Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Patriots Pre-season Preview 2014

Howdy friends, how was your 2014 off-season? Mine has been eventful, but enough about that, it's time to get ready for some (American) Football!

As is my semi-tradition, here are four reasons to pay attention to the interminable pre-season games. I know they are tough to watch, but you can learn a lot about how the regular season might go by watching the Pats play in the exhibition season.

This is what I'll be watching over the next four weeks.

Reason #1: Backup QB

The press is in an absolute tizzy about rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, wondering what it means that the Patriots took him in the second round. Is he the heir apparent to Tom Brady, working behind the scenes until Brady can't play any more? Did the Pats draft him so they could trade Ryan Mallett (last year's backup)? Were the Pats simply short on players with three Os in their name?

I maintain the Pats drafted Garoppolo because Mallett is in the last year of his contract, and he can walk at the end of this season. So the Garoppolo is more likely the heir apparent to Mallett than Brady.

But keep an eye on things as the preseason games progress. If the rookie gets more time with the starters than Mallett, then look for the Pats to trade Mallett before the end of camp. If not, the Pats will carry all three into the season and have the rookie study behind Brady and Mallett. That way Garoppolo can be the backup in 2015 after Mallett signs elsewhere.

Reason #2: An O-line Transition 15 Years in the Making

Dante Scarnecchia was the Patriots' amazing offensive line coach for the last 15 years. He retired this off-season, and the team brought in Dave DeGuglielmo to fill his shoes.

So keep an eye on the offensive line play. Does Brady face lots of pressure? Are the running backs stopped in the backfield? And especially how is the communication on the Pats' myriad screen passes?

If you see negative plays and offensive linemen looking confused or yelling/pointing at each other, it could be a tough transition. I expect the O-line will actually play better this year, this type of change often brings a one-year burst of energy. But that is not a guarantee, and how they look in the preseason will tell you a lot about how this transition will go.

Reason #3: Turning the Corner

New addition Darrelle Revis is a lock for a starting spot. He's one of the three best corners in the game, and he'll solidify a position that rested on the health of Aqib Talib last year (and not always with a happy outcome). It'll be fun to watch Revis play, but the other cornerbacks are where the intrigue is.

Free agent signee Brandon Browner can play in the preseason, but he'll serve a four-game suspension to start the regular season. So that means last year's starter, Alfonzo Dennard will likely play opposite Revis in those games. But Dennard is a very competitive player, so you know he'll want to get that starting job back. And that competition should be intense.

In the preseason, watch who starts opposite Revis in each game. If Browner takes the first two games and Dennard the second two, that probably means the team thinks Browner will start after he serves his suspension. If Dennard starts the first few games, that might mean it's his job to lose once Browner is back.

Additionally, long-time slot corner Kyle Arrington could find himself fighting with second-year rising star Logan Ryan to retain that spot. In this battle, watch who is playing in the third and fourth quarters. That is likely the loser of this competition.

Reason #4: What is Collins Worth?

With Brandon Spikes shuffling off to Buffalo, sophomore Jamie Collins moves into the starting spot, next to Jerod Mayo. Collins was a revelation late last year, and if he continues to improve he could be a disruptive force, especially in the passing game.

Watch to see if Collins plays more at the line or more back in coverage. If he drops back at the snap, then expect him to be more of a coverage guy. If he moves forward at the snap, he either guessed a running play or is going after the passer. The former means they don't trust his instincts like they did Spikes. The latter means he's taken on that role from Spikes, lock stock and barrel.

Bonus reason #5: Healthy Choices

It will be interesting to see how Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Tommy Kelly come back from injuries. Of course they all say they are doing great, but any snaps you see them on the field during the preseason, keep an eye on them. Are they moving toward the ball or getting pushed away from it? Can they make tackles quickly or do backs and receivers make yards after contact?

These will be the early signs of whether or not they are truly back to form.

Enjoy the games as much as you can. And remember that this year even preseason football is a better time-kill this year than any Red Sox game -- so look at it that way if it helps :)

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS.  0-0!

No comments:

Post a Comment