Let's hear what Patrik had to say about the Buccaneers...
1. Recap the Bucs offseason for us. How would you grade their draft? their free agency?
This is, without question, the least sexy play that you'll find in this Top 12 list. It's ranked #3 overall, but I had some serious consideration of putting it at #1. This play was simply that important and game-altering. Ultimately, I settled on #3, because I'm pretty sure it was the only play on this list that didn't get me up out of my seat, hooting and hollering. Still, Mesko's 65-yard punt in overtime ended up being the defining play of the Patriots revenge against Baltimore in 2010. Watch the video closely. Mesko's back foot is right up against the 1 yard line as the play begins. This was a certifiable field position disaster for the Patriots and I was nearly certain that the game was over. Then Zoltan boomed the snot out of the ball, and suddenly, the Ravens found themselves backed up as the kick finally settled at the 18-yard line. Other than the Jets romp late in the year, this was my favorite game of 2010. We owe it all to Mesko's foot.
Past Top Plays
Tom Brady (ADP 21-25)
Few quarterbacks offer more value in this year's fantasy game than Tom Brady. On average, he comes off the board third among QBs, with Mike Vick and Aaron Rodgers routinely drafted ahead of him. After leading the league in TD passes in 2010, Brady returns all of the important skill position players from last season and most of the offensive line. Add in another strong veteran presence in Chad Ochocinco, a fully recovered Wes Welker and the maturation of TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, and it's easy to foresee Brady approaching 40 total TDs again this year. That is a tremendous value in the late second or early third round of fantasy drafts. Look for a final statline of around 37 TDs, 8 picks and 4,000 yards. That should be late first or early second round production at a late second or early third round pricetag.
Wes Welker (ADP 46-50)
Welker's value is weighted heavily by the scoring format. In PPR (points per reception) leagues, Welker is a low-end #1 WR and should not make it out of the fourth round. In non-PPR formats, he's a #2 WR who should be drafted no later than the 5th. Just a few months removed from ACL surgery, Welker put up a very respectable 86-848-7 line last year in 15 games. His previous two campaigns included 100+ catches and 1,100+ yards. Even though Ochocinco will be stealing a few touches, I think it is reasonable to expect Welker to haul in 95 passes for 1,000 yards and at least a half dozen scores.
Chad Ochocinco (ADP 65-70)
Ochocinco is the biggest wild card on this year's team. From 2003-07, the Och posted five straight seasons of 1 ,200+ yards and at least 7 TDs. His production has taken a precipitous drop in the past three seasons as the team's QB and offensive line play has taken a nose dive and the team has focused more on running the ball to protect Carson Palmer. At 33 years old, Ochocinco may have lost a step, but he still runs strong routes and has among the best body control of any receiver in the league. In a passing game that projects to put up more than 4,000 yards, Ochocinco's floor is probably 50-800-5 with a ceiling closer to 70-1100-9. On average, he's being drafted in the 7th round as a #3 WR, and there are not many #3 WRs that offer that kind of upside.
Tonight, football is back in Foxboro! The 2011 NFL preseason begins for the Patriots at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who went 8-8 in 2010. The Patriots were one of the teams who made a huge splash during the Free Agent/Trade Frenzy with the additions of Shaun Ellis, Albert Haynesworth, and Chad Ochocinco just to name a few. You will probably only see Chad for about a quarter in this game because Ellis and Haynesworth have not been practicing in training camp as of late.
I know preseason football is not the most attractive to NFL fans, but when the lockout threatened the season, I was happy to watch any kind of football. Plus, this Patriots team has a ton of youth on the roster that we will get to see the future of this team in action as well as guys who will be huge contributors to the quest for Indianapolis in February. Plus, with David Garrard out for the Jaguars, we will see a ton of action from their future franchise quarterback in Blaine Gabbert.
For the Patriots, their 2011 draft class should get a lot of action in the 2nd half from guys like OL Nate Solder, RB’s Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley as well as quarterback Ryan Mallett.
Without further adieu, we get right back into the keys to the game for 2011:
A Blaine of Grass: The Patriots’ first team defense at least gets to see a guy at QB who could be starting some time this season for 2-3 quarters. Blaine Gabbert was the 10th pick in the draft for Jack Del Rio, and has a good camp from all accounts, rookie hazing aside. This is the guy that will be the franchise QB for the Jags. Last year, the Patriots saw another good rookie quarterback in the preseason in Sam Bradford. The problem for Blaine is going to be who will he throw the ball too? Mike Sims-Walker is off with Bradford in St. Louis, so Gabbert will be long away from his decent receivers at Missouri. I expect Ras-I Dowling to make a few plays at cornerback for the Patriots in this game.
Using the Mallett: Of course we don’t expect to see Tom Brady for much of the game tonight. My guess will be only a quarter. However, I expect to see a ton of the third round pick from Arkansas in the 2nd half. Ever since Bill Belichick made the surprise move and took Mallett on Day 2 of the draft, he has been the talk of the town outside of New England in terms of if he is the future successor to Tom Brady. Keep an eye on Mallett’s laser arm, but also his decision making. He has been known to throw interceptions in bunches. If he does that against second or third team defenses, it wouldn’t look good in his first game. Just to add Brian Hoyer’s name into the conversation, I would expect him to play in the 2nd quarter of this game.
The Price is Right: With Ochocinco, Welker, and Branch set as the top three wide receivers, there is a battle in camp between Brandon Tate and Taylor Price to be a starter on this team. Price is winning that competition as of right now. The one criticism I have of Tate is that he does not do well with stretching the field, which is why New England traded for Chad. Price is making some acrobatic catches in camp and to add another deep threat to use Welker and Branch for the middle of the field would be an added bonus for the Pats.
The Patriots are 3.5-point favorites as they open the 2011 preseason against the Jaguars on Thursday night. (Yes, sportsbooks actually offer odds on preseason games, and yes, people actually bet on them. Don’t judge me.)
I’ve been called a lot of things for wagering real money on preseason football games. Sick. Arrogant. Depraved. Moronic. Allergic to money. And those are some of the nicer things Mom called me. While it seems counterproductive to bet real money on games that don’t mean much to either team, there are plenty of opportunities to profit in preseason football if you can temporarily forget everything you know about betting on regular-season football games. For the general public, that shouldn't be too difficult. (ZING!)
There are three simple rules when betting on preseason football: 1) QB depth is king, 2) don’t pick against first-year head coaches unless their team truly sucks, and 3) always lean toward the underdog since the games don’t really matter. Both teams have long-tenured coaches, so Rule #2 doesn’t come into play here. Teams only play the starters for the first two or three series, so the result of most games will depend on the quality of the backup and third-stringer (particularly in the first and last preseason games when starters may only play a single series). After Brady straps on the headset, the Pats will give plenty of reps to reliable backup Brian Hoyer and talented rookie Ryan Mallet. The Jags will be without starting QB David Garrard, so they’ll be starting rookie Blaine Gabbert, then handing it off to Luke McCown in the second quarter. If they get down to their third-stringer, they’ll be trotting out Todd Bouman. Yes, the same Todd Bouman who wasn’t even good enough to make a practice squad last year. The same Todd Bouman who was riding a tractor during the 2010 season when the Jags called him to come in as an emergency QB, presumably because Vinny Testaverde was happy in his new career bagging groceries. That Todd Bouman.
If you think Jacksonville’s QB situation is bad, you should see the guys that are supposed to haul in these errant passes. In 15 total seasons in the NFL, the top 4 guys on the Jags’ WR depth chart have combined for fewer catches than Wes Welker’s total from the past two seasons. 49ers castoff Jason Hill is penciled in as a starter. I know the first preseason game is always ugly, but this one might set the forward pass back 50 years.
I like the Patriots to cover the 3.5-point spread comfortably.
Change is here.
After running a 3-4 base defense for nearly a decade, things will look different in Foxboro this year.
And why would this be a surprise?
Despite 25 interceptions, New England’s defense surrendered 258.5 passing yards per game, good for third-worst in the league.
When it came to third-down defense, none performed worse than the Patriots who allowed a league-high 47.1 percent completion percentage.
The root of the problem lies in the pass rush, or lack thereof.
The team lacked the top-tier pass rushers off the edge, especially at the outside linebacker position.
Now, the scheme has been adapted to fit the personnel.
Bill Belichick has masterfully bought low on several key veterans, none bigger in personality or stature than former Pro Bowler and Washington Redskins bust Albert Haynesworth.
The mammoth free agent bust was picked up for a 2013 fifth-rounder and early reports state he is dominating in practice.
After refusing to play nose tackle in Washington’s new 3-4 defense, Big Al should thrive next to Vince Wilfork in the middle of a four-man line.
With Haynesworth playing the three-technique, Wilfork should play a similar role in the 4-3 as he did in the old scheme. His primary role will most likely be to draw double teams, which should allow the linebackers to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
One of the big problems with converting to a 4-3 is the lack of edge rushers. According to reports, Jermaine Cunningham and Eric Moore have been underwhelming in practice in getting to the quarterback. no comments
It's time again! This week, football is finally back, and so are our weekly Q&A sessions with bloggers covering the Patriots' upcoming opponent. First on the docket is the Jaggernaut, a fantastic blog from our very own Bloguin Network, covering the Jacksonville Jaguars. We touched based with the head writer, Shane Clemmons to get his take on the Jags.
1. The main selection in the draft from Jacksonville everyone talking about is Blaine Gabbert. Do you think he can succeed at QB in Jacksonville for Jack Del Rio? How long until he takes over the job from David Garrard?
2. How do you think Jacksonville did in free agency? Were they winners/losers? Why?
A big shot was fired today in the Pats/Jets war, as New England signed the former New York defensive lineman today. This continues the trend of players and coaches swapping the green and white for the red, white, and blue, and vice versa. Seriously, have two bitter rivals ever been as inbred as the Patriots and Jets?no comments
For years, the standard defense at all levels of football has been the 4-3. This consists of four defensive linemen and three linebackers as the front seven. While there have been countless defensive ends who have wrecked havoc on quarterbacks from the traditional end position (Reggie White, Dwight Freeney, Deacon Jones), in today’s game, many NFL teams are implementing a 3-4 defense. While a few teams, notably the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have used this base defense throughout the past decade, as we head into the 2011 season, half the teams in the NFL have some form of a 3-4 defense. We’ll examine the basic concepts of each defense and highlight some necessities to playing each position in both defenses.
What is the 4-3 defense?
In the 4-3, the defense’s success is very much tied to the middle linebacker and defense end. In the 4-3, the middle linebacker is responsible for calling out plays, making adjustments, and making tackles while also having to drop back into coverage. Some notable middle linebackers who have had tremendous success over the past decade include former Miami Dolphin Zack Thomas, Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher, and Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis. All three of these players share a few characteristics – tremendous vocal leadership, intensity, and intelligence. Urlacher and Thomas are former NFL Defensive Players of the Year and Thomas was a perennial Pro Bowler during the 2000s.
Getting after the QB: Defensive End
In addition to the middle linebacker, the 4-3 defense is predicated on having a great pass rushing defensive end. Since the linebackers are often asked to play in pass coverage, the defensive line is responsible for creating most of the pass rush. Typically the right defensive end is the team’s best lineman whose job is to attack the quarterback’s blind side. Some of the best pass rushers in the NFL over the past decade are right defensive ends including the Indianapolis Colts’ Dwight Freeney, former Carolina Panther Julius Peppers, and Minnesota Viking Jared Allen. Because today’s left tackles are athletic and have long arms, it is equally important for the right defensive end to have the right blend of size, power, and speed. Mario Williams, the first overall pick in 2006 fits the mold of the ideal defensive end at 6’6, 280 lbs. with 4.7 speed and great strength. Even though former USC running back Reggie Bush was thought to be the best talent in the draft, the Texans proved everyone wrong by selecting Williams with the first pick to create havoc against Peyton Manning and the Colts. With the Texans’ move to a 3-4, it will be interesting to see if Wade Phillips can harness Williams’ athleticism as an outside linebacker.
Men in the Middle: Defensive Tackle
In terms of run defense, the middle linebacker’s ability to make tackles relies much on the two men in the middle – the defensive tackles. One has to look no further than Lewis to see how important this concept is. Early on in his career when the Ravens played a base 4-3 defense, Lewis benefitted from having two huge defensive tackles – Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa tying up the guards and center on the opposing team’s offensive line. In doing so, Lewis was allowed to flow freely to the ball carrier or quarterback with little interference from blockers. The two defensive tackles are typically lined up with one at the “one-technique” which is between the guard and center and the other at the “three technique” which is over the outside shoulder of the other guard. Warren Sapp is considered the quintessential three technique defensive tackle because of his tremendous interior quickness which he used to explode up field into the opponent’s backfield.
On the edges: Outside linebackers
The other linebackers in a 4-3 defense are known as the “Will” and “Sam”. The will, or weak-side linebacker is usually the fastest of the three linebackers and uses his sideline-to-sideline speed to prevent running backs from breaking the ball to the outside. They are typically a bit undersized, around 230-250 lbs. but usually with 4.5-4.6 speed. Examples of weak-side linebackers in the NFL today are Thomas Davis of the Panthers, Quincy Black of the Buccaneers, and Chad Greenway of the Minnesota Vikings.
The sam, or strong-side linebacker is lined up on the tight end’s side and are typically stronger at the point of attack and play closer to the line of scrimmage. They may be asked to man up with the tight end and are typically above 250 lbs. with 4.6-4.7 speed. They are also called on to blitz so they must have above average pass rush skills. Some notable strong-side linebackers in the NFL today are Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans, James Anderson of the Panthers and Rey Maualuga of the Cincinnati Bengals. no comments
So this isn't exactly a "play" per se, but how can you choose just one of Chung's spectacular plays and put them above the rest? Patrick Chung strung together one of the most epic performances in Monday Night Football history and all his finest moments are chronicled in the clip above. Remember, and enjoy!
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