NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
I have a feeling tomorrow’s work-day will be the longest in recent memory. I know I’ll be waiting all day in preparation for the Patriots week one matchup (7pm eastern on ESPN). Here’s are 11 thoughts for the Patriots opening game.
-We learned on Sunday that the Patriots announced five players have been downgraded to out for tomorrow night’s game: Sebastian Vollmer, Taylor Price, Ryan Wendell, Jeff Tarpinian and Jermaine Cunningham. The big surprises there are Price and Cunningham, but even with how many practices Vollmer missed, I still expected him to be active. The Patriots are left with just two active tackles after cutting Steve Maneri.
-With Nate Solder getting his first start lining up against Cameron Wake, I’d expect a lot of help from the Gronk brothers. If you were planning on starting Rob Gronkowski in your fantasy leagues, I’d have second thoughts.
-The Patriots will only have six active offensive linemen for tomorrow, there’s going to be a problem if there are any injuries, especially at tackle. James Christensen and Mike Reiss mentioned Logan Mankins as a possibility at tackle if Light or Solder go down. The Boston Herald’s Ian Rappaport also mentioned the possibility of signing an OT before tomorrow’s game. Quinn Ojinnaka was in for a workout earlier this week.
-I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of Aaron Hernandez tomorrow. With Price out, he’s the Patriots biggest deep threat and I would assume he’ll be in on four receiver sets over Julian Edelman or Matt Slater.
-With five players already announced as out, I’ll predict Ryan Mallett and A.J. Edds as the final inactives. I’ll throw in Shane Vereen as a wild card possibility.
-Expect a big rotation along the defensive line tomorrow night. Apparently, there were a lot of players cramping up in Tampa today. Therefore, the Patriots won’t let their big guys be on the field for too long. Without Cunningham, Mark Anderson will be expected to fill in as a backup DE behind Andre Carter.
-Speaking of cramping, regardless of whether Connolly or Waters starts at RG, I’d expect to see all 6 OL playing at some point.
-Obviously Devin McCourty and Leigh Bodden will start the game at LCB and RCB, but who will be the first CB to come out in a flex package? Bodden will slide over to cover Davone Bess in the slot, and once again, I’d expect a rotation to take over at RCB. I would expect to see Kyle Arrington first, but expect to see a lot of Ras-I Dowling.
-McCourty, Bodden, Jerod Mayo and Patrick Chung will likely play 90-100% of defensive snaps barring injuries, as for the other 7 players: rotation, rotation, rotation. Sergio Brown will likely be the first safety in to play next to Chung, but Josh Barrett will absolutely get some time back there as well.
-We haven’t seen Brandon Spikes or Dane Fletcher for a few weeks now, but I look forward to watching those two in at MLB while the Pats are in a 4-3 base. The Patriots looked far more impressive in their first two preseason games with Fletcher in the middle, rather than when they were basically playing a nickel base against the Lions and Giants.
-I wouldn’t expect to see much of either Patriots rookie RB in week one. Since both have missed time with injury and without a typical rookie offseason, they will be behind the curve. RBs will be in to block a lot in passing situations, so expect to see BenJarvus Green-Ellis protecting Brady often.