Friday, August 20, 2010
PATRIOTS PASS SOME TESTS
It's preseason. That needs to be repeated every time you feel any emotion while watching one of these exhibition games. Any thrill at seeing Fred Taylor break a big run, any disappointment at a 14 yard gain yielded by the defense, needs to be tempered.
The Patriots tested two things in this game: Wes Welker and the running game. Brady threw at Welker three straight times, putting him in tough positions, and eventually getting him hit pretty hard. It was Welker's first appearance in preseason, and you can tell that the Pats want to appraise him before they rely on him.
The Pats ran the ball. A lot. And it caught the Falcons off guard. So the two rushing touchdowns, Taylor's 54 yards, and Morris' 52 yards shouldn't be taken at face value. Then again, Atlanta allowed the 10th fewest rushing yards, and 8th fewest yards per carry in the 2009 season.
This team doesn't need the ground attack to win games for them. But they do need other teams to respect it. They need it for short yardage, 3rd down, and red-zone/goal-line situations. They need it for play-action pass. They need it to slow down and wear out opposing pass rushes.
The biggest concern I have with the runningbacks is their age. Sure, Taylor, Morris, and Faulk looked great. But they played half the game. Half a game in August. Will they still be this good in November and December?
One very positive thing from this game was the play of Aaron Hernandez. He's not really a tight-end. I think he can be a challenging guy for opponents to cover, though. The Patriots haven't had a reliable pass-catching tight-end since Fauria. And Hernandez can present some real matchup problems for opposing defenses.
How will the defense be this year? Probably inconsistent. Matt Ryan was finding holes in the zone just before he was pulled. Give skilled coaches, QBs, and WRs 4 quarters to figure the Pats' defense out, and things will get difficult. I like Chung at safety. But I didn't like how the unit looked against a no-huddle offense.
So while a 28-10 win with rookie tight-ends catching touchdowns, and runningbacks amassing 120 yards on the ground is very pleasant, there are still some concerns that might not manifest themselves until snow starts falling.