Patriots Pre-Season Opener

MaroneyThe score is pretty irrelevant in this one. Either team could have won it going down to the wire and its more important that no one got injured, because this was a fast-paced game.

The Patriots defense looked like you’d expect given the complexity of the scheme they run. It usually takes several games for new players to adapt to it. So things looked kind of porous there. Still, they got one interception and came close to a couple more. A few sacks too. The newly drafted players did well, especially given that some were playing positions they never had in college. By October this group should be fine, especially once Bruschi and Harrison and Seymour return.

The offense had plenty of good news. Maroney looked awesome. New England has always had punshing backs, like Dillon and Smith, but Maroney has the kind of speed and moves that will cause defenses fits. Dillon looked like his old self … with the two of them the Patriots can switch up the pace of the running game every play. Kevin Faulk was his usual self, so there’s a third option.

The other running backs – Evans and Cobbs – did very well. So the Patriots running game looks to be in good shape. With all the talk in the media about the receiver corps, the running game is more important. They can’t put the game on Brady week after week. A balanced attack makes the Patriots so much more dangerous.

As for the receivers, well they did OK. The new TE’s – especially Mills – did quite well. The reports from training camp had me wondering if Mills was a wise choice or not, and his first couple of series looked shakey. But once he settled down he had some great catches with big yardage after the catch. He runs easy – a lot of TE’s seem to labor in the open field, but he carries himself more like a running back.

With 4 good TE’s, and 3 RB’s who can all catch … so what if they only have a 3 or 4 top recievers? Belichick will adapt, like he always does. Back in the Days of Grogan the Pat’s got it done with TE’s and swing passes out of the backfield and made it to a Superbowl doing it. So it could be pretty entertaining to see an offense which featured TE’s and RB’s as pass-catchers. I’d hate to be the 5’9″ corner who had to try to stop Maroney.

In any event, I don’t think the game gave Deion Branch’s bargaining position any more leverage. The Pats put up plenty of points in the air without him. Branch clearly deserves more money, but the Pats made him a decent offer and it looks like his ego is getting in the way of his better judgement now. The thing about the Pats management is this – they will always try to do the right thing for all concerned, but you aren’t going to stare down Kraft of Belichick unless you have a lot more ammo than Branch does.

Both kickers did well, though I personally think Gostkowski will get the job if for no other reason than his age. They need someone who will grow into the job and be their kicker for the rest of the decade and beyond. (The thing about the Vinatieri trade that I’ve never seen mentioned much was that he had a few games last season where he was reported to be having back pain. So it could be that Adam figured he’d cash in while he could. I’m sure Kraft made him a respectable offer, but if Vinatieri is in that mode his choice would be obvious, and I’m sure there are no hard feelings on either side.)

Anyway … even though it was a close loss it showed the potential for this year’s Patriots. With all the turn-over people are looking at the Dolphins more to lead the division. Maybe through the first 4 games, but once the Pats integrate all the new players they have a lot more talent on the field than last year.