Behind Enemy Lines, Part 1

To find out about this week's Dolphins opponent, the New England Patriots, we checked in with Patriots Insider's Jon Scott to ask him some questions about the team and this week's matchup. Part 1 focuses on Wes Welker and the Patriots offense.

Q. Tom Brady has been unstoppable all season; is it a simple matter of having a better receiving corps?

Scott: The issue for Brady and crew is for the offense to create mismatches vs. opposing defenses while giving Brady enough time to throw the ball downfield. As we saw against Dallas, a good defense can get to Tom Brady. The issue for opponents is what happens when they don't get to Brady. Last year the worst damage the Patriots could do was from Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell and Troy Brown. This year it's Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker. Obviously all three slots have been upgraded with youth or ability.

You could say that the reason is the better receivers, but when defenses take Moss and Stallworth away, Brady still has his check-downs, namely Ben Watson and Kevin Faulk. Brady just seems to have a better connection with this year's group than last year's. Obviously the talent improvement helps.

Q. Can you talk about the impact former Dolphins have made on this team, in particular Wes Welker?

Scott: Enough can't be said of Wes Welker and Sammy Morris' impact on the Patriots offense. Until he was hurt, Morris looked like the answer for the Patriots in their search to replace Corey Dillon. Now it's unknown when he'll be back.

Welker has always been a playmaker and for the Dolphins not to retain him was simply amazing to me. I've seen Welker do things we thought Tim Dwight would do for New England. The guy just kills defenses, and he's really the grease in the gears. We (the media) made bets at the beginning of the season as to who would have a bigger impact on the offense, and the majority thought it would be Welker. Because Moss is on the field, Welker will have more opportunities.

Also, enough good things can't be said about Junior Seau's impact on the Patriots defense. He's taking playing time away from Tedy Bruschi, which in passing situations is a good thing.

Q. What's the timetable for the return of defensive tackle Richard Seymour, and how much better can he actually make this defense?

Scott: Seymour is still on the PUP list. Some have speculated he may miss the season. We heard that he'll be back, but not right away. We'll just have to see; he's not allowed to practice with the team until he returns from PUP.

A healthy Seymour gives the Patriots a huge advantage on defense. They can then rotate in four talented defensive linemen rather than have to substitute in Mike Wright with Jarvis Green.

As good as Green and Ty Warren are, they need a break, and Seymour is one heck of a player. If he returns healthy, the defense will take a big step forward.

Q. Why is it that seemingly ever player who joins the Patriots instantly becomes better?

Scott: The key for the Patriots is getting the production out of players who join the team. If a player is projected to be capable of certain things in the team's offense or defense, then they have to produce. If they don't do that consistently, then the team moves on to the next person. Unlike other teams, New England doesn't look for superstars to lead the team. They want guys to do what's asked, and obviously those guys have to have talent. When the other team figures out a way to stop it, then the Patriots shift gears to attack using another strength of their team.

New players to this team get this, and it makes them better. When you're not asked to do too much, you tend to play more consistently, and that's why New England seems to outlast their opponents. They just make fewer mistakes and capitalize on more opportunities.

Q. Any weakness on the Patriots team this season?

Scott: Run defense is probably the biggest concern. You could also say pass defense, but with a solid pass rush, the pass defense improves tremendously. The concern is when the Patriots can't stop the run. Wade Phillips noticed this in San Diego, and tried to do a little more of that on Sunday. He observed that the Patriots moved to a nickel defense to prevent Tony Romo from finding Jason Witten and Terrell Owens downfield. When the Pats went to nickel, the Cowboys ran, and ran effectively.

The scary part for New England is that the Cowboys runners looked like All-Pros on just regular runs. That doesn't bode well for the Patriots when they're in a close game.

Another area is protecting Brady from the blitz. If Kevin Faulk is called on to carry the load, he's going to need a break. He and Sammy Morris were two of the better backs at blitz pickup. If a team can pressure Tom Brady, and it's possible due to the Pats injuries, then they could exploit that area as well.

Jon Scott has covered the NFL for over 10 seasons and the New England Patriots since 2001. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Scott covers the Patriots for the Scout.com network at Patriots Insider (www.PatriotsInsider.com).


Dolphins Report Top Stories