Steve Balestrieri

November 8, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots solely held one observe through the bye week, on Wednesday, after which the gamers got some wanted day without work to relaxation and recuperate. Should you wager that after the loss to the Ravens on Sunday night time that the coaches would preserve them right here all week in pads, you’d have been unsuitable. 

That is telling in that it says that the problems going through the crew aren’t bodily and Invoice Belichick doesn’t really feel that they should observe doing issues that they aren’t doing nicely in order that observe makes excellent. No, because of this the coaches have executed, and are nonetheless doing little doubt a wholesome dose of self-scouting. The problems that the crew is going through are extra scheme-related than bodily. Which incorporates the protection, and we’ll get to these. 

However first, let’s take a fast have a look at what we really feel are two of the most important points going through the crew after deciphering the primary 9 video games of sport movie have been watched, watched once more and analyzed. 

The Staff Must Repair Their Purple Zone Manufacturing:

Regardless of being one of many top-scoring groups (1st in factors, 2nd in Factors per Sport) within the NFL, the Patriots haven’t been anyplace close to as environment friendly as they’ve in years previous. In reality, within the purple zone, the Patriots presently rank 21st in red-zone manufacturing tied with the (gasp!) New York Jets at 50 %. That’s down from 62.18 % from a 12 months in the past. 

A part of the explanation they’ve struggled within the purple zone is three-fold. They’ve struggled to run the soccer. Their tight finish manufacturing is approach down, and so is the manufacturing from their exterior or “X” large receiver.  Lacking their left sort out, heart, fullback James Develin and having each beginning tight ends being dinged up for many of this season doesn’t assist with the operating sport. 

Not that anybody actually anticipated Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo to dam as a lot in addition to Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen did a 12 months in the past. Having these points compounds your complete image. Whereas some will level to Sony Michel as being the difficulty, that’s too simplistic and ignores the truth that there’s usually nowhere to run and he’s getting hit within the backfield.

Gronkowski was an incredible red-zone menace within the passing sport. Izzo and LaCosse? Not a lot. Lacking Gronkowski within the passing sport was recognized to be a given. However their lack of manufacturing within the purple space mixed by their massive “X” WR and TE are each present stoppers. Rather more was anticipated out of each positions. LaCosse has three catches for 55 yards on the season and has been harm greater than anybody on the offense. Izzo, a blocking specialist, has six catches for 114 yards and a rating. Ben Watson has performed within the final three video games and has Eight catches for 72. Put collectively, the tight finish manufacturing will not be going to chop it. 

Josh Gordon was positioned on IR after which launched, being picked up by the Seahawks. However in six video games, he solely had 20 receptions for 287 yards and only one landing this season. Added collectively, it’s a weak spot that opponents have taken benefit of and desires fixing. 

The issues alongside the offensive line have been nicely documented at this level and the lion’s share of the blame has been heaped on backup left sort out Marshall Newhouse. Is it appropriate? Look he hasn’t been nice, however placing all the blame on him is unfair and unfaithful. Neither Shaq Mason nor Marcus Cannon has performed something near their degree that we’ve come to anticipate. Though Cannon was higher on Sunday night time in opposition to the Ravens. 

Getting Isaiah Wynn again in opposition to Dallas will definitely assist however can be no panacea for the OL as an entire. Wynn ought to instantly assist in the operating sport and we’ll must see how nicely he holds up within the passing sport. However the offensive line as an entire must get wholesome and carry out higher. Wynn will assist. However Newhouse has been the handy whipping boy however in fact, it’s the group that should enhance total. 

At tight finish, Watson will proceed to see extra targets as he finds a consolation degree within the offense and his timing will get higher with Tom Brady. What the crew actually wants is for both Izzo or LaCosse to step up, ideally each. However at this level, they’re what they’re and I’d be stunned in the event that they acquired something totally different than what they’ve gotten up up to now. 

They’re going to must stay with what they’ve for the remainder of this season. Watson, though 38-years outdated, is rather more viable than the others within the passing sport. The fades and crosses that we noticed him observe with Brady throughout aspect classes in coaching camp have to get dusted off and used once more. This can be a place that the crew might want to handle, and handle in an enormous approach subsequent 12 months, both by means of free company or the draft, probably each. 

On the WR place, it appears apparent that N’Keal Harry “ought to” present an enormous a part of the reply. The Patriots invested a 1st-round draft choose in Harry and regardless of a number of the bobos who’re already asking if he’s a bust, he was presupposed to be the most effective WRs popping out of the draft at getting his arms on contested passes. 

He has the body (6’4, 225) that’s ready-made for working the identical a part of the sector that Gordon was working earlier this season. He’s massive, athletic and bodily. He’s not going to stretch the sector vertically however these aspect classes with Brady through the summer season had him working fades, back-shoulder throws, and fast outs and slants. 

However he’s not going to be the deal with the purple zone manufacturing. It’s a lot, an excessive amount of to ask of a rookie who’s been harm and hasn’t performed a down but. He ought to see loads of reps however then who will the offense lean on extra within the purple space? Mohamed Sanu. 

Sanu has good measurement (6’2, 210) and will simply fulfill the Brandon Lafell position within the Tremendous Bowl 12 months. Sanu had 10 catches in simply his second week with the crew and caught a what? Sure, a red-zone landing final week. He and Julian Edelman will proceed to work out and in of the slot and create some mismatches. 

So getting Wynn again, including Harry and placing extra on Sanu and Watson’s plates ought to assist to get the passing sport going. Within the operating sport, search for Rex Burkhead (if he can keep on the sector) and James White to get extra play within the operating sport within the purple zone. That’s not blaming Sony Michel for the dearth of manufacturing, but when they use the opposite two extra, it offers them a extra versatile look with the run/cross choice the place Sony is extra run centered.  

Is the Run Protection Weak? Don’t Sweat It Too A lot: 

Oh my, after Sunday, social media had the “blueprint” to beat New England. The run protection was the Achilles Heel and the sky was undoubtedly falling. “Can they win any of the subsequent 4 video games?” Take a deep breath of us and loosen up. 

What we noticed in opposition to Cleveland after which in opposition to Baltimore was scheme-related and is well fixable. The Patriots in opposition to the Browns had been defending the cross taking part in a lighter entrance in an try to remove the cross and weren’t overly nervous about giving up some yardage within the operating sport. Clearly, the long term that was fumbled by Nick Chubb was one thing that they settle for, however that was extra of a missed sort out(s) factor than something. 

In opposition to the Ravens, the OL of Baltimore did and will get a ton of credit score for being the extra bodily and dominant unit. However the teaching workers, one thing Invoice Belichick mentioned in his postgame feedback didn’t put the protection in a superb place to succeed. 

The Patriots went to their 3-Four base and their inside gamers primarily Danny Shelton and Lawrence Man who’ve each been excellent this season had been requested to two-gap in opposition to the Ravens operating schemes. 

As an alternative of zone operating schemes that they usually make use of, the Ravens attacked the gaps and the passive nature of the two-gap system was a poor selection and put their massive males in a troublesome place to win. 

After the primary couple of possessions, they switched issues up and went to a four-man entrance and had been making an attempt to penetrate and disrupt the operating sport by attacking it. That’s the appropriate option to attempt to counter the highly effective Ravens operating sport. Does it assure success? After all not, however it supplied a greater approach. 

As an alternative of getting Jamie Collins as an outdoor linebacker, the place he acquired overplaying the operating sport early, he was moved inside with Dont’a Hightower and was requested to be a penetrator. 

We all know the NFL is a copy-cat league, the Eagles will attempt a few of what we noticed from Baltimore, and the Cowboys and Texans can undoubtedly try extra of the identical. One thing tells me that the coaches could have this found out by subsequent week in Philadelphia. The Eagles are operating the ball much more currently as they make the most of a heavier operating bundle…we’ll have extra of that subsequent week after we do our pregame have a look at the matchups. 

Because it seems right here, the problems that they had had been extra scheme-related than a personnel weak spot. And people are simply fixable. If there’s anybody who could make adjustments on the fly and in mid-season higher than Invoice Belichick, we haven’t seen him. 

That’s why they play the video games…  

Comply with me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or e mail me at [email protected]


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