One Bright Spot -Kinda, Sorta, I Guess
- The pre-season looked pretty dismal this year. Yet, as bad as we got womped early in games when most of the starters were in, we actually dominated the 4th quarter. The combined 4th quarter score of the four preseason games was 44-0 in New England's favor. Of course that came when the scrubs and a lot of people who won't be around for any of the teams were in. But maybe it also means we might have found some good back ups and role players here and there. When the Pats drafted Kevin O'Connell, the thought was that he'd be a project. It would take a few years of development until he could be an NFL starter, but he had all the physical talents. He seems to have shown enough to make the team as a 3rd string quarterback, and he seems like he's beginning the process. He's on pace. I wouldn't throw him out there to start the season. I'd dread him being the starter late in the season, but he's a long term investment. The payoff should be a few years from now. Also, we got to see a lot of Ray Ventrone, and he looks like someone who can contribute a lot as a receiver especially, but also as a DB, and a special teamer. Looks like we've got someone who fills one roster spot and three jobs. That's a pretty good bargain. Slater looked okay on returns, played a lot of safety against the Giants and I think he got in at receiver some too. There's another guy who fills three jobs, but only takes up one spot. That might free some roster space to carry an extra running back or linebacker. There may have been off-camera stuff that I didn't see, not having a whole view of the field, and mistakes I'm not aware of, not knowing the playbook, but with those caveats, it seems Shawn Crable had a nice pre-season. I seem to recall Gary Guyton playing linebacker during most if not all of those 4th quarters. He's another guy who could be a long term project. Maybe he can contribute on special teams coverage immediately though. A lot of the younger players got a lot of playing time.That means they got experience, experience that could help them if they're called on during the regular season. Even the mistakes provided learning experiences. Remember when the Tigers went to the World Series a few years ago? The season before, they were horrible. One of the reasons was that they stuck with young pitchers who had lots of talent, but little experience. They struggled and they learned. The results came the next season. I don't know about you, but I'd rather see the younger Pats players do their struggling in games that don't count instead of the ones that do.Another thing to consider, every game was a huge mismatch at the QB position in the early going at least. The downside of that is obvious. We appear to be in hot water if we need a back up to take over during the season. The upside is a mismatch at that position is HUGE and more often than not a healthy Brady (knock on wood) puts that match up in our favor. Look at it this way, we didn't run a single offensive play with a QB who's ever started a regular season game in the NFL. One QB who got considerable playing time against the other teams' starters didn't even start a single COLLEGE game in his career. Yet, every single team we played countered with experienced QBs who have been starters in the NFL. We only faced one guy meeting that description when we played the Ravens. But against Tampa, even with Garcia sitting out, we played guys with considerable starting experience. Against the Eagles, we faced McNabb, a former Pro-Bowler with lots of post-season experience. Even against the Giants with Manning out, we still faced Carr who has a few years of starting experience and is a former first round pick after all. In fact, Carr played almost the entire game. (The guy from Kentucky was in for one series and then Carr went right back in.) That's a first round pick with a few years of NFL starting experience against a 7th rounder, an undrafted free agent, and a 3rd round pick non of whom have ever started a single NFL game during the regular season. Other than McNabb, none of the opposing QBs are great, but their experience puts them way ahead of our guys. So, it's bad. It's a glaring weakness, but it's something that changes dramatically with Brady under center. Plus, if the staff thought the current back up situation was fine, maybe the pre-season performances changed their minds and gets them looking for at least one experienced guy to with O'Connell. Or maybe, they figure one of the other guys learned a lot of things that will help him once he's had a chance to step back and digest everything that went wrong for the past four weeks.Scott Sheaffer
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