Behind Enemy Lines: New England Patriots

New York Giants beat writer Josh Fyffe goes behind enemy lines and asks Patriots publisher Chris Simoneau five burning questions about the New England Patriots.

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

Revis and Browner both departed in free agency during the offseason while the Patriots brought in no high-level free agents to replace them in their secondary. Who do you think will be the top two cornerbacks on this team?  And while McCourty and Chung were both retained with new contracts, is the secondary of the Patriots their biggest weakness going into 2015?

 

Chris Simoneau | PatriotsInsider.com

Surprising as it may sound, the secondary has looked pretty good in the preseason. The left corner will be manned by Super Bowl-hero Malcolm Butler, a player that has come a LONG way in the course of one year, and the right corner appears to be former 49er Tarell Brown, a longtime starter who brings a veteran presence that is clearly needed after the gutting of the position over the offseason. McCourty makes up for a lot of mistakes too, so it’s nice to have him back. I do believe that Chung will be exposed in pass coverage because he’ll be forced to play in more zone, something he wasn’t forced to do in 2014 because they ran mostly man coverages. The secondary may appear to be a weakness on paper, but by the end of 2015, they will not be the weakest area on the team. I think that “honor” is reserved for the running back position.

 

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

Reggie Wayne was signed just over a week ago, right after Brandon Gibson went down for the season; is Wayne even close to picking up an offense that both Joey Galloway and Chad Johnson struggled to handle? And which receiver has had the most chemistry in the preseason and practice thus far with Jimmy Garoppolo?

 

Chris Simoneau | PatriotsInsider.com

Wayne was a solid pickup and he is a more cerebral receiver than Galloway and Johnson, so yes, he will pick up the offense shortly. He wasn’t bad in 2014, and he was also returning from a torn ACL that occurred in mid-2013. Brady will love him, assuming he stays healthy. Wayne makes all the other weapons that much more dangerous too, and this team has plenty of them in the passing game. Garoppolo’ main man this preseason has been rookie free agent Chris Harper, but Harper is going to have his hands full trying to make the roster. If he steps up and plays well tonight, he has a chance to make the team.

 

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

The Patriots last two first round picks have both been defensive tackles, Dominique Easily in 2014 and Malcolm Brown in 2015. How is Easley looking after coming back from his 3rd ACL tear and how is Brown molding into the defense? I know Easley is an undersized defensive tackle, but does one have an edge to start over the other or are both rotational players at this point in their careers?

 

 Chris Simoneau | PatriotsInsider.com

 

Easley has been excellent in training camp and this preseason, a great sign for a team that desperately needs an interior pass rush to not only help the secondary but also help the linebackers in coverage. The Patriots have had Wilfork in the middle of the line for so long, and they used him to two-gap, a job that doesn’t allow the nose tackle to simply pass rush. With a change in personnel comes a change in philosophy, and that is what we are seeing with the Patriots defensive line. They think they can stop the run AND the pass with more athletic defensive lineman, and it looks like they are right so far this preseason. Malcom Brown is simply a player- he hustles, works hard every play, and he plays multiple positions up front. 31 teams are going to be angry for passing on one of the best defensive tackles in the draft, especially the Colts, a team that can’t stop the run at all.

 

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

The Patriots lost both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the offseason; is there a lead back stepping up thus far into the preseason or is it looking to be a committee? And is James White being groomed to be in the Shane Vereen/Kevin Faulk role or is there another back on the roster who is getting a lot of repetitions in passing situations?

 

Chris Simoneau | PatriotsInsider.com

 

The replacing of Ridley is much easier than Vereen for one simple reason- Ridley was replaced when he went down last season. Blount, Gray, and Bolden will be the three headed monster at lead back, and the battle to replace Vereen will most likely be decided tonight versus the Giants. Dion Lewis and James White have both played very well, but Lewis appears to be the better all-around back and is the front-runner to make the roster. I get the feeling Belichick would like to keep both smaller backs, but it would come at the expense of either Gray or Bolden. Blount has looked very good running the ball too, a good sign for a team that plans on maintaining balance within their offense, no matter who the backs may be.

 

Josh Fyffe | TheGiantsBeat.com

 

Obviously Jimmy Garoppolo has been the talk of the town during the preseason given the deflategate controversy surrounding Tom Brady. While it’s hard to base an impression off of preseason play because of 2nd and 3rd string defenses he is partially facing, should the Patriots feel comfortable with Garoppolo behind center for the first four weeks if Tom Brady’s suspension remains stagnant?

 

Chris Simoneau | PatriotsInsider.com

 

Well, we now know that the suspension is lifted, but honestly, Garoppolo hasn’t been as good as reported. He has made some awful throws and had at least three easy interceptions dropped, and typically he’s played bad for one quarter and then good for the other, a sign that he is still learning the position, which is to be expected for any second year player. He clearly has talent and will most likely be the successor to Tom Brady at some point, but the hype this preseason is just that-hype, and he has a long way to go. Like the man he backs up, he is very good in the two minute drill and doesn’t seem to be fazed when he makes a mistake, no matter how bad it may be. He reminds me of another former Eastern Illinois quarterback- Cowboys superstar Tony Romo; it took Romo a few years to figure it out too.


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