NEPD Staff Writer Doug Kyed:
You know what guys, I’m going into this game pessimistically optimistic. Meaning: I know the Patriots can win, but if I don’t expect them to, minimal damage will be done to my apartment. No throwing chairs, no throwing lids of storage ottomans across the room.
Here’s some things I’ll be looking for Sunday night.
DIFFERENT SCHEMES ON DEFENSE
Many of you won’t like this, but I don’t think the Patriots have a problem with talent on defense. By my count, the Patriots have three top tier players among starters: Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty (despite how he’s played at times this year); three above average players: Patrick Chung, Andre Carter and Kyle Arrington; two up and coming young players with upside: Kyle Love and Brandon Spikes; and three below average players: Rob Ninkovich, Shaun Ellis and James Ihedigbo.
That’s not an untalented bunch.
Add in two above average reserves: Mark Anderson and Gerard Warren; four up and coming reserves with upside: Phillip Adams, Brandon Deaderick, Dane Fletcher and Ron Brace; and four below average reserves: Sergio Brown, Gary Guyton, Tracy White and Antwaun Molden and once again that’s not an untalented bunch.
I would need to see more of Jermaine Cunningham, Niko Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian and Stereling Moore to make a conclusive decision about them. Cunningham showed some promise last year, but his inactivity this year has been discouraging.
I think the problem is scheme. They’re not throwing anything new at opposing offenses. Once they go zone, they stay zone, once they go man, they stay man. They have the ability to shift between 4-3 and 3-4 sets, but they rarely do. It’s the same base and sub packages every week and the so called rotation along the defensive line has been downright predictable.
I’d love to see four CBs and one safety on the field. I’d love to see Mark Anderson in on first or second down, Shaun Ellis playing DT, anything new.
It’s looking extremely likely that Dane Fletcher, Brandon Spikes or Ryan Wendell are not going to play, so the Patriots are looking at Gary Guyton, Niko Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian and Tracy White at MLB and Donald Thomas as the Patriots backup interior lineman. You know what that means? Stay healthy.
Guyton was extremely poor at WLB filling in for Mayo, but I’ve been more impressed (loosely speaking) with him as an MLB.
Patrick Chung has been out all week with the foot injury he sustained on the last drive against the Giants. I suspect Chung will still play. Chung knows the defense well enough to miss practice, and this game is too important to keep him out. With Josh Barrett placed on IR this week, if Patrick Chung is out, it means we’re looking at James Ihedigbo, Sergio Brown and Sterling Moore (and likely another Ross Ventrone “call up”) at safety. Yikes. If you ranked every single Patriots player 1-53, all four of those guys might be in the bottom ten. This game will be extremely tough with Chung, without him, it might be impossible.
I’m not saying Brady’s got to play like he did in the first two weeks of the season, it’s unreasonable to ever expect that from a quarterback, but Brady has got to have his third best game of the season in order to win this game.
The Patriots have seen the Jets defensive game plan of stuffing the middle of the field with defensive backs enough that they beat it in October. If the Jets are going to throw the same plan out again, Brady will have to annihilate it to overcompensate for the defense. Pro Football Focus rates the Jets as the third worst pass rushing team, the Patriots offensive line needs to keep them down there. Don’t let a bad facet of a good team beat you.
OCHOCINCO AND TAYLOR PRICE
One of these guys has to step up. If you watch closely enough, you can see Deion Branch aging by the snap. He can’t beat man coverage and only seems to find himself open if the Patriots offensive line gives Brady loads of time. Branch might have had a decent game against the Jets, but that’s only because the Jets were forcing Brady to throw to him.
The Patriots are going to need to start giving some of Branch’s snaps to either Taylor Price or Chad Ochocinco. I wrote earlier this week about how embarrassing every Ocho target is, but at the same time, there were times last week that Brady and Ocho looked close. Lets get closer, quicker guys.
As for Price, if he’s healthy, expect to see an inactive Julian Edelman. There was some Twitter talk this week about how a bunch of us hate the term “deep threat.” What the Patriots really need is a wide receiver opposite Welker who can beat man coverage. Price showed some hints of that in the preseason. He’s a fast, big target who could be a real weapon if he can get on the same page as Brady and if he can stay healthy for once.
The Patriots offensive line, especially Matt Light and the centers did a very poor job of opening holes for their running backs last week. Against the Jets especially, they have got to improve upon that. The Jets have one of the best pass defenses and one of the worst run defenses in the league. If they want to win this game, they have got to get the running game going early.
Stevan Ridley only got four snaps last week, that has got to increase, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis only got 12 rushing attempts last week, that has also got to increase. All of the Patriots running backs have got their strengths, but the key is to mix them in evenly. Danny Woodhead excels in the no huddle, Kevin Faulk excels in pass blocking, Green-Ellis is the plodding, time killing back and Stevan Ridley is the big play threat. Green-Ellis is the back that probably needs the most snaps to be at his best, he’s one of those running backs that gets better the more he’s given the ball. The rest can be mixed in and should be mixed in evenly.
MY FAVORITE ANNOUNCING TEAM
Figured I’d end on a light note. I love Al Michaels and I love Cris Collinsworth. A lot of people like Al Michaels, a lot of people don’t like Cris Collinsworth. The number one thing I hear about Collinsworth is that he’s “smug.” I’m not really sure what this even means. Obviously I know what the word smug means, but I’m not sure how it applies to Collinsworth. My best guess is that people think he has a smug voice. He also tends to laugh at goings on in the game more than anyone else.
That’s what I love about Collinsworth! He can laugh at himself, he can laugh at the game and Michaels joins right in with him. I’m not sure that anyone could argue that Michaels and Collinsworth have the best chemistry of any pair.
Collinsworth is also one of the few color guys that can actually teach me something. He leans away from overtly praising players and he doesn’t have an annoying catch phrase such as Jon Gruden’s “that guy.” Collinsworth also gives me the fewest head shaking moments. There are times I’m watching ESPN or Fox coverage of the Pats and KNOW I know more about the Patriots than they do.
Finally, I grew up with Michaels on Monday Night Football, if something makes me nostalgic, I’ll probably have a positive opinion on it.