Here at ProFootballFocus.com we make a big deal out of saying “we’re not scouts” – In the vast majority of cases this is true and we ask our analysts simply to focus on the objective answer to the question “did that person achieve what they attempted?” However, we believe it’s also nice to have some opinion mixed in with all those numbers so every week Karl Reitz will be breaking down game film without the aid of a 50 page rating manual and analysis application.
It’s a different take on things and we hope you enjoy us audibling out of the normal PFF playbook with the second of our weekly series of deeper looks at NFL games, players and schemes.
Patriots LG Dan Connolly: While Logan Mankins sits at home, Connolly was given the responsibility of replacing the Pro Bowl guard. If this game was any indication of how the season will go, Robert Kraft may want to pony up the cash. Connolly looked sloppy for the most of the game. He was slow getting off the line and was lacking technique more than once (looked to just be punching at defenders). At times he seemed almost lost and looking for someone to block. The Patriots were having him double team defenders for a majority of the time and for good reason.
In the run game, when asked to engage a defender himself, he had trouble sealing off lanes and locking up his player. On the second drive alone, he allowed his defender to tackle a passing runner three times. His pass protection was a bit better, but many times he was getting pushed back towards Brady. The crazy thing is, nothing he did was all that detrimental to the offense. New England may not be so lucky down the road.
Patriot wide receivers: It’s hard to believe Wes Welker is only a few months removed from ACL surgery. Welker’s game strives on the underneath routes which are dominated by sharp cuts and hard turns (not the best medicine for recent knee surgery). On the first play of the game, he made two sharp cuts on Bart Scott and got free for a 10 yard gain. Welker looked in mid-season form, with good routes and his signature cuts.
Randy Moss may very well be one of the greatest to ever play the game (evident of his disgusting one handed catch), but it’s frustrating at times when it appears he’s not going 100%. There were numerous balls thrown his way that he got his hands on, but seemed uninspired to catch. Brandon Tate disappeared at times in the complex Jets defense and needs to work on his routes in order to get open and use his explosiveness.
New England’s young corners. It’s never a good day when a quarterback has a career day against you. Darius Butler and Devin McCourty both struggled at times against the Jets’ veteran receivers. One mistake they both seemed to display was opening their hips to the inside or outside before the receiver made a move. This gave the receiver the option to take whatever side of the field they didn’t. They played far off the line of scrimmage for many times without jamming the receiver (could be the Patriots’ system) which enabled Sanchez to use the underneath routes consistently. Butler at times would get caught watching the QB which let the player run by. The good news is, when they McCourty did watch the receiver he was good at getting in position and not allowing the player to get open.
Other Patriots: TE Aaron Hernandez looks like a weapon in the making. He is essentially a big slot receiver and sure runs like it. Hernandez was making great cuts (which few, if any other tight ends can make) to go along with his soft hands and solid route running. … Fred Taylor had trouble finding holes in the first half and no longer has the quickness to create much without the lanes there. Green-Ellis provided some power from time to time, but wasn’t always finding the right lanes. The offensive line wasn’t helping, but the Patriots aren’t really a running team. … Jermaine Cunningham stood out in the run defense. He lined up as an outside linebacker a lot and held the edge very well. He didn’t over commit to fakes or runs and was a solid tackler. … For not having a big time pass rusher, the defense was able to consistently apply pressure to Sanchez. Ninkovich and Banta-Cain were quick off the edge with big Vince Wilfork pushing through people down the middle.
Ladanian Tomlinson: Playing with a chip on his shoulder, Tomlinson looks to be reverting back to his classic form. He ran with a purpose against the Patriots and was seeing the hole and hitting it hard. The lateral cuts that have made him so famous were back on display and he showed the quickness to elude defenders that seemed to fade last year (just watch his 31-yard run in the 3rd quarter). LT has always had great vision and with renewed life, could end up using it to be the Jets’ best runner this year.
Mark Sanchez. He was very poised in the pocket, showed good pocket presence and movement, and appeared to go through his reads. The offense attacked the Patriots’ zone and Sanchez was able to find his receivers on quick out and slants which opened up the middle of the field for Dustin Keller. Sanchez looked accurate for most of the afternoon and didn’t take any bad chances or make dumb mistakes. He didn’t take any chances downfield, but when you beat the Pats by two touchdowns, no one is complaining.
Jets Blitzing: If you ever have the time to sit down and really pay attention to what Rex Ryan does on defense, do yourself a favor and do it. Ryan will blitz anyone and everyone from anywhere and everywhere. He does a great job of disguising blitzes so that who the QB thinks is coming isn’t Many times Ryan lines up a corner and have them hover over the LB in almost a SS position before blitzing. MLB Bart Scott lined up outside of the ends many times in order to overload a side on a blitz. Having a player like Darrelle Revis basically negating the team’s top wideout goes a long way in helping a coach feel confident in being able to send the house after the quarterback.
Sione Pioha: For the second year in a row, Sione Pouha is replacing Kris Jenkins and doing an admirable job. On numerous occasions he was able to use his power to get off blocks and make tackles. Pouha faced his share of double teams and was still able to use his leverage and strength to hold the middle of the line and eat up two blockers. The Jets have a few other big bodies to help the cause in Mike Devito and Shaun Ellis. Ellis gave the Jets great flexibility because he is big enough and to hold his own over center, but turns into a quick edge rusher on passing downs. Devito excels as a run stuffer and showed could burst off the line and found himself in the defensive backfield more than once.
Other Jets: Jets HB Shonn Greene looked hesitant and unsure of himself. He is a downfield runner that should not be dancing around in the backfield. He needs to get back to hitting the hole and getting to the second level. … Dustin Keller did a great job of finding holes in the middle of the Patriots zone throughout the game and made them pay with some big catches. … David Harris and Bart Scott are quite possibly the best ILB duo in the league. The two were all over plugging holes and blitzing from all areas. The Patriots had trouble getting runners into the second level or receivers past 10 yards whenever these two were around.