Around the AFC East
By David Dionisio, Site Contributor
Balance, any Tibetan monk worth his weight in orange robes will tell you, is
the key to a prosperous, contented life and Bill Belichick, along with personnel
guru Scott Pioli, has applied these philosophies to the New England Patriots
While I'm not sure that Bill tried to get his troops to execute plays using their mind's eye in the offseason, the River of Truth does indeed now flow from the Patriot's backfield, and its name is Corey Dillon.
Offensive equilibrium is a concept the Patriots eschewed while marching toward
two Super Bowl championships in three years, surviving with a deadly efficient
passing attack and a serviceable running game that, in fact, featured two specialists:
short-yardage bruiser Antowain Smith and third-down back extraordinaire Kevin Faulk.
With the acquisition of three-time Pro Bowler Dillon, for merely a second round
draft choice which the Bengals used to pick Madieu Williams (the same Madieu
Williams who was repeatedly torched by Chad Pennington in Week One), the Patriots
have their most explosive offensive weapon coming from behind the line since
a young Curtis Martin galloped all over the Foxboro grounds from 1995-97 (I
won't mention Robert Edwards, of whom I still find it painful to talk about
and what might have been).
Symmetry abounds from every corner of the Pats offensive depth chart this year,
especially at the tight end position. The oft-frustrating Daniel Graham, who
appears to have put his dropped ball problems behind him, had always shown himself
as an excellent blocker whose physical skills seemed to belie his production.
Add to the mix rookie Ben Watson, who has the skills of a receiver in the open
field but the body of a lineman, and you've got quite a potent mix of speed,
power and the ever elusive youth.
All of this balance spouting fourth from the line of scrimmage will give the
Pats next three AFC East opponents, at the Bills this week, then home for the
Dolphins and (after a home date with the Seahawks) another home tilt with the
Jets, a severe case of vertigo.
The Bills are currently suffering from what is known as Pete Carroll-itis, which is having a superb defense and a Frankenstein at quarterback who, through poor execution, poor playing calling and the holding holding holding of the ball, causes said superb defense to blast the offense in the papers after ten straight weeks of 13-10 games (just watch, it'll happen eventually in Buffalo).
There are lies, there are damn lies, and then there are statistics. Don't be
fooled by Buffalo's 78 rushing yards allowed per game, nor the paltry 171 passing
yards they surrender. As eye popping as those figures may be, let's remember
they were compiled against the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars,
two teams of whom I'm pretty sure we won't be seeing much of in late January.
The numbers we should focus on are 81 and 161.5, which represent the Bills respective rushing and passing yards per game. Drew Bledsoe, Travis Henry, Eric Moulds and Mike Williams? Yes, they are all on the offensive side of the ball for the Bills. To no avail, apparently.
Tom Brady and company should have a field day against Buffalo, particularly
in the second half when the Bills defense will be worn out and Dillon can take
over. Takeo Spikes, London Fletcher and Sam Adams are stalwarts against the
run but the Bills' secondary is woefully thin. Replacing Antoine Winfield with
Troy Vincent may seem to be a wash but Vincent is older and a more physical
corner than the speedy Winfield. Vincent could use that extra speed as he will
be chasing the Pats cadre of receivers all afternoon.
Lack of a consistent, clock-eating running game almost brought on the demise of the Pats in more than a few big games, like say, Super Bowl XXXVIII, as well as playoff games versus Tennessee and Indianapolis, but now they will be able to squeeze some big plays out of the Bills and then Mr. Brady can merely turn around, hand it to Dillon and watch.
The Miami Dolphins are a team in complete disarray and the Pats would do well
to fatten up on them. Their defense still has some big time playmakers, like
Jason Taylor and Sam Madison, but judging by the fact that some of the Bengals
defensive linemen had their own apartments in the Dolphins backfield during
Week One (just imagine what Richard Seymour and his line mates will do), the
sheer volume of snaps they will have to defend will be too much to overcome.
A team with no offense like Miami, whose ability to move the ball is somewhere
roaming the Earth and getting spliffed with Lenny Kravitz, will never win the
war of attrition that the Patriots have mastered.
A Week Seven showdown with the New York Jets in Foxboro will provide the toughest
inter-divisional test of the Patriots young season. As evidenced by the Panthers
relentless pressure in the Super Bowl, the Patriots unheralded offensive line
struggles mightily with a quick and powerful defensive front. Belichick and
Charlie Weis were well aware of this and changed Brady's drop from five to three
steps to assist his unspectacular but solid line.
The Jets may not have the uber-athletic Julius Peppers, but they have John Abraham and Shaun Ellis (taken back-to-back with the 12th and 13th picks of
the 2000 draft, one of those picks being Belichick compensation) bursting off
the edges and wreaking havoc on the passing game. Bowling ball-esque Dwayne
Robertson, who the Patriots feverishly tried to trade up for in 2003 but were
out-maneuvered by the Jets, is finally showing signs of being a premier player
in the trenches. Robertson, much like Ted Washington for the Patriots last year,
is the defensive keystone.
Jets coach Herman Edwards wants Robertson to use his 6'1", 317 pound body
to plug up the middle, hopefully drawing the attention of multiple blockers.
Robertson's play of late is garnering him more double teams and that will open
lanes for linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Eric Barton, as well as strong safety
Reggie Tongue, allowing them to make plays in the Patriots backfield.
Victory is to be counted on against the Bills and 'Fins, as they both sport some nifty, if somewhat incomplete, defenses but don't have the requisite offense to keep Brady off the field. The Pats defense assures that Brady, et al, will never have to scramble for points, thus allowing them to use their valued balance any which way they want. The Jets will throw the Patriots a bit of a monkey wrench, as they can cause problems in the backfield as well as utilize Curtis Martin to keeps the chains, and the clock, moving.
Ultimately, the Patriots will emerge victorious from all these games, cementing their stranglehold on the AFC East. Charlie Weis has been accused of being too prolific with passing plays in order to showcase his offense and bolster his head coaching chances. Methinks that will not be an issue anymore as when the Patriots get a comfortable lead they will just use their balance. Now, with Dillon, its as if Weis has a new toy that he hasn't figured out exactly how to use most effectively. Yet. But he will, and in a most noxious fashion.
David can has agreed to join the site and be another of our regular contributors to the Patriots Insider. He has written pieces for Allsports and the Cyberstuff websites. You can find him in the forums under the screen name: Trangle
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