My Take on the Pats' Needs
posted at 2/6/2012 7:44 AM EST
I'm pretty depressed about the loss, but if I look at it objectively, I actually have to conclude that Bill Belichick did an amazing job to get a team with so many holes in its talent so far this year. We really should just be appreciative that we had such a good ride on what's really a three-legged horse.
The game yesterday confirmed for me what I've been thinking and saying all season. Here's my take on what the team needs:
1. We need some bigger, faster wideouts. We are far too dependent on Welker and the two TEs. If you're going to be a passing team, you need great receivers--and you need enough of them to present the defense with multiple challenging looks. I've said before that Brady played this season with "one hand tied behind his back." With Gronk hurt that was truer than ever last night. He needs more targets--and especially he needs some guys who can line up wide and use speed and size to create some real matchup problems for corners on the sidelines and safeties deep.
2. We need at least one of two possible things to improve in the backfield. First, we need a guy who can make an impact in the passing game. We need someone who can reliably catch the ball in space and get significant yards after the catch--a guy who can be a feared outlet receiver and can help us get a screen game going. We also need a more explosive runner--someone who can run outside or break a big one up the middle. Ridley may actually be that guy, but not if he can't protect the ball.
1. The D line is just not dominant. One player--Wilfork--is great. The rest are filler. Anderson and Carter contributed a lot this year, but they aren't long term solutions. Love and Deaderick should be backups; and Ellis and Warren are long past their primes. BB shook up the unit at the beginning of the season, so he's clearly aware of the problem. He needs to do it again this offseason I'm afraid.
2. LBs--Spikes and Mayo are a very decent pair and Nink played okay. But we still need an OLB who really can make a difference. Pass coverage is nearly as big a problem for this group as it is for the secondary. Mayo is better at ILB, I think, than OLB. I think BB has to look at the entire front seven and create a long-term plan to figure out either what pieces he needs to play the scheme he likes or (alternatively) how to adjust his scheme to the pieces he has. The offseason restructuring has to focus on defining the type of defense we are going to play so that we can pick the right players for it.
3. Secondary--wow . . . it's just horrendous. There's a reason guys like Edelman and Slater played so much. The actual CBs and safeties on the roster just can't make plays on the ball. It's been an ongoing problem, but giving up 300 yards to bad QBs is just no way to win games. There are a few bright spots--Chung is okay, McCourty still flashes good skills, Sterling Moore may be a diamond in the rough, Arrington is okay. But there is no one who is really outsanding and there are lot of guys playing who are just marginal NFL players. I think the talent needs to change--and maybe we need a better secondary coach, because I think guys actually seem to regress in this unit.
A few other things I'll add:
1. I don't think play calling on offense is the real problem. Running the ball more with these running backs really isn't an option. You could rebuild the team to make running a more prominent part of the offense (and maybe Ridley and Vereen are the start of that)--but until you get the pieces in place, running a lot is not really an option.
2. There is way too much pressure on Brady to make plays, and he has made a few poor decisions (or poor throws) at bad times. I think giving him more receivers would help. A running game would also help, of course. You need a few more options for Brady so he doesn't have to press as much.
3. Special teams. Our special teams are good (reliable), but the return teams aren't very explosive. I'm not sure this is a big deal, but it always helps to start a few drives further upfield.