The two-year anniversary of the dreaded Wildcat formation offense is upon us. And like anything else in this world, a couple of years tends to render an object obsolete. That’s not to say the Wildcat doesn’t propose a very real threat; it just hasn’t been accompanied by that element of surprise anymore and defenses have been ready.
This 2010 Dolphins offense may either be saving a new play or two for their New England rivals on Monday Night Football or maybe their level of talent has surpassed their need for using surprises as advantages to pull them out of holes. Both the Patriots and the Dolphins are 2-1; 1-1 in the AFC East at this point. A win for either team tomorrow will place them atop the division with the rival New York Jets.
The Pats are still digging deep to find defensive consistency, especially on the road, but recent acquisition and Pro-Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall will probably be aiming to exploit the previous with his new buddy QB Chad Henne.
Tom Brady vs. The Numbers – On Monday Nights in Miami, the Patriots are an unimpressive 3-5. In the past handful of seasons the Pats couldn’t muster up anything more than a near 11-9 series split with the Dolphins. Whatever it is about playing the Fins in their house, it’s more than just a coincidence.
Even dating back to the young Tom Brady glory days, a win in Miami always feels like a division-clinching win regardless of the week. Another peg that fans can rest their hats on is that the only thing keeping the Patriots from being 0-3 or 1-2 is the prolific play being rocketed out of Brady’s arm. (758 yards and 8 TDs through 3 games with a 109.1 passer rating) Numbers like that continue to shine a negative spotlight on New England’s young defense.
Brady’s protection has been wonderful and nothing other than a complete lapse by the offensive line, should really be too different against Miami. The two biggest problems for Brady are somewhat new for even him; LBs Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby can create pressure and cover receivers, but will that be enough to keep #12 from linking up with the vast selection of weapons in his artillery? I think not. Especially when Coach Belichick can try to keep Miami respectful with screens, play-action, and spread formations.
Forgetting Brandon Marshall – Wouldn’t it be nice if that were possible? After a career night for Chad Henne last week, with 166 of his 363 yards and half of his touchdowns coming from 10 of Marshall’s routes, the connection between Henne and Marshall is beginning to solidify. Especially when you take into account that this duo’s breakout night came against a Jets defense that is admittedly a step or three ahead of our own (They held the Harvard grad that put up 240 yards on us to 120).
Expecting our CBs to take Brandon Marshall out of the game is silly, but asking them to play physically, intelligently, and consistently isn’t. There’s nothing professional about keeping a game competitive only until halftime. 60 MINUTES, PLEASE. Thanks. Devin McCourty is going to have to zero in on Miami’s big threat and not get too overexcited while defending him. Marshall knows how to hit the Patriots hard too, as I’m sure you remember both of his touchdowns last year in Denver.
The New Committee – The Patriots have been pretty big on the whole rotating running-back thing for a long time, except now that committee has had a full makeover. With Fred Taylor out due to old age, Maroney fumbling in a Bronco’s uniform now, and Kevin Faulk’s poor ACL, the depth chart has undergone almost a full makeover at the RB position. On Monday Night it will be up to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Sammy Morris, and Thomas Clayton (back for round 2) to extend drives and hit the Fins in the gut.
Yeah I know… no typos; I don’t really believe that I just wrote those last two sentences either. Green-Ellis and Woodhead had quite the game against a poor effort from the Bills defense, and conveniently enough for them and the rest of the crew, Miami doesn’t look to strong on their run-stopping either. The running game could be an effective way to control the clock and the flow of the game while limiting the amount of potential Dolphin scoring chances.
On a side note, the running game has been noticeably better this season compared to last. Already, our backs have broken out 4 runs of 20 yards or more. In the entire 2009 season New England could only muster up 7 of those. The blocking skills of veteran Alge Crumpler, in addition to rookies Hernandez and Gronkowski have been the difference. With holes as large as Crumpler creates, any no name back could scrounge up a couple yards…. errr… exactly. One more thing: In 2009 TEs Ben Watson and Chris Baker combined for 546 yards and 7 TDs. Whereas this season the new rookies already combine for 269 yards and 2 touchdown through three games. Do the math and you’ll find out that that’s progress.
The spotlight of MNF should be good for allowing our young secondary, and all players for that matter, to shine. Expect New England’s leading tackler, Pat Chung, to turn up the heat after his confidence-boosting INT against Buffalo last week. The likes of Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham, Gerrard Warren, and Kyle Arrington will use tomorrow night as their introduction to America. Not only am I predicting a close win, but I’ve been saying that this was the week that would define the defense since the schedules came out… too bad Tedy Bruschi beat me to that statement on national television. 28-21 Patriots. They can’t lose there every time.
Tags: Pre-Game Meal