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By TOM

August 23rd, 2010

Okay, now back to our original reason for sitting down at the computer yesterday:-) and that is my beloved Patriots. I usually don’t write about the Pats during the season, because I have a life. I know, if you visit my site from Feb-May it doesn’t look like I have a life, but I do. Really! I like to watch the Pats’ games as a fan. I watch college football as a scout, and that is enough work for one weekend. (Okay here it comes, my big However;-). However, I am ready to put my heart into the belief in another Super Bowl run. After last season, and the this off season, I was pretty comfortable with the fact that Pats were not a Super Bowl contenders. There were just too many questions. The O-Line, Running Backs, Tight Ends, Kick Returners, and most important the defense.

I was not super worried about the offense, because Brady was a season beyond his knee surgery. The season after major knee surgery is always a disappointing, dare I say transitional, season for a professional athletes, with apparently the miraculous Wes Welker being the amazing exception. And that doesn’t even take into account the 3-5 broken bones Brady was playing with come the end of the season. As miraculous a recovery Welker is having this off-season/preseason, that is how miraculous a season the beaten, broken, and battered Brady had last season when you take into account all the injuries. BUT it still wasn’t his second best season by any stretch of the imagination, though it was clearly his bravest. He will be significantly better this season. 

My biggest concern was the O-Line. The loss of allegedly idealistic Mankins has been a problem, but the loss of Nick Kazur mean two of the Pats top six O-Linemen are gone. Not good for Brady! It also mean that the horrible Dan Connolly had to start. Connolly was terrible last season, almost as bad as Billy Yates. He started off terrible against New Orleans. Then he starts making his blocks. He was be physical and hitting everyone they put in front of him. He even started looking as good holding up against the big guys, as he looked horrible last season. He was inflicting devastating double team blocks with Koppen on the first two series. He was getting out to the second level and making some nice impacts on defenders, although not really sustaining those blocks, at least impacting them backwards. At least three times the guy he impacted made the tackle down field. Ending the series with three, not one, excellent blocks pulling to the right, coming through the line and impacting the ILB. he sees to be a this best when pulling to the right, not as good out on the left. The first on a run by Ben-Javis from the saints 16, to 12. Then he knocks down two guys who got past him, should have been a penalty. Then he pulls right and leads Faulk through the hole on 3rd and 4 from the ten. Then he appears to miss a block on first down. However, he trapped blocked down on the DT, and the LB shot the gap, so blaming him is minimally unreasonable. Then of course he pulls to the right and takes out Vilma on Maroney's 4-yard TD run that everyone went crazy for. And despite all my vitriol for a fellow Irishmen, he was excellent against the Falcons. He was near flawless in the game. I no longer fear the loss of Mankins. I do fear the loss of Neal. As everybody knows I have been saying for year the key to the O-Line. Not because he is their best O-Linemen, but because he always seems to have the worst back up, like Billy Yates. The most valuable players are not just based on who is good they are, but also on how good their back ups are. When Neal went down and Yates was inserted, it was a disaster. Unlike a few years ago when Light went down and LeVoir step in and played well enough, the drop off was not significant. Now most Patsfan would agree the Light is a better player than Neal, but because Light's backup has been significantly better that Neal's, Neal's loss becomes the biggest problem in the O-Line. Now however, Neal apparently has the best back up, only his back up is starting at Left Guard, and there are no other options at O-Guard. The good news is that the Pats have signed two veterans O-Guards sine. Neither one I'm trilled about, but as back ups they are clearly an upgrade, since their young guys have been so bad. It looks like the Bussey and Ornbertger experiments may be over with, and I watched Ted Larsen play in the East-West game, and the only note I had on him was a disgusted, "He can't hold up." He was being pushed back for too easily on every play in that game, and those were college D-Linemen not NFL D-Linemen. The goods news is that the worst starting O-Linemen so far this preseason has been Light, and he has not been bad by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just when you make a mistake at OLT it usually ends up impacting the QB, pun intended. So as long as the starting five can stay healthy, and with the help of LeVoir as a back up Right Tackle (if Light goes down Vollmer will play Left), Eric Ghiaciuc as Koppen's back up at Center, Quinn Ojinnaka as the back up Guard (even though Ojinnaka appears to be a better O-Linemen than a husband). I think the O-Line will be okay. However, it is a long grueling 16 game schedule, that is a big if.

At draft time I outline the questions I have about all their Wide Receivers: was Randy’s heart up to it, was Wes’s knee up to it, was Brandon Tate’s (my favorite draft pick from two years ago) knee up to it, and is Edelman going to learn how to stay healthy (so far the answer to that question is a big no, as Edelman doesn't seem to want to go out of bounds? He has study every move Welker makes on the field, except diving to the gournd when the big guys are coming, and getting small ass out of bounds). I know it is too early to say this, but I have significantly less doubts about the Wide Receivers. They are currently, and lord knows everything can change come the regular season, the deepest position on the roster.

The running back position I am less worried about. I think they have five good Backs, and Brady’s passing, the O-Line, and the Tight Ends will have more to do with their efficiency than anything else. Brady has been focus, ornery, and awesome so far. The O-Line, the starting O-Linemen have been more physical and effective then I thought they would be, so far. The Tight Ends have been surprisingly good, and I like Gronkowski, and I compared Hernandez to Shannon Sharpe before the Pats drafted him. Here are my notes from Day Three on the Draft:

Aaron Hernandez- His biggest question comes with character. Rumors abound about six failed drug test for weed. He got in a lot of trouble at Florida . However, apparently Urban Meyer gave him a thumbs up to BB. He is a freak physical specimen who can run and catch the ball all over the field. He reminds me of Shannon Sharpe. a small receiving Tight End who is much stronger than he looks, and fighters harder than you'd think in the blocking game, but doesn't have the size to stand up one-on-one, like Sharpe more of a position or blindside blocker. I watched Florida more than a few times last season, and I always came away impressed with how dynamic he was in the passing game. He can really get open deep and catch the long pass. He has great on field Speed and quickness. In his career garnered 111 Catches, 1,382 Yards, and 12 TDs. John Mackey award winner last season. He had a great Combine, and benched 225 pound 30 times, which is remarkable for a guy his size. However, he not a good blocker, and not a guy you want to put out there in running situations every play. What he is, is a slippery, fast, pass-catching H-Back. He is a bit of a one-hit wonder as trouble kept him off the field early, and as good as his junior season was, 68 catches for 680 yards and 5 TDs, nearly doubling his production during his career. He developed into Tebow’s go to guy when he was in trouble.

I loved the Alge Crumpler signing, and I think he will be a force in the running game. His blocking so far has been the best I've seen since before Daniel Graham. He is a much better receiver than given credit. Taylor had a spectacular game against Atlanta, but the next 30 carry game will be his last. BJGE is solid tough back who lacks any kind of big play threat. Maroney is sill my boy, and if he can only shed some inconsistency mentally he would easily be their best back. As someone with ADD, I often find myself yelling at myself “Focus-Focus-Focus!”. Yo Laurence, FOCUS-FOCUS-FOCUS! Morris is Morris and Faulk is Faulk. Reliable veterans who are only fighting father Cronus himself.

Am I nuts? Yeah-yeah-yeah, I know all you republicans are yelling “yes”. But I mean, am I nuts to think that this is the best Tight End crew we’ve had since Graham left? I loved the Gronkowski pick in the 2nd Round, but Gonzalez looks like he is going to be something special in the first two games. Did you see that catch he made in the back of the endzone, when he turned Sean Weatherspoon around, and Brady through the ball behind him. He spun completely around snagged the ball, and tiptoed through the back line. That was a special catch, that not a lot of Tight Ends in this can make. I know it was one play, but it showed that if he can keep it together mentally, his one question coming out of Florida this year, he has true NFL talent. Gronkowski looks like he is continuing from where he was before the back surgery. People seem to forget that he caught a lot of passes down field. He can stretch the seam, and when the QB throws the ball high he never drops it. I mean, he never drops the ball. I do enjoy bragging, so I am probably one of the few Pats fan who actually saw him play two years ago, and kept catching the ball with DB pulling on his elbows all game. I said before the Pats drafted him that I thought he had the best hands in the Draft, and I meant everybody including WRs. As long his back can stay strong he will develop into the best two threat at TE this team has seen in a while. He was drafted two rounds ahead of Hernandez, and I still think he is better all around TE then Hernadez. He has been a solid blocker and the giant receiver in the redzone the Pats haven’t had in years. Did you see his TD catch? He was not exactly open, but Brady through it it high, and nobody else on the field was tall enough to catch it except him. What made him special in college wasn’t his great separation skills, most of his catch were with guys on him. What made him great was his ability to catch the ball with defenders swarming him. He is already displaying that great skill. He lacks the separation talents of Gonzalez, but he will outfight, box-out, and out reach any defender he faces. And of course the reports of Alge Crumpler's demise have been grossly exaggerated.  

The best news this preseason is clearly in the return game. The most underrated weakness of last year’s team was the Kick and Punt Returners. And really over the past few years has there been a legit threat in the return game? The last to return a kick for a TD was the mentally mercurial Bethel Johnson. Brandon Tate is the real deal as Kick Returner, and Edelman looks like the real deal as a Punt Returner. Suddenly we might be in the top ten in the return game in the NFL, instead of bottom ten like the past few years. And most important of all, Wes Welker and hated knee brace should sashay under a single punt!!! 

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me:

patsfanmock12@yahoo.com

 

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