New England Patriots: Three Under-the-Radar Key Issues for Second Half of Season

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The New England Patriots head into the bye week with a 7-2 record and a two game lead in the AFC East.  With the Miami Dolphins up to their elbows in the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito hazing/bullying/extortion scandal, the Buffalo Bills desperately trying to get any quarterback to stay healthy, and the New York Jets trying to keep winning without any consistent passing offense, the Patriots are in position to fight for a top seed in the playoffs with a strong second half as their offense returns to health.  The offense had best be healthy, as defenders keep getting injured at an alarming pace. With the bye week coming up, it is the perfect time for a look back at three under-the-radar key issues to date:

1. For the offense, two key weapons have been on the field for only a combined 71 snaps: third down/passing backs Shane Vereen and Leon Washington.  With those two missing for most of the season and Danny Woodhead in San Diego, there is a major–often not discussed–element of the offense that is causing major problems with third down conversions: the outlet pass to the running back on third down.

With Brandon Bolden miscast in that role, he had two huge drops against the Saints and Bengals that wiped out a potential big play and a potential first down at key points of the game. While Shane Vereen was spectacular in that role in the first two games before getting injured, since he went down the Patriots have not had someone to fill that role...FOR MUCH MORE CLICK HERE: