All I ask is that someone head down to WEEI and muzzle John Dennis. I know the whole issue of WEEI entertainment personalities takings sides on issues right or wrong like the debate club, but enough is enough. Bruschi and his family made a decision to play football again, which is no shock to anyone, and the Patriots can do one of three options: 1. Release him; 2. Activate him; or 3. Place him on injured reserve for the season.
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FIXING A HOLE:
Take the top two running backs off any team, their all-pro defensive lineman, their left tackle, their top two cornerbacks, their all-pro safety, and a former Pro Bowl wide receiver and what do you have? The Patriots. Time for an action list of what is not working and how the Patriots need to address these issues (other than GET HEALTHY!):
Last season, the Patriots could do no wrong as Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi pointed every Tom, Dick, & Harry who wandered into the Patriots backfield into the right spot to make a play. This year, well, let us just say that these Tom, Dick, and Harrys look like Moe, Larry, & Curley. Duane Starks, a former number one pick, a super bowl champion, has looked unworthy to carry the jock of Earthwind Moreland who at least kept the big plays to a minimum. The fact is that despite the injuries, Duane Starks should be better than Troy Brown at DB and James Sanders should be better than Don Davis at DB.
The important thing to remember is that Bill Belichick is giving Eric Mangini a chance to learn on the job and that will pay dividends later. In a way, this is a rebuilding year as the Patriots mold their defensive backfield for the future (Asante Samuel, Randall Gay, James Sanders, and Eugene Wilson). This unit will improve one way or another be it sooner or later.
Turnovers are like getting hits with runners in scoring position: eventually the stats all even out. Some teams or players can put themselves in a position to create more opportunities, but in the the end it is hard to control this aspect of the game. That said, the Pats defense will be working overtime to get back to creating turnovers. As all teams under Belichick have thrived on turnovers (and why not, each turnover has the potential to be a fourteen point swing).
The turnovers battle needs to be won in order to swing those close games back to the Patriots.
3. Offensive Line:
Injuries and free agency have taken a bite of the Patriots protection plan in front of the Franchise. Playing two rookies on the left side may not be the ideal short-term plan, but in the long run has the potential to be a wise decision. Nick Kaczur and Logan Mankins are both, like defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, in the unenviable position to learn on the job on the fly.
Short-term = bad; Long-term = Amazing opportunity.
4. Defensive Line:
Really, with Seymour out, they should get a mulligan, but Jarvis Green is more than serviceable as a back-up and needs to be held accountable for the failures of he and his young teammates this season. Sometimes you need pressure and a big loss from the d-line, unfortunately, the Patriots have had little pressure leading to fewer interceptions.
5. Interior Linebackers:
Sure, losing Tedy Bruschi, Roman Phifer, and Ted Johnson hurts, but Monty Beisel looks as much as a player as Chad Brown looks lost. Moving Mike Vrabel inside may ultimately be the answer, as hopefully Chad Brown can also make a seamless transition back to the outside and help minimize the moving of Vrabel inside. Bruschi, if he makes it to the field this year, will no doubt be an emotional lift if not actually a major contributor inside.
6: Running Back:
No Dillon; No Faulk; No problem. For a guy that no one wanted, Patrick Pass looked damn good last week. One play, when he took a corner, I would have sworn that it in no way was Patrick Pass. He is a player who has really improved: heck, he is a different player. Good for him, by the way. Another example of finding a quality player buried on the depth chart of a major college program (see: Cassell, Matt: USC).
Yes, the tight ends have been non-existent save for the Atlanta game, but that, as we have been told numerous times, is a direct by-product of the offensive line and the need to keep them in to block. David Givens and Deion Branch dropping key passes during the fourth quarter against Denver was inexcusable. Troy Brown being injured hurts the team more than they let on, and the lack of playing time for Bethel Johnson remains strange. Just running him on fly patterns until his tongue is on the ground is enough to make it a 10 on 9 battle for the Patriots against their opponents.
Dropped passes and missed opportunities are a direct result of sloppy play. The whole team has been sloppy, which is unlike the Patriots. Expect Belichick to attempt to remedy that with a back to the basics approach during the bye week.
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