Behind Enemy Lines: Pats - Dolphins Part 2

Patriots Insider Jon Scott answers 6 burning questions about the Patriots in Week 8.

1) Tom Brady is on pace to finish with career-worst stats in completion percentage and passer rating; is the primarily due to his inexperienced receiving corps or is Brady largely to blame?

Jon Scott:
Absolutely. This is all about Brady trying to force the ball into situations that aren't appropriate for the ball.  The Patriots have neglected the game-changing offensive weapons for a long time at WR.  To be honest, it's a blight on the scouting department that they can't find a WR who can catch the ball and understand the Patriots offense.  Losing Wes Welker in the offseason has completely changed the offense. The personnel dept shoulder the blame on the ineffectiveness of the offense by trying to build a complete receiving corps in one year with rookies who have trouble running the proper routes or catching the ball.

2) Rob Gronkowski made his season debut last Sunday; was he the same Gronk he's always been or could you sense some rust?

JS: Gronk is a bit rusty. As you saw, he had one play right over the middle that would have been huge for the Patriots scoring opportunity, but he tried to one hand it and dropped it.  Normally he has no trouble latching onto those types of passes.

3) Is there any rhyme or reason to the way the Patriots use their running backs?

JS: The team tries to put players into formations that will give them flexibility against certain defenses.  Blount is more of a short yardage back, while Brandon Bolden is a bit of a third down option with Shane Vereen sidelined.  Steven Ridley is the main back, but fumbling issues have been his ticket to the bench, and even the doghouse this season.

4) Is the defense headed for a tumble after the losses of Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo?

JS: The defense has big holes up the front without their two captains.  Tommy Kelly is another player the team is having trouble trying to replace.  Nothing like ripping out the middle of your defense and trying to plug in players who have little to no experience..  The team is ranked 31st against the run, a large part of the problem is the absence of that trio.

5) How has former Dolphins linebacker Rob Ninkovich become such an important piece on the New England defense?

JS: Ninkovich has been to New England's defense in recent years what former Steelers LB Mike Vrabel has been in the past.  He's playing the outside edge contain, with a bit of pass rusher mixed in. The Patriots have relied on his ability to diagnose opponents and get into the right position, something he's been more consistent at than others who have tried to play same position.  Ninkovich has moved between OLB in a 3-4 defense to a DE when the team lines up as a 4-3 unit.  His flexibility is what makes him so special.

6) Just how valuable has cornerback Aqib Talib been to the Pats defense this season?

JS: With Talib in the lineup, the Patriots have been able to shut down Jimmy Graham and A.J. Green, without him, the team has struggled to contain average quarterbacks like Geno Smith of the Jets (last week).  He's rapidly become the team's top cover corner. He has the size and range to do what's needed when covering some of the game's bigger, more physical receivers.  

Don't miss Part 1 Dolphins

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