August 27, 2011

Preseason Game 2 Notes: Pats 31 Bucs 14

This is pretty damn late. But seeing as I'm coming off a week where:

-I had 24 hours worth of delays and cancellations to fly home from Jersey
-Everyone freaked out about a little earthquake
-Everyone is currently going crazy about a hurricane
-I'm working 40+ hours this week at a grocery store where people are going crazy about a hurricane

Clearly the apocalypse is nigh. So I think the delay is understandable. Your long overdue game notes from the Pats demolition of the Bucs.

I know its just the pre-season. I know these games mean jack-diddly crap. But the Patriots have been an angry and efficient death machine through the first two pre-season games. And no matter how much you try to play it down, the Evil Empire first stringers completely embarrassed the Bucs (21-zip first quarter lead...28-0 at the half). We'll see if that actually carries over into the season.


I lived in the area for four years. But I cannot for the life of me figure out why Tampa Bay can NEVER sell out Raymond James Stadium. And was empty last Thursday. Sure its the preseason, but this was an exciting 10-6 team filled with young players and unlimited potential. I hope for the Bucs sake that they can get people to attend games...otherwise it'll be a season long blackout on TV. Maybe having good teams with no fans is just a Florida thing (see Rays, every team from Miami).


Again...Preseason. But the Pats defense hasn't looked this good in A WHILE. And it all stems from the apparent philosophy shift from a 3-4 to 4-3 defense.

Let's face it. What we saw the past two years was absolutely terrible. No pass rush, corners playing 10 yards off their man, and letting mediocre QBs like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Flynn look like football gods.

They've looked totally different this pre-season. Forget the 4-3 front. They are simply imposing their will on the opposition. And I love what I saw, especially against the Bucs.

The Patriot D-Line was doing whatever it wanted to the Tampa Bay O-Line. Pushing guys back, busting run plays, and getting in Josh Freeman's face every play (According to the Boston Globe, if you add up pressures, hurries, sacks, TFLs and offensive penalties, the Pats defense was disruptive on 24 of Tampa’s 28 pass attempts...mind you they're doing it all without Albert Haynesworth). And they didn't even have to blitz to do it. Defensive ends Eric Moore, Andre Carter, and Mark Anderson were just overpowering their blockers.

In the secondary, the Pats scrapped the cover 4 against Tampa, instead opting for bump and run man coverage on the Buc wideouts. McCourty and Bodden looked good as the starters (tough to tell because Josh Freeman didn't have a chance to challenge them with all the pressure he was under), but Darius Butler still appears to be a lost cause.


New England literally walked down the field on its first three drives for easy scores. They looked good spreading the field out (Branch, Ochocinco, Welker, Hernandez, with Woodhead in the backfield). They looked even better in a big formation (Welker, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Yeatman, Green-Ellis). Aside from a few drops (more on that later), they should be pretty damn close to unstoppable with the variety of ways they can attack.


No one seems to be enjoying the 4-3 more than Mayo. Last year at the middle linebacker in the 3-4, Mayo was a tackling machine, leading the league in take downs. But in the past two games, he's been a playmaking machine at his natural weak-side linebacker position in the 4-3 (he played Will backer at Tennessee). Jerod was all over the place against the Bucs, with 2 sacks and a QB hit on Freeman


With Brandon Spikes out the lineup, Dane Fletcher is making a very compelling case to be the starter at middle linebacker. He only made one tackle on the night, but it was a very impressive one, throwing down bruiser LeGarrette Blount. Fletcher's shown remarkable instinct for a 2nd year guy, and should see solid playing time this season.


In my opinion, Hernandez is on the verge of a monster year, exploding with another big game against the Bucs. He made a great move on a bubble screen, breaking Ronde Barbers ankles with a nifty juke for a first. He toasted an OLB on an out route to move the chains again. He ran a perfect route and was wide open for the first Patriot touchdown. And the dude can block too, with an excellent seal block that gave Danny Woodhead room for a huge cutback run. It's not fair to have two young studs at TE like the Pats have with Gronkowski and Hernandez.


It was his first preseason action. But 85 looked out of sorts. He had a nice TD catch where he was wide open, and his route running looked good. But he had a few drops, something that has been plaguing him through camp. Hopefully this isn't a sign of things to come.


They've looked good. VERY good. And again, that's still without Albert Haynesworth. So now, the question is who will make the team? Vince Wilfork, Haynesworth, and Shaun Ellis (Haynesworth and Ellis could see action tonight after returning to practice this week) are obviously going to be there. Andre Carter, Mark Anderson, and Eric Moore were absolute beasts at the end positions against the Bucs. So what happens to interior guys Gerard Warren, Brandon Deadrick (PUP), Ron Brace (PUP), Daryl Richard, Landon Cohen, and Kade Weston? A few of those active guys will need a good outing in tonight's game against Detroit to make the cut.



The two rookies were missing from both Patriot preseason games, but returned to practice this week. Dowling likely has his spot locked down, but Vereen may need to show something in the Patriots loaded backfield. New England has 5 back on roster (and one Kevin Faulk on the PUP list). He may be battling Sammy Morris for a roster spot.


Tate has been out with an injury all camp, and Taylor Price has made the most of his absence. If Tate wants to lock down a spot, he needs to show explosiveness on kickoff returns and look better at wide receiver. Julian Edelman has struggled at both in his absence, and I'd say the final WR spot in New England (besides special teams ace Matt Slater) is down to a battle between these 2.

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