For Sunday: Part III
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5. Pats D Vs Houston O- So
much of this game is in the hands of the young rookie QB, which is a nice
break for the Pats DC. "
We got to see a little bit in preseason [of
Watson] who is a very dangerous quarterback. I think he's a guy who gives
them a different approach to the offense," Patricia said. "He's
very calm. He's a real smooth guy. This guy is an experienced guy from the
standpoint of he has played in some big games before. He can make throws
downfield. He's got a strong arm [and can] make all the throws
there." The problem is that he is a rookie QB who is not ready to
throw the ball with any consistency in the NFL yet.
But he will kill you with his feet. "I would say his ability to
run the ball, his ability to escape pressure brings just a whole other
level of a dynamic to their offense," Patricia said. "I think he
does a great job of handling the volume that they give him week in week
out. Bill does a great job with the offense and the game plan format where
they'll change and attack a defense a certain way one week and then change
it up the next week. So he's obviously shown the ability to handle that
from the standpoint of the understanding of the offense and the opponent's
defense." He is learning on the go, like all rookie QBs.
Inconsistencies also can come with some high highs. "I think
it's a guy that the team really rallies behind," Patricia said.
"I think that they know that with him he can make some big plays when
they don't have a lot of options and they really have a lot of confidence
in him to be able to do that." So they will back off of him, and try
and take advantage of a rookie mistake or two.
Watson was a great clutch QB at Clemson. He has a chance to be a
great NFL QB, and he showed some of that clutch play against Cincy last
week. "You're exactly right. It's a great opportunity for us to look
at him in a situation where it's obviously a critical situation in the
game from a clock standpoint, from an operation standpoint, trying to get
into a position where they can score points. It highlights his ability to
make plays when things break down," Patricia said. "I think from
the standpoint of his athletic ability in open space, we certainly
unfortunately saw his athletic ability in the preseason game also down
there [with] his ability to make guys miss. He just has really good body
control. Like I said, he's a smooth athlete so you may think that you're
in a good alignment or you may think that you have a good tackle lined up
or you may have good leverage and he just has a good ability to ruin that
leverage on you pretty quick which was evident again the other day."
When he sees the coverage retreating in Man, he can run for a long time.
His 49-yard TD run was spectacular last week. "I think the bug
thing there is making sure that we all understand that once this guy does
turn into a full-blown runner and he's declared as a runner at that point,
that we have to make sure that we do a really good job of hustling and
getting everybody to the ball to try to put ourselves in a good position
to tackle him because he is difficult to tackle," Patricia said.
"I'd say again, just in general with their offense I want to make
sure this doesn't go unnoticed, but obviously they have one of the best
wide receivers in the league with Hopkins. There's a certain element there
from a coverage standpoint you have to respect that and make sure you
handle those different things that they do from their personnel
standpoint, which gives the quarterback an opportunity to get some space
and to extend some plays and take off if he has to." However, I still
believe that as long as he is running, the Pats are winning.
We don't want him throwing downfield to Hopkins. As confident as I
am against a rookie QB? The Pats are ranked 31st in pass defense.
"Thanks for telling me. Sounds about right though," McCourty
said. "We haven't played the best football that we know we can.
Obviously, if you give up big plays, that's not going to rank you pretty
high in pass defense. Like I said, obviously we have a lot of work to get
done and it's something we've just got to keep improving." As usual
the team has not come together early in the season.
The Pats always take a while to develop the communication they need
to execute their complicated defense. "It's still a work in progress.
I mean, each time, different things come up: it could be new, it could be
something similar, and we just keep talking through it. I think one of the
best things for us always is after practice in the meeting rooms,"
McCourty said. "Defensively, we're always communicating, talking,
we're making the calls we made out on the field. Sometimes we make a call
that, at the moment, we thought was right, but we get in there, we watch
it, it's like, 'Hey, I called this but I think this will work out better,'
and we'll talk about that right in the meeting room. I think that allows
us to develop communication off the field." So while the secondary is
coming together they cannot allow Hopkins to run free.
He has been targeted 14.5 times a game in the first two games.
"Because, I mean, once you get in the season, we can't practice
everything that will come up in the game," McCourty said. "But,
just being able to sit through the practice film and to sit through some
game film and decide exactly how we're going to call stuff and then try to
keep that consistent once we get out there in the game allows us to keep
getting better at communicating. But, it's something we've got to just
keep doing and, hopefully, each week, each game it improves and we get to
the point where it's like second nature." They'll put a bracket on
Hopkins, and make Watson try to beat them with his other minions.
6. O-line- The good news for the Pats depleted WR-corp. is that
Houston lost two Corners last week do to injury. If they are still out,
the Pats WR-corp. just got better. Houston will struggle to score a TD
against the Pats, which is why I say (as almost always;) this game is all
about the O-line. If they keep Brady on his feet it is an easy win.
The problem is that Houston has four rushers who can hit the QB on
the field at all times: the Big Three, and McKinney. "I think the
last few years, people have really expanded what they do relative to the
fronts and where they put their personnel on defense," McDaniels
said. "I think across the league, who started it and how it began
exactly, I'm never quite sure. I don't necessarily track that exactly, but
it's definitely a fad right now and people are using different alignments
and different spacing on their defensive fronts to try to create some type
of disruption for the offense, whether that be blitz pickup, matchups that
they feel are in their advantage or try to attack the protection system if
they feel like they know what that is." Like lining up 3 or 4 pure
rushers from different angles with different skills.
Watt is the big 5-Tech who can rush, and Mercilus is the pure speed
guy who can play every down. "So, it's all predicated on trying to
create either confusion or pressure, and if they can do both, then that's
kind of exactly what they're looking for," McDaniels said. "Some
teams have had more success than others across the league. It's certainly
something that you have to be ready for and you have to practice and
prepare hard for each week, the different volumes of: fronts, looks,
blitzes, alignments, personnel groupings that the other team may put out
there on the field and show you. It definitely is a situation where you've
got to be ready to block a lot of different people in our game. It's not
just, 'I have to block this guy the whole game and that's the only person
I'm going to block.'" So on one play Cannon with fight the power and
quicks of Watt, and on the next the speed and quicks of Mercilus.
And that goes for all five OLs on every play against Houston.
"All of our offensive linemen understand, [and] our tight ends same
thing: that there may be a lot of different faces across from them at
different points in the game and getting familiar with those people,
getting familiar with the things that they do from those alignments is
really something that's important each week as we prepare for the next
opponent," McDaniels said. "So, this week will be a big
challenge. They've got a great front. They've got a great defense:
well-coached, very fundamentally sound, they can create a lot of matchup
situations that they try to take advantage of, and try to create some
confusion with what they do defensively. They've got really good rushers,
they blitz well. They've got good cover players. They make things hard on
you and they don't give up big plays. So, that's the hallmark of a great
defense, and that's what we have in front of us this week. It will be a
big challenge for us." They also have Clowney who is kind of the
mirror image of Watt.
Watt is a power inside player with the unique ability to use burst,
explosion and quicks outside to disrupt as well. "The quickness that
J.J. has with the power that he has is a pretty rare combination. On top
of that, he's got great length and he's got a great motor," BB said.
"You're not talking about a 6-1 guy. You're not talking about a guy
that takes plays off. You've got to deal with his length, his power, his
quickness on every single play. That in itself is difficult. He just wears
guys down with effort and toughness. Then when you take the skill that he
has and combine it all together, that puts him at a very [rarified
air]." While Clowney is a great speed outside rusher, who has the
length and strength to be just as disruptive rushing inside.
Then they have the pure speed guy, who can also rush inside or
outside of either Watt or Clowney. "He's had success against
everybody. Mercilus is a really good football player: strong, fast, plays
with great leverage, has length but plays with leverage, very fast off the
edge and explosive," BB said. "Not just speed, but he's got
power. He's got good quickness, plays hard, good motor. It seems like
every time I watch him he's gotten better. From each year to going back to
our game in '15 and then last year in '16 and then the playoff game and
then training camp, he just continues to improve.
"We could tell from being down there with him that he works
hard. He's very dedicated to improving his individual techniques and
skills. I think you can see [hit talent]. I mean he's a good player, but
he's also a rising good player. He just continues to get better. He's very
hard to block and if you don't block him he'll run you down. He's got
really good pursuit and chase speed." No team in the NFL has three
rushers like those guys, and McKinney.
The Pats will struggle to run the ball, but they will have to slam
it into the passrushers over and over to try to wear them down a little
(which will lead to more punts than my stomach can handle;). So again this
is an O-line game. With Cannon dinged up a little, it could be a Fleming
or Waddle game. This will be pure trench warfare for the O-line. They have
to win against the best front seven in the NFL.
Win By A Hairs On My Chinny-Chin-Chin- On the defensive side of the ball, they
scare the crap out of me. "It's been, as always, a very challenging
week getting ready for: Billy, Mike, Larry, their coaching staff. And
their great players: Watt, Hopkins, Watson, Mercilus, McKinney, Clowney.
They've got a lot of them," BB said. "We'll see how it all comes
together here today and then on Sunday. It's a good football team, a tough
team to prepare for. They always compete very hard. They have a lot of
mentally and physically tough players that are well-coached that will
provide a big challenge for us. One more day here to work through
it." But I can't get over how consistently bad they have been on the
other side of the ball.
Their offense is a one-man band led by a WR (Hopkins), and not a QB
(Rookie what's-his-name;). That is never the path to victory in the NFL.
They have some solid compliments to the QB in the run game. But besides
Rookie what's-his-name, the RBs have struggled in the run game, as teams
can stack their defense to stop the run first.
However, they had a great Draft. D'Onta Foreman was maybe my
favorite RB in the Draft, because he was a Day One talent you could get in
the 3rd or 4th. "I think we saw quite a bit of those guys. What I've
seen from them hasn't been any big surprise," BB said. "I saw
Foreman. We've all seen Watson. They're doing things that we've seen them
do in college and saw them do in preseason. We saw it in our preseason
game. Whether we practiced against them or not, we saw them in the game.
Yeah, I mean they have some good, young players, players that they've
added to the team. Cunningham is another guy that's getting quite a bit of
playing time for them." Though Cunningham sucked in coverage at
Vanderbilt, it was said BB loved him in the Draft.
D'Onta is huge and never gets caught from behind when he gets a
lane. "Foreman is a big kid, a big, strong guy. I mean, not quite as
big as Blount, but big like LG was," BB said. "[D'Onta has]
really good hands. I spent quite a bit of time with him at Texas last
spring. He's an impressive guy. He can run through guys. He can run around
them. He's got good quickness in space, a good receiver. He's a big back
with some little back skills. So he's got a very good overall skill set.
He can be used on all three downs. But he can get tough yards and he can
be tough in space as we saw in the preseason game." He has incredible
competitive speed for an RB who has Blount's size, thud, and power.
They also have Patriot's Killer Lamar Miller hiding behind Watson.
"I don't think he's quite as big as Foreman but he's got power,"
BB said. "He runs hard. He's got good lower-body strength, good
balance, breaks tackles. He's got good long speed and he's good in the
passing game, too. He can get out in space and he can make guys miss and
break tackles out there. [He's] a good screen back. He's got good timing
on the screens and uses his blockers well. They're both three-down players
that have a lot of skill in the running game and the passing game."
You will see them run some Options.
So between Watson, Miller, and Foreman they can run the ball. Like
the Pats, they are still putting their run game together. So it is not as
effective as it will be later in the season. But they will be forced to
pound the ball into the defense to try and get to 3rd and short, and to
try and use playaction to take pressure off Watson.
They are not going to beat the Pats with the run game and a rookie
QB. If they had a veteran QB who could take advantage of the play action,
like Fitzpatrick did a couple years ago with the Jets, then maybe. But
with a rookie QB starting his second game, they are just too much of a
The Pats don't lose to teams that can only dominate on one-side of
the ball. Whether it is on offense or defense. In this case they can only
dominate on the defense side of the ball, which will make a long and ugly
game. Brady will get beat up. They will punt too much. It will be slow
tough physical football. But the Pats will win because a Brady led offense
will always score more points than a rookie led offense. Not with starting
CB Kevin Johnson out, and the opposite starter Jonathan Joseph
questionable with a bum shoulder.
Plus Gronk practiced this week. "Am I good to go? Yeah, I'm
good to go," Gronk said. "I'm ready." And everyone
(including Gronk;) is saying he is going to play. Yay.
Phillip Dorsett is questionable, but he is saying he will play as
well. "I feel good," Dorsett said. "I’m just a little
sore. But I’m alright." They are going to need his speed in this
Maybe the best news is that Amendola is listed to play in this Game.
"I feel really good," Amendola
said. "I had a strong week. It was rough sitting out last week. I
was excited to get back out there this week, get back to work." They
are going to need him to get open instantly in the slot, to help keep
Brady on his feet.
Having Gronk, Dorsett, and
Amendola available is the game is another changer for me. Amendola can
break open quick underneath, and help save Brady from the rush. Dorsett
can slow the rush a little with some reverses and maybe a screen or two.
And, well, Gronk is Gronk. He can also line up in the Slot and get open
quickly underneath. Plus, he is a third tackle blocking in the
all-important run game that they have to use to slow the rush. He will
also stay in and block on passing downs sometimes. Pats win.
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