Scott: What we saw from the Patriots in training camp made us wonder; Can they get it together without the bodies at the receiver position, without Vinatieri, without McGinest? The players who stepped into the lineup appeared decent, but there were weaknesses and question marks going into the preseason. One thing we reported in camp was that if the Patriots could find a way to address the losses of their playmakers in Givens, Vinatieri and McGinest, they could be downright scary. The offensive line was improved, the tight end spot was upgraded, and the running back position was strengthened. Those changes without any drop-off in production from the defense spelled good things, including another postseason run. Even withouti Deion Branch, this team can score, and another playmaker (Garrett Mills) of theirs hasn't even seen the field yet.
DD: Why is it that the Patriots always seem to be able to respond to adversity, unlike the team down here in Miami?
Scott: There is a core group of players that if were absent, could spell trouble for the team. That begins with Tom Brady. Losing him would spell trouble the likes of which the team hasn't seen since his arrival. Brady has never missed a game since starting for Drew Bledsoe. Many, attribute the team's success, and Belichick's success with it, a factor of Brady's emergence. The Dolphins have yet to solidify the QB position, but many other things are in place, including the defense (at least in the past), and the running game (when Ricky was still around and productive). Handling adversity is in the culture in New England, although it's surprising how resilient this team can be, especially in the defensive secondary.
DD: There was talk of Tom Brady being frustrated because all his receivers are gone; was that overblown or is it legit?
Scott: The whole "body language" debate was way overblown. Those who watch the team week in and week out have seen Brady go through minor tiffs and funks. Because the team keeps winning, or when it's preseason/training camp, that attitude never makes the light of day, or the ink on the presses. It's obvious there is a lot of work to do with the receivers Brady has now, and that's the fault of the front office. Even if Brady makes it work with Watson, the dual RB attack, and splitting out Kevin Faulk, there's no doubt, it was the miscalculation of the front office with Deion Branch that is holding the team back. Playing what-ifs now is senseless, but yes, it did affect Brady, and could still be until he gets on the same page with his new guys.
DD: Brady has had problems with the Dolphins in the past; does he look forward to the challenge of facing them?
Scott: Brady always compliments his opponents, but his struggles with the Dolphins have been well documented. Although he hasn't said much of late about beating the team and what that would mean to him, his competitive spirit wouldn't let it sit well if the Patriots lost to a division opponent, especially the Dolphins. It may be a bigger game for some ex-Dolphins who have something to prove.
Brady did mention the Dolphins defense of old that game him the most trouble: "They were tough, those guys. That scheme they had four or five years ago with the defensive line with Jason Taylor and Adewale [Ogunleye] and Tim Bowens and Daryl Gardener. They could really play. My worst games I ever played were against those guys, throwing for 70 yards. It was tough."
DD: After Laurence Maroney's performance against Cincinnati, should we expect to see him get the bulk of the carries on Sunday?
Scott: It's the two-headed monster we talked about in the preseason. Maroney hits the holes very quickly, but may have a tendency to dance when there's not a big opening. He's getting better with the stiff-arm, likely learned from Dillon, who's an expert at using it. One back or another will unlikely get the bulk of the carries unless there's an injury or the scheme dictates said requirement. The offense is much better when both runners are grinding out the yards, as evidenced by the past two games (Denver and Cincinnati). When Dillon left with an injury, the ground game fizzled. When he was in there, it wasn't pretty, but he was gaining some tough yards, something the Patriots need from him in order to keep the chains moving.