind has been battling injuries for a few seasons which gives us all the more reason to look at a guy like chance warmack in the first.

Chung is an upcoming fa as well and even if he wasn't our overall safety play has been unspectacular since Rodney Harrison retired. Adding a gamechanger back there even if Chung stays would be a welcome addition.

Wide receiver is another problem as our revolving door problem continues. We know what the tight ends bring and we added Brandon Lloyd, but all pats fans agree that we need to add go to receiver. Welker has regressed, I don't think Lloyd is THE guy, and there isn't much else to get excited about after that.

I'd say our early needs are ranked as;
OL
WR
S
DE
CB
I like our safeties if Chung is resigned. Wilson has looked acceptable so far, and Ebner has a bunch of upside. It's too difficult to be a great Safety in the league today to expect the draft to yield a great upgrade where we are picking.

I think 2 things that aren't obvious now, but could become needs are 3rd down RB and nickel pass coverage LBer. Shane Vereen is looking like the worst high pick since Butler, and I'm not sure it's going to work out. I know he's been injured, but he hasn't contributed in any way despite being a 2nd round pick. I'm not even sure if he'll get reps over Woodhead when he's fully healthy. With the quality that is usually available in the mid rounds the Pats might be able to find someone with a great skill set to complement Ridley on 3rd down.

Nickel LBer I see as being somewhat of an issue since we have nobody on the roster who really complements Mayo as a pass defender at LBer. Someone like a Lavonte David type could be huge to mix in to the stellar run defense backer core we already have.




Also, something to note this week is the health of Bernard Pollard, not only does it make everybody's knees safer, but if he's unable to go that means the immortal James Ihedigbo will be taking his place.
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:12 AM    (permalink
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Vito View Post
I know we are only two weeks into the season but it is never too early to start talking about or needs, and this is the first year in a while we dont have an obscene amount of early picks.

The defense finally looks retooled, it isn't a finished product but we are in much better shape than we were two years ago.

The ol looks like the spot that needs to be addressed and it could be any spot along the line, we have obvious issues inside but with Vollmers injuries and impending free agency, cannons struggles, and solder not taking the next step I could definitely see us looking at a tackle. I am not saying solders future here is in jeopardy, but we have gone from a logjam at tackle to suddenly a team that is looking for answers.

We need another guard and could use a center too. Even I'd waters comes back he will be retired soon and mankind was getting whooped by the cardinals. Mankind has been battling injuries for a few seasons which gives us all the more reason to look at a guy like chance warmack in the first.

Chung is an upcoming fa as well and even if he wasn't our overall safety play has been unspectacular since Rodney Harrison retired. Adding a gamechanger back there even if Chung stays would be a welcome addition.

Wide receiver is another problem as our revolving door problem continues. We know what the tight ends bring and we added Brandon Lloyd, but all pats fans agree that we need to add go to receiver. Welker has regressed, I don't think Lloyd is THE guy, and there isn't much else to get excited about after that.

I'd say our early needs are ranked as;
OL
WR
S
DE
CB
I think you hit quite a lot there. The one thing about this team is we never know what Belichick will do. While nobody is predicting it, would anyone be overly shocked if he were to cut Ras-I Dowling or Shane Vereen in the offseason? I know I wouldn't be majorly shocked. If that does happen then RB and CB go up in need.

I would put the needs as they are now at

OG
Strongside DE
S
WR
CB
OT

If left with McCourty and Arrington starting then CB jumps out above WR IMO. Likewise, even though Ridley is showing he can be the bell cow, if he is only backed up by Woodhead and Bolden then I would be slightly worried
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:24 AM    (permalink
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Dane fletcher going down hurt as far as the coverage backer role goes, I hope he can come back but that remains to be seen. Tavon Wilson definitely has promise but we don't quite know where he fits yet. I could see safety or a coverage type linebacker getting picked or even another defensive lineman. Like it was said before me, we don't know what belichick will do. Fowling being replaced at the nickle by sterling Moore last week is concerning but did not look like a bad move, I really want to see dowling succeed.

I want to see vereen succeed but I honestly was never a huge fan of that pick in the second. If he can come back healthy he could be the perfect compliment to Ridley, but he has done nothing do far. Hopefully he can stay healthy and get it together but a second round pick for a running back is high, that's where teams find guys like ray rice, shady McCoy, and mjd. Those guys were all studs by this point in there careers and vereen has barely played, I know a lot of it has been out of his control but he has still been disappointing. Hopefully he turns it around.
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:26 AM    (permalink
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I loved Murray a lot around draft time, and seeing us pick Vereen before him was definitely a nut punch. Especially now since Murray looks like a star.
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:37 AM    (permalink
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I loved Murray a lot around draft time, and seeing us pick Vereen before him was definitely a nut punch. Especially now since Murray looks like a star.
I really think Murray is a carbon copy of Ridley. Neither guy has great vision but both run hard. For what I presume the Pats were looking for out of Vereen he was the best available. However even when he has been healhty he hasn't shown it. If, and it's a big if, he can turn it around he could be a real x factor for the offense
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:21 PM    (permalink
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I really think Murray is a carbon copy of Ridley. Neither guy has great vision but both run hard. For what I presume the Pats were looking for out of Vereen he was the best available. However even when he has been healhty he hasn't shown it. If, and it's a big if, he can turn it around he could be a real x factor for the offense
Murray is a far more polished receiver than either Vereen or Ridley. It was his biggest strength coming out.
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:04 AM    (permalink
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Encouraging stat of the day:

Through the first two games, Devin McCourty has allowed just four completions on 11 attempts for 53 yards, with three passes defensed.
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:51 AM    (permalink
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I don't want to jinx it but he has really looked good. If we can get him close to the level we thought he would be at in his third year then I feel 100 times better about this team.
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Old 09-20-2012, 10:06 AM    (permalink
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I don't want to jinx it but he has really looked good. If we can get him close to the level we thought he would be at in his third year then I feel 100 times better about this team.
His level of play definitely dropped last year but it was clearly evident that a lot of the struggles could be directly related to sub par safety play. Now that safety play has improved McCourty can play with more confidence that he won't be beaten over the top all the time and can play more aggressively.
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Old 09-20-2012, 01:17 PM    (permalink
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I know it's early in the season and last week wasn't the best game all round, however I have done up some grades for most players with significant game time

Tom Brady – B
While Brady’s stats through two games look pretty good (51/77 66.2% for 552 yards with 3TDs and 1INT) he hasn’t been overly impressive. There is one massive hole in his game at the minute – he cannot throw an accurate deep ball. On one attempt in week one where he went long to Brandon Lloyd the ball wasn’t located properly over the back shoulder. While Lloyd still should have made the grab the fact that he had to turn his body made it a difficult catch. On the other end of the spectrum in week two when he went deep to Gronkowski he led him too far towards the outside forcing Gronk to extend himself to try and make a diving catch. Otherwise Brady has been pretty good although at times he seems to be forcing the ball too much.

Stevan Ridley – A-
Ridley is one of the only bright sparks on the offensive side through two weeks of the season. What he lacks in vision he makes up for with explosion and tough running. There have been some runs where he could have gone the distance but instead he has focused on ball security and delivering the blow to the defender. One of the best aspects of Ridley’s performances this season is his ability to run when Brady is in shotgun. Especially for power backs, it is a lot easier to dot the I and go straight downhill, however Ridley has shown good patience and speed when given the ball. The one downside thus far is his inability to make a defender miss at or before the line of scrimmage.

Rob Gronkowski – B
The biggest thing about Gronk is he will be a mismatch against any team the Patriots play due to his elite size and body control. However, like Brady, while his stats indicate a more than solid start to the season it doesn’t appear to be fully clicking when you watch the game. So far he has 12 catches for 135 yards and 2TDs, however he has had a case of the dropsies and made a few bonehead plays. In week 2 he dropped a sure fire TD pass from Brady which couldn’t have been placed any better and failed to fully box out Kerry Rhodes on a crucial 2 point conversion play. This could be put down to a little rust given he missed a lot of off-season work due to his ankle injury from last year, however the Pats need him to step up more in the next few weeks.

Aaron Hernandez – Incomplete
Hernandez came into the season with really high expectations and in week one he looked as though he could become the key cog in the offense. Against Tennessee he lined up in a total of six different positions and forced defences to show their hand early. Unfortunately for him and the Patriots he went down very early in week two with what is being reported as a low ankle sprain which may keep him out up to 6 weeks.

Brandon Lloyd – C+
While Lloyd has definitely added a perimeter threat at WR it appears he is trying too hard to develop chemistry with Tom Brady instead of playing within his comfort zone. While I can only speculate, it appears he is out-thinking himself and not concentrating on what he needs to do, ie catching the ball. One of Lloyd’s biggest issues that have plagued him throughout his career is he will catch circus catches but drop regulation catches. This seems to be the case this year as well. In week one he caught a tremendous back shoulder throw against Jason McCourty where he had no business to catch it. However he failed to haul in an easier catch of a similar nature when covered by Jamell Fleming in week two. He also let a ball hit him in the chest against Arizona. If Lloyd wants to be a bigger part of the offense come crunch time he needs to be able to show the coaches and Brady he has a reliable set of hands.

Julian Edelman – C
Edelman has seen a major increase in playing time so far this year and a lot of that goes back to the stellar work he done in the off-season. The Patriots do not give veterans the benefit of the doubt in these situations and that is why Edelman appears to have passed Wes Welker on the depth chart. In the passing game Edelman does a lot of similar things to Welker, however he doesn’t have the same football IQ or awareness. On the play where Aaron Hernandez got hurt, Edelman ran straight at him instead of setting his block up and making a cut upfield. This not only lost yards for the offense but also put one of their more valuable players out for a few weeks. While Edelman has played ok he will always be compared to Wes Welker. Unfortunately he is not the usual, reliable Wes Welker we are all used to. And even more unfortunate is the fact that neither is Wes Welker.

Wes Welker – C-
It can be debated at length whether or not Welker’s playing time has diminished due to his holdout this year, however it has to be noted that he is simply not playing well at the minute. He lacks a burst getting in and out of his cuts and at times looks sloppy. This is meaning he is not getting enough separation at the top of his routes and is being forced to make too many contested catches. He has also had an issue with dropping balls he should be hanging on to. In the third quarter in week two with the Patriots up by three Tom Brady and the Patriots had a 3rd and long situation. With good protection Brady passed to Welker on an out route where he had stolen a slight march on the defender. The ball was ideally placed for Welker to cradle the ball just passed the sticks for a first down. However, slightly put off by the defender’s hand Welker let the ball go right through his hands. Next play, Zoltan Mesko has a punt from the end zone blocked and the Cardinals set up on the 2 yard line. Not to lay into Welker, but going back to the Superbowl the argument can be made that he was at least partially responsible for two crushing losses in three games.

Nate Solder – B
A lot of people went into the season with major worries over the LT position for this offense. Solder is a very frustrating guy to watch. If he gets his hands on the defender he has such good athleticism that he can just ride them out on a deep arc and let Brady step up in the pocket. However way too often he lets guys into his body and gets dominated, then to counter act this he will over extend himself and lose his balance. However with the exception of the Kamerion Wimbley sack in week one he has actually been pretty solid. Arizona don’t have any real edge rushers and tended to play with a two man line and bring pressure from a myriad of places, however Solder has stood up well. He has also had a good time in the running game. Solder and Gronkowski tend to do very well together on seal blocks on the edge.

Logan Mankins – C+
This grade is probably based more on his own high standards of play rather than an indictment on his play this year itself. Against Tennessee the line really wasn’t challenged as their front is anything but spectacular. However the Arizona front, and Calais Campbell in particular, gave him real trouble. For the last half decade we have had the privilege to watch Mankins take on behemoth defensive linemen and not only win on the most part but dominate. However Campbell was able to use his incredible length to get into Mankins’ body and ragdoll him on more than one occasion. On the bright side, Campbell is one of the top 4 5 techniques in the NFL. On the down side, the Patriots will have to play the other top 5 techniques this year in Haloti Ngata, JJ Watt and Justin Smith. How Mankins plays will have a huge bearing on how those match ups go.

Ryan Wendell – B
In what is actually a relatively nice surprise I think Wendell has probably been the Patriots most consistent blocker up front. His snaps to shotgun have also been very consistent. In an ideal situation Dan Connolly would be playing this spot, however Wendell certainly hasn’t disgraced himself. As mentioned above, we didn’t learn much from the Tennessee game and against Arizona seldom did they line a defender over the nose so this mark is still somewhat of an unknown at this stage. Overall though it has been a nice start at center.

Dan Connolly/Donald Thomas – C
Connolly has been one of the Patriots most versatile and dependant offensive linemen for the past few years but he is prone to head injuries. With Connolly missing the Arizona game it really left the New England offensive line in a hole against Darnell Dockett. Donald Thomas is a good reserve offensive lineman. He can fill in at RG on plays where Connolly goes to FB and isn’t a liability on the occasional series, however as happened with Connolly going down he does not have the ability to be a starter against the better defensive linemen. The biggest problem with having Thomas play extended minutes is a lack of communication. On a sack of Tom Brady by Quentin Groves where he stunted inside, Thomas did not read it and left a wide open gap. This spot is a real area of concern if Connolly does not come back soon.

Sebastian Vollmer – B+
While he has been playing on somewhat of a pitch count through two games I think Vollmer has been the Patriots top blocker to this point. There is no doubt that when healthy he is a top 3 RT in the NFL but the question is always going to be about his back. Rotating him with Marcus Cannon may well be a good move to start the year, particularly since the Patriots don’t face any elite edge rushers until they go up against Buffalo in week 4. It also has to be noted here that Marcus Cannon has been improved from the preseason at this spot when he has come in. Nobody will be comfortable if Seabass goes down for any prolonged period of time but in spot duty Cannon has looked pretty well.


Chandler Jones – A+
No one can come out and say they expected such a fast start from Jones this year. His biggest criticism coming out in the draft was he was very raw and may take a few years to reach his potential. However already he is looking like the Patriots best defender against the run and the pass combined. It has been a long time since I have seen a rookie use their hands better. Jones does not have elite quickness but offensive linemen simply cannot get their hands into his body. For a stretch in the second quarter in week two he absolutely dominated the Arizona Cardinals. TFL, rushed throw while being held, rushed throw while being held. Now, Baptiste isn’t going to be considered a top tier LT in the NFL, however Michael Roos is and Jones won his share of battles against him in week one, including a huge strip sack of Jake Locker that completely changed the dynamic of the game from a close contest to a blowout.

Vince Wilfork – A
Big Vince has really transformed his game from when he was the 2 down run stuffer who benefitted from playing between Richard Seymour and Ty Warren to being an all-round dominant DT in the same class as the best in the league. Wilfork does it all. He is still a great 2 gap player who can control the line of scrimmage, but he has also become far more of a playmaker and penetrator as the Patriots defense has incorporated more one gap techniques. The TFL against Chris Johnson in week one was a perfect example of Wilfork’s ability to not only dominate and hold his own at the line of scrimmage but also to get in the backfield and disrupt plays. From about the midpoint in last season I don’t think there has been a better interior defensive lineman in the NFL.

Kyle Love – B+
When Love came more and more into the rotation along the defensive line for the Patriots many thought he would be there to give Wilfork a breather on the nose. However one of the main nuances of the Patriots defense now is to play both 34 and 43 principles along the defensive line. Kyle Love is playing over the nose on most occasions with Wilfork shaded at the 3 technique. Together they are the most formidable inside pairing to run against in the NFL. Love’s ability to anchor at the point of contact is a big reason why the Patriots are currently holding offenses to approximately 3 ypc on the ground. Bill Belichick loves to be stout up the middle and Kyle Love has given the defense much needed flexibility in what they do with Vince Wilfork and the LBs behind him.

Rob Ninkovich – C+
Ninkovich’s play thus far in the season hasn’t exactly been bad, however playing on a defensive line with Jones, Wilfork and Love it is not unrealistic to expect more out of him. The problem here though is he is being asked to play strongside defensive and set the edge and therefore isn’t going to make many “splash” plays. He is very underrated on his abilities against the run, however from a pass rushing perspective he is lost at this position. So far to the point where he is being subbed out on passing situations and replaced with Jermaine Cunningham. The one benefit though is, when the Patriots go to a 34 set, which they did on occasions against Arizona, he move to the weakside where he is much more effective in his role. I think it is only a matter of time until he becomes a backup player to Chandler Jones.

Jermaine Cunningham – B
Cunningham is purely being used as a situational pass rusher at the moment. It seems quite clear that Belichick does not trust him to set the edge in the run game. However he has effectively created pressure from numerous positions already in the first two weeks. He has lined up as a down end, inside at the 3 technique and as a stand-up rusher. Cunningham’s value is likely to increase throughout the season when the Patriots are able to get up on teams early and force them to throw.

Jerod Mayo – B+
Mayo for me is probably the most underrated player for the Patriots by Patriots fans, and I think a lot of this comes from the fact he was overrated by the media for a while. Coming out a few years ago I always thought Mayo’s best role would be as a WLB, yet because of the system the Patriots were playing at the time he was moved into the middle. However despite being utilised in a role that didn’t suit his skills he still performed and was ultra-productive. Now the Pats have some LBs to play other roles he has finally been moved to his most natural slot. He is now free to roam in coverage and make plays in the run game. Brandon Spikes is the hammer inside to take FBs and OGs on. Dont’a Hightower is the guy to line over the TE and shoot gaps. Mayo’s biggest issue is he doesn’t make game changing plays; however having someone who can lead the defense and stay on the field on 3rd down is a huge thing to have. Throughout the first two weeks of the season he has been his usual dependant self.

Brandon Spikes – A-
Spikes is as slow as LBs come and a real liability in coverage, however he brings such a spark to the defense as a whole. The force in which he attacks offensive linemen and ball carriers is startling and he impacts, particularly, the running game in a tremendous fashion. Against Arizona he made 2 outstanding plays in particular. First he lined up head on over the center showing blitz. At the snap of the ball he made a terrific spin move and blew past him to pressure the throw by Kevin Kolb. The second great play he made really should have been the deciding play of the game. The Cardinals ran a toss sweep to Ryan Williams, Spikes shot the gap and put his helmet on the ball. Plays like this, at times like this, are what separate the good from the great. While he is by no means the perfect LB, Spikes makes some ridiculous plays that are true momentum changers.

Dont’a Hightower – B
Hightower is a guy that most Patriots fans have high hopes for. The first thing you notice about him is his intimidating size. At 6’2 270lbs he is probably one of the biggest LBs in the entire NFL and he hits with a force that backs that up. However despite his size and ability to jolt ball carriers the best thing about him is his heady play. He is an extremely smart player who ran Nick Saban’s defense at Alabama. There have been occasions though where he has been found out in coverage. Early in the game against Arizona the Patriots held them to 3 points. However a huge missed play cost the Cardinals 7. Todd Heap lined up at TE and didn’t even have to put a move on Hightower, he simply ran past him and had at least one step. Kolb simply overthrew him. These types of things are going to happen to any young LB in coverage, let alone a monster like Hightower. However, so far the good has by far outweighed the bad and the crowning moment was when he combined with fellow first round rookie Chandler Jones for a strip sack returned for a TD against Tennessee.

Devin McCourty – A
The biggest question surrounding the defense going into the year was which Devin McCourty will show up? Will it be the same guy who led the league in INTs as a rookie or the guy who failed to locate the ball and gave up too many big plays in his second year? Against Tennessee McCourty had a pretty good game however he did get away with a pretty blatant PI call early and dropped an easy INT. After week one the jury was still out on which guy he was going to be. However in week two he had one of his best games as a Patriot. While Larry Fitzgerald was often doubled there were more than a few occasions where McCourty was given single coverage on him. Fitzgerald’s final stats – 1 catch for 4 yards. McCourty also made a huge play late where he gave up inside leverage to Fitzgerald on a slant but using his great make up speed got in to disrupt the play and forced the Cardinals to punt. So far through the season he has been night and day from last year which is a huge plus for this team. It also has to be noted that he is an absolute stud in the run game. Teams can’t be great in run defense if they don’t have CBs who can tackle, and it looks like the Patriots have that.

Kyle Arrington – B
Kyle Arrington has been shown a lot of respect this year by the coaching staff given the fact he is starting at LCB even though Ras-I Dowling is healthy. I’m not sure if that’s an indication of Arrington’s improved play or an indictment on Dowling but that is the case as we stand. The main thing you notice about Arrington is he is active with his hands at the line of scrimmage. This is one of the main reasons he lines up in the slot on a regular basis. He is very aggressive and also sticks his nose in on running plays. However he suffers from the same thing that affected Devin McCourty last year. Despite having 7 INTs last year he fails to locate the ball when in trail position. This was evident on the 4th down conversion against Tennessee. The Patriots went to cover 0 which left Arrington on an island. He actually had pretty good coverage, however he didn’t turn his head until it was too late and by that stage the play was as good as over. Arrington is by no means a weakness on the defense, however it would be much more helpful if Dowling could turn it around because his length would be perfect for a boundary cb while Arrington is more at home in the slot.

Patrick Chung – B
The safety position is one of the hardest to evaluate in the NFL. If a cb is beaten deep the first thing you assume is the safety didn’t get there fast enough. If a TE catches a ball underneath you think the safety didn’t close quick enough. This seems to be the biggest knock against Chung as of late. He is always in the vicinity of the play but it always seems he is a fraction of a second late. However with the exceptions of some safeties with ridiculous range (Polamalu, Earl Thomas etc) or guys with incredible smarts and ability to bait the QB (Ed Reed) most safeties in the NFL suffer from this same perception. With better safety play beside him this year we have seen Chung around the ball a lot more through two weeks of the season than last year. He was there to recover the fumble (later ruled incompletion) against the Titans and nearly had a nice pick against the Cardinals. The biggest issue for Chung going forward is staying healthy. If he can do that then he will be a valuable member of the defense.

Steve Gregory – B-
I think it’s safe to say, and I really hope I’m not jumping the gun, that Steve Gregory is a mega upgrade over James Ihedigbo. Now that is very much so a shot at how poor Ihedigbo was last year because I would rate Gregory as the weak link in the secondary so far. The simple issue with Gregory is he lacks ideal range. There haven’t been any horrendous plays that bring back memories of last year so far, however I think the best way to describe Gregory’s play so far would be “meh”. Of course it is early in the season and the safety partnership between he and Chung may blossom, but as of now I am way more excited of the prospect of seeing Tavon Wilson on the field more often.

Tavon Wilson – B+
I think Wilson came into a pretty difficult situation with the fans this year. When he was drafted there was a consensus feeling of “WTF”. However when looking at how the NFL is developing he could be exactly the type of safety Belichick has been craving for a number of years since Rodney Harrison retired. As John Lynch stated on Sunday, he himself was one guy brought in to be that rover safety/LB tweener in the system. The Patriots have actually tried numerous players out in this role and none have been successful thus far. However Wilson seems to have made a pretty nice start to his career. I believe most teams will be moving forward with 3 safeties who can rotate and disguise coverages while on the field at the same time. Having that guy who can just as easily drop into the box as play man on a TE or drop into coverage is essential for this role. Here’s hoping Wilson can develop into that player.
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Old 09-20-2012, 08:43 PM    (permalink
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Solder getting a B is a joke. I'm sorry even if it hasnt led to Brady getting sacked he has been making it very difficult for Brady to have a clean pocket.
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:05 PM    (permalink
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Nice write up antoin, I would just drop solder to a c- at best and throw a d in there for cannon.
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:33 PM    (permalink
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Wow we gave our defense a lot of crap last year, but after watching Carolina tonight it's obvious we were never this bad. It's a shame because Kuechly is such a boss. Thank God for Wilfork, Love, and Jones.
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Old 09-20-2012, 09:37 PM    (permalink
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Love has actually really impressed me thus far this year. He has done a great job against the rush, would like to see a little more push on passing downs but other than that I think he has played alot better than last year. If only Brace could step it up.
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Old 09-21-2012, 09:46 AM    (permalink
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I don't know I kinda think a lot of the Solder hate is carrying over from the preseason. He wasn't really tested against Arizona as their outside rushers didn't give too much of a problem. He made one bad play that nearly got Brady killed against Tennessee but overall, particularly in the run game I think he has actually been relatively ok.

In regards to the Panthers D last night, is anyone else surprised that Keuchly isn't in on their nickle package yet? I mean I know Beason is very athletic but Keuchly's strength is the passing game and I thought he would be a much better option
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Old 09-21-2012, 10:01 AM    (permalink
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In regards to the Panthers D last night, is anyone else surprised that Keuchly isn't in on their nickle package yet? I mean I know Beason is very athletic but Keuchly's strength is the passing game and I thought he would be a much better option
Yeah I was shocked by that as well. Kuechly looks like their best defensive player already, and it makes 0 sense to take him off the field. He'd probably do better as a nickel corner than whatever the hell it was that they rolled out last night.


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Love has actually really impressed me thus far this year. He has done a great job against the rush, would like to see a little more push on passing downs but other than that I think he has played alot better than last year. If only Brace could step it up.
I'm a huge Love fan, if he resigns for longer than 1 year he's probably the jersey I'd invest in. I think Love was keying on Locker week 1 in the run game since he didn't seem to be making any effort to play with forward momentum in passing situations. I think he's an underrated pass rusher, so I'm excited to see what he can do going forward. He's got a decent opportunity going against Yanda this week. If he can play him to a stalemate I don't see how Wilfork, Jones, and co. don't completely take over the game like they did last season.

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