Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Autumn Rush

Who better to turn to for help with the launch of the new Blogometrics site than our old friend "Smack" - and with football season just weeks away, what better topic than a little preview of the season ahead?

As always, feel free to join the conversation by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Blogometrics: Hmmm. First inclination is to just roast this, but New England has become a big time glass house when it comes to gimmicks like this.

Smack: What has the Patriots organization done that compares to commissioning T-Pain to record a fight song?

If anything I figured the extensive, if not exclusive, use of Auto-Tune would put you over the edge.

B: Speaking on a sports-in-general level, not specifically football, Boston/New England has some pretty awful gimmicks.

The Dropkick Murphys being the official band of The Red Sox and the techno song "Sandstorm" being played for Pat's touchdowns, Bruin's goals, and God knows what else - probably successful free throws at this point, come to mind.

S: Well I guess the Dropkick’s remake of Tessie is a comparable situation, but the Dropkicks aren’t T-Pain… And this fight song is just ridiculous. If you haven’t actually listened to it yet, please do. I think you’ll see my point. Every team plays music for touchdowns, goals, and even individual batters stepping to the plate. At least the Patriots use AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne. I think the Sox using “Sweet Caroline” is as bad as it gets.

B: After having listened to that song - which is apparently played after every touchdown - I'm not sure T-Pain can make that any worse.

Related question: If the Browns sign Michael Vick, will they play "Who Let the Dogs Out" if he scores a touchdown?
S: Well the irony would be palpable. I think Mangini’s made it clear that he’s not interested, though.

B: Two rules in life:

1) Stay hydrated

2) Never trust Eric Mangini

Not saying that I think the Browns are interested - I just don't like Mangini.

Alright - what's your prediction for the Pat's season?

S: I’m not putting much stock in Mangini’s statements, but the fact that he’s new in Cleveland coupled with the fact that a section of their stands is nicknamed “the Dawg Pound”… I just don’t see him being stupid enough to sign Vick.

I have high hopes for the Pats. It will all hinge on Brady staying healthy (just released Gutierrez). McDaniels was a tough loss, but luckily Brady was pretty involved in the play calling so it should be a smooth transition there. Maroney should be healthy and we’ve got Fred Taylor now. Did we resign Wilfork yet? Burgess was a good signing. And Moss, Welker, and Galloway are a solid WR group.

B: Alright, since you asked - here's my position by position breakdown for the offense:

QB: Brady is the key. Having seen him at camp last Thursday, the knee does appear to be bothering him a bit, so it remains to be seen if his ability to step up in the pocket will be affected. If it is, look for the Pats to change up their coverage schemes and return to the tried and true "spread and screen" that worked so well in 2003, 2004 and 2007.

Unfortunately, the back up picture is not too rosy, saving any Cassel-esque surprises. Andrew Walter and Kevin O'Connell are substantial drop-offs, despite the praise for Walter coming from those who worked with him in Oakland since A)they traded him, and B) it's Oakland.

RB: Crunch time for Maroney. He's been an injury liability prone to streaky play since his arrival, and the addition of Fred Taylor will not increase Maroney's touches. Add to that mix the versatile Kevin Faulk and (despite failing to protect Brady's knee last year) the under-rated Sammy Morris and you've got a very solid backfield.

WR: The Pats are so loaded at receiver that it's borderline scary. Regulars Moss and Welker return, along with newcomers Greg Lewis (from Philadelphia) and Joey Galloway (from Tampa) - who may be the fastest man in camp. The question that will be presented to opposing D-Coordinators is "Who do you single cover?" That problem gets compounded when you add to this receiving corps a backfield full of solid hands in Maroney, Faulk, Morris and Taylor.

Also look for rookie Julian Edelmann (drafted out of Kent State) to make an impact in the passing game one way or another. Edelmann could be the Pat's version of a 'wildcat' player - lining up at any number of positions, but look for him to make his presence felt in the short passing game, where he's drawn comparisons to Wes Welker in camp (having seen this in person, this is not a bad comparison).

TE: It appears the Benjamin Watson experiment has come to an end, with the tight end yet to appear in camp, so that leaves former Jet Chris Baker as the number one. Baker torched the Pat's last year in Foxboro, so - as is Belichik's habbit, he was brought aboard in the off season as a solid receiving tight end who is a more than adequate blocker. While he does not possess Watson's athleticism, he can hold on to the ball and presents Brady with a large target. Also look for WR and special teams ace Sam Aiken to line up at TE from time to time.

OL: The Pat's return their starting line, for better or for worse. Koppen and Mankins remain solid NFL performers at their positions, while the second guard position, opposite Mankins, will be a battle lasting through the season - much as it was last year. The tackle position is not as solid as in years past, with Matt Light another year older and another step slower. Each of the past few seasons has seen Light's play diminish somewhat, but in a year where Brady may have lost a step or two himself, look for the Pats to make efforts to protect Brady using various schemes and formations.

Overall, this is one talented offense which, on paper, has every reason to believe it can rival the marks set by the 2007 Pats. Brady's knee is the big question, and so long as it's healthy, look for lots of offense and lots and lots of points.

S: Thank you for that.

Do you agree with me about McDaniels?And how about defensively? Looks like Wilfork is still holding out. We added a DE in Burgess and bolstered the backfield. I’m mostly concerned with the DB’s. It’s been a problem since we traded Samuel.Watson was at practice yesterday, although I agree he could be done. It’s the final year of his contract anyway. Alex Smith is another strong candidate for TE.

B: As far as McDaniel, we shall see what impact his departure will have. The team was able to withstand the loss of Charlie Weiss without substantial detriment. I think with the pieces in place, the Pats could go to the Madden '98 Chicago Bears playbook and put up 550 points this year.

Defensively, there are a lot of questions. Wilfork isn't holding out, and is signed for the season. Having him on the d-line will be important, with an aging Richard Seymour drawing less attention. Jarvis Green and Ty Warren are no slouches, either, and all 4 could be on the field at times should the Pats employ a 4-3 more often, as I'm inclined to think they will.

At linebacker, Mayo is another year older and wiser, which should sends chills through the hearts of plenty of opposing offenses, and Adelius Thomas returns to fill one outside slot. From there, look for a revolving door throughout camp, with Bruschi, Crable, Redd, Alexander, Banta-Cain and Woods fighting to fill the remaining inside and outside slots.
Defensive back, the weak point of the D the last few years, should be interesting again this season. Gone is safety Rodney Harrison, but newcomers Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden will strengthen the corner position - along with last year's rookie duo of Wheatley and Wilhite. I won't be surprised to see this group perform very well this year, despite continued low expectations.

I just realized - why am I writing like a high school newspaper reporter?

S: Seriously. I was waiting for a “stuff the offense like a Thanksgiving turkey” comment.

They still have Meriweather, no? Think he’s ready to step up?

B: Blogometrics' Corny Camp Notes:

Look for newly minted Patriot Fred Taylor to dazzle the Foxboro faithful with his usual assortment of jaunts and jukes this fall....veteran signal caller Tom Brady looks to return to his winning ways under center...Head Patriot Bill Belichik surprised the troops by calling off the dogs an hour early on Friday's afternoon workout...Randy Moss put on an exhibition of some snazzy sideline footwork in passing drills...The fumble bug plagued the morning session Thursday, so Friday's drill focused on ball protection...

Meriweather has been sort of a letdown so far - all the athleticism in the world, but still not totally comfortable as a pass defender, which is sort of important at safety. We'll see...Patrick Chung has looked good in camp, and James Sanders filled in well for Harrison last year on the weak side.

How about predictions on record (again realizing that they have yet to play an exhibition game)?

S: 13-3. They put up big points but don’t top 2007 numbers.

B: I'm going to agree with 13-3, but hold off on the final prediction until after at least 3 preseason games. If the defense gels, this team could be better than 2007. There's really no reason not to think that.

S: How about relative to the rest of the AFC East? In 2007, let’s be honest… The rest of the division blew. Last year saw much more parity, with playoff spots up in the air until Week 17. Now the Bills have T.O., the Dolphins have T-Pain, and the Jets are Favreless. Should we be worried???

B: The only thing that worries me about the AFC East is the addition of T-Pain.

Buffalo already had a top-flight receiver in Lee Evans, adding T.O. won't solve their defensive problems. Miami will experience a come-down, now that the league has had a chance to catch up to the wildcat. I'd think The Jets are due for a rebuilding year, since no matter what, you've got a new QB and a new head coach.

Each of these teams would be fortunate to split with the Pats, but I have trouble seeing Buffalo and New York giving the Pats too much trouble.

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