PRESEASON WEEK 1: Pats Vs. Saints Notes

After my second viewing of last night’s game tape here are my notes.

Bold Prediction For Hernandez
With all respect to Gronk I have the feeling like this is going to be the year of 81. From the way he’s carried himself in camp I get the feeling like this business of being in Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham’s shadow is getting old for him. He looks real serious and is making some nice plays. Anyone else wondering how that 3rd and long to Hernandez on the first series wasn’t a first down? Did the forward progress rule go out with the regular officials?

Lloyd & Brady
Don’t panic on Brandon Lloyd. I like that he and Brady are running timing routes and things that show they actually worked on it. In retrospect I don’t recall Ochocinco getting this kind of attention in preseason games. If I remember correctly the OLD 85 had a gimmie TD off a blatantly botched coverage and that was more or less it for him.

Replacement Replacements
These replacement officials… yeah. I didn’t catch last night’s ref’s name but the fact that Belichick was lecturing him all night, the fact that he pointed to the wrong side of the field on an encroachment call, and the fact that he looks like he’s got Ed Hochuli’s uniform on make me think it’s gonna be a long season. The enormous brim hat alone makes it impossible for me to respect this guy.

The Blind Side Looking Pretty Blind
Solder was the victim of one really miserable holding call, but beyond that he looked worse than a lot of people even noticed. Even when Brady wasn’t necessarily being pressured Solder was all over the place. He’s giving pass rushers way too much room to move and dance and it’s exposing his biggest weakness in his lack of quick reflexes. I don’t want to say I TOLD YOU SO, but he’s stiff by nature and has a lot of work to do. This should be a reality check for anyone who wanted to dub him a future HOF-er this time last year.

Don’t Blame it All on Solder
If you’re looking for a place to start with the O-Line problems start with Dan Koppen’s pitiful snaps all through the first half. Koppen was constantly throwing everyone off rhythm, but he’s the one guy I know will correct himself before week 1.

Two Thoughts on Special Teams:

1. I don’t hate the kick coverage at all. Stock piling ST gunners is showing its benefits. In particular I’m impressed with Jets castoff Marquice Cole (in the video below voiding the warranty on a treadmill). Josh Barrett is making his usual ST appearances but thankfully I haven’t seen him play DB yet.

2. The kick return game still sucks. Don’t hope for any changes there. Welker, Edelman, and Woodhead are good punt returners but none of them are a threat to take it to the house on a kickoff. This has only been a problem now for what? A decade?

Chandler Goddamn Jones
The Jason Pierre Paul comparisons to our own Chandler Jones are dead on. I don’t think most people expected him to be as effective this early. His conditioning needs to improve. You can see when he gets tired he strides more and loses bull rush power.

According to PFT Jermon Bushrod “didn’t agree” with the back to back holding calls he landed trying to slow down Chandler Jones. Yeah, I’m sure dude. He wasn’t holding, he just wanted to see if 2 people could fit inside Jones’ jersey. Did you catch a look at 95’s jersey? It got so beat up from Bushrod tugging, pulling, grabbing and clinging to it he looked like Lenny Dykstra in between downs.

Screens Glorious Screens
No one except Danny Woodhead is more excited to see the screen return as a staple of the Patriots offense than me. He had a 20 yard gain amongst his 3 rceptions.

Pumping the Brakes A Little On the Steve Gregory Express
Yes, Steve Gregory pulled off an impressive INT. But is anyone else concerned about his tackling? His signature move is to dive at the ballcarriers legs, a technique that is fine when it works and a risky mistake when it doesn’t. On his first tackle he nails it, and brings down Pierre Thomas in the open. Two downs later he whiffs on it, and gives up yardage around the edge. That shit isn’t going to fly for 16 games.

The Young Secondary
There are seriously two Sterling Moores on the field. There’s one guy who looks like he played in a Super Bowl 7 months ago, and looks like he learned some things. Then there’s another guy who looks like he’s in way over his head. That PI in the 3rd quarter should never happen. Morgan had to break down and almost stop on his route to make a catch. You have to at least have the awareness to get your head around.

Speaking of young players in the secondary, I didn’t see anything spectacular from them but Tavon Wilson and Ras-I Dowling looked very comfortable out there. I didn’t see any glaring lapses in coverage from either. It’s early, but with younger DBs the first sign of trouble is that Darius Butler antsy on-field demeanor. These two looked right in their element.

I Still Love Welker Even When He Doesn’t Do Anything
Wes Welker’s do-rag… anybody? Anybody? C’mon man! Whenever I saw him on the bench with it he’s got a smirk on his face like he can’t believe he’s getting away with wearing it. It’s the same thing I imagine him thinking every time I see his ridiculous “blue steele” expression on his Twitter. Welker rules. Boss troll.

Fullback Depth
Ketanni might make the roster just by being the only healthy FB who can catch a football. I’m not seeing anything glaring poor about his pass-pro or run blocking, but I’m not seeing him lay the wood either. He’s a very sneaking pass catching threat which I didn’t know about him. It’s nice and early in the preseason so feel free to have as many Patrick Pass flashbacks as you’d like. The point is, everybody needs to be ready to do anything in this offense and this is encouraging.

D-Line in the 2nd Half
Justin Francis huh? I was really looking forward to seeing him in action after hearing Mike Reiss rave about him all summer. His D line unit didn’t get anything going, and Francis didn’t impose his will much against the Saints backups. I saw about as much penetration as a Nickelodeon airing of Boogie Nights. Francis looked quick in space for his size, but he’s going to have to show more power up front if he wants to play here.

#65 UDFA defensive tackle Marcus Forston was my sleeper pick to make the roster and make some noise. Two years ago at The U there was talk of him being a high draft pick. One year and one knee injury later he looked like junk last night. I didn’t see any of the athleticism he showed at the Combine. He was visibly gassed on every single down and looked like he’d have more luck getting John Madden to eat a bag of rice cakes than he would moving a 3rd string Saints lineman. I might just be wrong about this one.

The Supposed Stacked Receiver Group

Neither Stallworth or Gaffney looks good enough to take a job from Deion Branch. If I had to pick 2 words to sum up Gaffney’s pre-season so far it’s gotta be: ALIGATOR ARMS. I feel like the sentiment in the press has been that old bones Deion (age 33) needs to be forced out by fresh young bucks Stallworth (turns 32 in December) and Gaffney (turns 32 in November). This is why you watch football instead of just reading about it. It’s Deion’s job until someone takes it from him, and no one will in 2012.

Meanwhile, Jesse Holley’s mid air drop cost him the little chance he made to be a positional player for the New England Patriots. Please nobody show Michael Irvin the tape.

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