Patriots vs Giants: Course Correction

Patriots vs Giants Jerod Mayo

Jerod Mayo patrolling the middle of the field would help alleviate a lot of the Patriots defensive woes.

NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed

If I see another clip of that helmet catch… I’ll probably do nothing, except be really mad.

The Patriots will try to bounce back after a tough loss against the Steelers when the Giants come into town on Sunday. Consecutive games against the Steelers, Giants and Jets pointed out to me just how many teams I consider the Patriots rivals.

If I were to rank the current Patriots rivalries it would probably go: 1. Jets 2. Steelers 3. Colts 4. Dolphins 5. Ravens 6. Chargers 7. Giants 8. Bills.

Regardless of how you rank those teams, after Super Bowl 42, this game/rivalry definitely means something to Patriots fans.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for late Sunday afternoon:

It’s interesting, the loss of Mayo didn’t fully rear its ugly head until Mayo came back in part time duty last week. The Patriots linebackers have been tremendously bad in coverage this season. Brandon Spikes has been the best Patriots linebacker in coverage. Read that again.

This team will immediately become exponentially better when Mayo returns to a full time role (hopefully this week). It’s addition by addition, and also addition by subtraction in getting Gary Guyton off the field. According to Pro Football Focus’ ratings, Guyton has been the 6th worst 4-3 OLB this season (he’s also been poor in the 3-4), and the 5th worst 4-3 OLB this season in coverage. It’s not a case of what he does best, but what he does least badly and so far that’s his run defense and pass rush. Mayo is a major upgrade in every facet of the game.

After Guyton, the 2nd and 3rd worst rated players on the Patriots defense on Pro Football Focus have been Rob Ninkovich and Shaun Ellis. Each have been productive against the run, but have been abysmal against the pass. Ninkovich’s pass rush stats are slightly skewed because he’s usually late to the rush after bumping the opposing tight end at the line, but Ellis doesn’t have much of an excuse while only having eight QB pressures, zero sacks and one QB hit.

With Ellis and Ninkovich struggling, I think it’s time to see more of Mark Anderson. It’s a bit of a running joke that you know the game is nearing an end when Anderson starts upping his sack totals. You may call that garbage time, but the opposing lines aren’t exactly letting Anderson slip through to hit their QB. Anderson has five sacks, three QB hits and eight pressures in about 1/3 the snaps as Ellis and almost half the snaps as Ellis. Anderson can line up at LE and as a 3rd down sub rusher, he also hasn’t been terrible against the run this year. It seems the Patriots would only be gaining by playing Anderson more and not losing too much in the run defense department.

The Patriots have been so good against running backs like Brandon Jacobs that Anderson getting a few more snaps shouldn’t be a problem. If Ellis is out of this game due to his rib injury, I’d expect to see a heavy dose of Brandon Deaderick as well. Safety Ross Ventrone was cut yesterday, which could mean that Ron Brace could be activated before Sunday as well.

Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was diagnosed with a crack in his foot yesterday. Bradshaw played through a similar injury two seasons ago but wasn’t nearly as effective. As I said above, the Patriots can stop bruiser RBs like Jacobs, they have a more difficult time with RBs like Bradshaw, so Bradshaw’s injury should be a major benefit for the Pats.

Eli Manning has been playing downright Peyton-esque this season. He’s completed 64.7% of his passes and only thrown for five picks so far this year. The Patriots secondary will have trouble against all the Giants targets (especially if Hakeem Nicks plays), so they’ll need to pressure Eli, throw some different coverage schemes at him and force some turnovers out of him.

A key player to watch for the Patriots will be Phillip Adams. He came in against the Steelers after Antwaun Molden struggled and looked pretty decent as a sub DB. Either Adams or Molden is going to need to step up.

The Patriots should be able to get some interior pass rush against the Giants. David Diehl has played very poorly this season and it’s looking more and more like David Baas will be out at center. If Albert Haynesworth is going to have a breakout game this season, this might be a good bet for it.

New England’s offensive line had their worst game of the season against the Steelers and this will have to be a nice bounce back game if the Patriots expect to win. Osi Unenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph, Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck have all been elite pass rushers this season. Sebastian Vollmer was pretty bad against the Steelers, so hopefully he’s another week closer to being in full health. I’d expect to see a lot of Nate Solder this week as a 6th OL and I’d expect to see a lot of the Gronkowski brothers staying in to block at TE. This could be a big game for Aaron Hernandez and the Patriots WRs.

A lot has been made of Bill O’Brien saying he wants to get Taylor Price more heavily involved in the offense this week. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m just not sure who’s snaps he’s going to be taking. The Patriots are best when they’re in two TE sets, so I wouldn’t expect to see Hernandez or Gronkowski to lose any snaps. Brady loves Deion Branch and obviously Wes Welker isn’t going to be coming off the field. I guess Price could break into some of Ochocinco’s snaps, but even he’s getting so few these days that will that really be enough to make an impact for Price?

The Patriots were playing from behind against the Steelers and effectively abandoned the run game. The Patriots’ offense could be unstoppable if they combine their no huddle offense with a balanced rushing attack. Last week Kevin Faulk was the bell cow, that can’t happen again. Faulk is a great story, but Danny Woodhead is the better third down back, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley are too talented to be kept off the field. I understand Faulk’s value as a pass blocker, but it’s a catch 22, because when Faulk in back there, opposing teams don’t have to respect the run.

Overall, the Giants are a very balanced team. They’re great at rushing the quarterback, but other than that they don’t do anything excessively well or poorly. When forced into nickel situations, the Giants typically play safety Deon Grant in the slot. If that’s the plan against the Patriots, Wes Welker could have a field day.

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9 Responses to “Patriots vs Giants: Course Correction”

  1. Billy C. says:

    I agree the linebackers have been very disappointing. The person I feel could upgrade the unit is Fletcher (probably their best cover guy). There is no question that he’s a tougher and more instinctual player than Guyton. There is a reason that Guyton didn’t start in his senior year at GT and didn’t get drafted. His workout warrior numbers and being a great guy aside, he flat out is not an NFL player. I love BB and everything he’s done for the Patriot team and legacy, but I find the playing of Guyton as an insult to Patriot fans. I truly don’t understand this football move!

    • TD says:

      I also find it hard to believe that BB was concerned that by keeping the D structure from last year it would be hard for players this year because of the lockout. But he had the same players still here at the start, so he must have wanted to clean house (Ty Warren, Merriweather, Sanders, Bodden, etc) before the season.

  2. John says:

    Also with Ellis being probably out i think we might be better of with cunningham on the edge. Unless there is something seriously different than last year, cunningham will give the same run D off the edge and a faster more athletic pass rush than Ellis and im not sure why he hasnt been playing at all this year and im not trying to knock Ellis but he is a 5 technique or 3 technique i dont think he is the 7 that they have been playing him at.

    • Doug Kyed says:

      Agreed, he’s definitely not a 7-tech at this point in his career. I continue to have no idea why Belichick thinks he can be…

      The signing of Ellis, paired with the insistence to keep playing guys like Ninkovich and Guyton show that the Patriots care more about stopping the run than the pass. Doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense in a pass heavy league.

      Disagreed on Cunningham though, Anderson has shown he can play, he should be playing opposite Carter.

      • John says:

        i think cunningham should get the start but there is no doubt anderson should be in on 3rd down he is clearly our best pass rusher

      • TD says:

        BB comes from the same Tuna school of stopping the run first on D and put them in 2nd/3rd and long. This D has trouble stopping anyone, but 3rd and short means move the chains while 3rd and long may be 50-50 proposition.

  3. qwerty says:

    excellent – interesting info

  4. DWE says:

    Molden or Adams stepping up? This shouldn’t be that hard……………… unless of course your Molden or Adams(tee-hee-hee)

    SHANE VEREEN-regardless of anything else, I want to see our 2nd round pick both block and run ALL DAY. Agreed John, run play’s all day & play-action.

    *I want too see what he’s worth. Steven Ridley showed some great potential early in the season, and he seem’s to be worth while, but what about this Shane Vereen guy??

    I say we begin to use him through this game & throught the rest of the season, see what he’s either worth on the trade block, or who’s place he’ll be taking….
    We cannot afford the fist full of RB’s we have on this team, especially with so many other need’s all around. PLAY THIS GUY.

    The rest of this season IMO should be used simply for finding out just who’s who. If we loose more games, so be it. We find more of who’s who, who’s getting cut and who’s staying, who’s trade bait alone, and who’s trade bait in a package with another player…and we get even better draft pick’s in about 6 month’s. Which we need!!!

  5. John says:

    I think we definately need to do a lot of play runs and play action the weakness of the giants is the linebackers and antrell rolle. I think around 30 rushing attempts would be ideal.

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