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Ask PFW: In a rush

Posted Oct 11, 2011

Despite some improvement shown by the defense against the Jets, Patriots fans are still worried about the lack of a pass rush.

I have noticed that when the Pats put DE Mark Anderson in to rush passers at the end of games, he has gotten there on more than one occasion. I understand he has had his problems against the run in the past, but could we see more of him early in games going forward? His speed is a real asset off the edge as opposed to a bigger guy like Shaun Ellis, who relies on power more than anything.
Kyle Volo

Anderson has taken on the role of de facto closer in the Patriots defense. Whenever the game is winding down and the Patriots are enjoying a healthy lead, Anderson has done a nice job of getting heat on the quarterback. While his chances throughout the rest of the game have not been great, he has had some opportunities to get after the passer earlier in games and hasn’t been as successful. One problem with playing Anderson too much, as you mentioned, is his inability to play the run. Late in games when teams can’t run the ball, he’s more effective as a designated pass rusher. But earlier when teams can still try to be balanced, Anderson could be a liability. However, I will say that any player that can bring some heat should play, and Anderson has shown that ability at least in small doses. I’d like to see him get a better shot.
Paul Perillo

After watching the past couple of games it is very clear that the Patriots offense is dynamic and very versatile, but I can’t help but to think that it would be better with the addition of Taylor Price and Matthew Slater. As far as true receivers go the Pats only have two (Wes Welker and Deion Branch) that I have faith in. I think it’s time for the Pats to give Price and Slater a shot. In the preseason I thought Price looked 100 percent better than he did last season and in the first game Slater made a nice play down the field. Instead of trying to teach an old dog new tricks (Chad Ochocinco), why wouldn’t Bill give some of the younger receivers a shot?
Zach Strong

I am a big Taylor Price fan and remain intrigued by his skill set. He has decent size and good hands and speed. During training camp and the preseason he’s looked like an NFL receiver. But the coaches haven’t given him a chance to do anything during the regular season and he’s also battled some hamstring problems. Price is having a hard time dealing with the intricacies of an NFL offense after playing in a simple system in college at Ohio. Until he’s up to speed with his assignments, which I assume is at least part of the reason he hasn’t played, it’s hard to rely on him. And Slater is really a special teams player who can be asked to run a go route every once in a while but offers little more on offense. It’s hard to imagine either of these players being better than Ochocinco at this stage. And the bottom line to me is the offense is immense with the two wideouts you mentioned plus the two tight ends. Not sure Tom Brady needs more than four reliable playmakers in his arsenal, and I wouldn’t expect to see Price or Slater offer more than Ochocinco at this point.
Paul Perillo

What do you make of all the interceptions due to the ball clanging off a receiver's helmet/hands? It's happened at least three times now so I wonder if there's something going on. Is Brady throwing the ball any differently this year that makes it tougher to catch or likely to pop up?
Mahesh Kalyana

Not sure you can pin those interceptions to any changes in delivery from Brady. Anytime a pass gets deflected there’s a chance for a pick. That’s what made his long streak without an interception so amazing. One would figure that when a pass gets tipped, which happened many times last season, at least one would wind up in enemy hands. Not all of those deflections are bad luck, either. Brady’s pass off Danny Woodhead’s hands was a poor pass that Woodhead tried in vain to grab. Against the Jets Brady’s pass to Hernandez was perfect but the tight end couldn’t handle it. But in terms of reading anything into the deflections, I’m not sure you can other than to chalk it up to luck.
Paul Perillo

When are we going to see Shane Vereen? We really need him, he has lots of skills.
Genaro Abdala

I’m not sure why the offense needs another running back at this point. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley have been solid. Danny Woodhead, until he was injured in Oakland, was contributing as well. Vereen has an interesting skill set but has also been dealing with a hamstring injury since camp. That likely stunted his progress a bit and he’s now probably in catch-up mode. I believe Vereen will get his chances and I’m excited to see what he does with them because I share your enthusiasm with regard to his ability. But the running game has been solid without him, and unless Woodhead is out for an extended period I don’t see the need for Vereen at this point.
Paul Perillo

I just wanted to get your feedback on Wes Welker. The guy has been fantastic. It is scary to think where we would be without him. I remember in 2007 you guys thought we gave up too much for him, and were wrong. I always enjoyed watching him play more than I did Randy Moss, even in 2007 when Moss was a touchdown machine. How could so many teams have passed this guy by? Do you think it was a matter of size? If that is the case is too much made of size of a player in the draft?
Thom Hunter

Before I start I do want to admit that I did think the Patriots gave up too much for Welker in 2007 – both in terms of compensation (second- and seventh-round picks) and salary (five years, $18 million). And I also want to state unequivocally that I was wrong. Welker has been worth it and then some over the length of that deal. He’s just so tough and consistent. He’s been a key element of the offense from the moment he stepped on the field for the Patriots. In terms of teams passing on him, surely his size had everything to do with that. And in all honesty I can’t really say that I blame them. Let’s not forget the Patriots passed on him too. The problem with guys of that size is usually durability. There have been a lot of undersized slot receivers who don’t stand up to the rigors the job entails. Brandon Stokley, Danny Amendola and Austin Collie are just a few small receivers who have had a hard time staying on the field throughout their careers. Welker has been amazingly healthy throughout his Patriots career, even returning from a torn ACL faster than anyone could have imagined. But he’s more of an exception for guys his size and he’s to be commended for his toughness. As an aside, I’m not sure how anyone could have been more fun to watch than Moss in 2007.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the Patriots would sign Lofa Tatupu or another good FA LB? Jerod Mayo is out for six weeks and the Pats need defensive help! Once Mayo is back the Pats would have a good LB group if they got Lofa.
Blake Williams

First, I have no idea how long Mayo will be out. I was encouraged that he was listed as doubtful on the injury report before the Jets game rather than out. Common sense would dictate that he had at least a slight chance to play and therefore will not need six weeks – as some have reported – to return. As for Tatupu, I’m not sure he’s healthy enough to play. I haven’t spoken with him or his agent but I have been told his health is a real concern. He’s been out of work all season and no one has picked him up despite injuries wreaking havoc throughout the league. If he were a viable option I have to think someone would have signed him by now. I’m just not sure that’s the case.
Paul Perillo

Where has Jermaine Cunningham been this year? Is he on the PUP list and if not how has he been looking in practice? And why hasn't he played very much?
Philip Weelwerts

Cunningham has been on the active roster all season but has seen very little playing time. Many felt the switch to the 4-3 would be beneficial to him since it meant a return to the defensive end spot he played in college. But so far Bill Belichick has opted to go with veterans Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter instead. Cunningham hasn’t shown the ability to be an effective pass rusher thus far so using him in subpackages doesn’t seem to make much sense either. Right now, Cunningham is looking like a huge disappointment of for no other reason than he can’t get on the field consistently. Against the Jets he received just a handful of snaps when Ellis got banged up and wasn’t noticeable.
Paul Perillo

I suppose the one silver lining of the defense being so bad this year is that hopefully BB will realize that he needs nothing else on offense (except maybe another quality OL or two) and use all of next year's picks on defense. If the Pats had Ndamukong Suh and Brian Orakpo, they’d be unstoppable! Agree?
Rob Clark

Well, sure. If the Patriots had better players at all positions they’d be unstoppable. But in order to get players like Suh and Orakpo you have to have high draft picks in the first round, and fortunately the Patriots haven’t been in that position for a long time. I agree that Belichick should focus on defense in the future – specifically the front seven to find someone to apply some heat. But I’ve felt that way for a couple of years now and obviously Belichick hasn’t felt the same.
Paul Perillo

This is a serious question, not a sarcastic one. The Pats D is so weak, why bother ever punting? The offense may or may not convert fourth downs. This would also give the offense an advantage on third downs. If they don't convert, the short field would help protect the D in addition to sparing them playing time. They either get a stop or give up some points and get back off the field. They'd always be fresher that way. While were at it, why not throw in a bunch of on-sides kicks?
Joe Frissora

I’ll try to answer your question as seriously as possible since you claimed you weren’t being sarcastic. I love going for it on fourth down, within reason. No matter how poorly your defense is playing you can’t just go for it on fourth-and-10 from your own 20 every time and expect everything to work out. As good as the Patriots offense is, they’ve gone three-and-out 14 times this season. Even if they converted half of those 14 on fourth down, that still would create seven other times when the opponent potentially took over deep in Patriots territory. In other words, you can’t just go for it every time. The bottom line is the defense has to improve like it did against the Jets. If that effort continues in the second half of the season, maybe people won’t be considering such drastic measures in the future.
Paul Perillo

With the defense looking as bad as it is and not having a defensive coordinator do you think it’s possible for Belichick to consider bringing back Eric Mangini as coordinator? At this point, I'm up for anything to get our defense on track. Plus, it would also make a good story.
Paul Attanasio

Not sure the story would have anything to do with a decision like that, but no, I don’t think the Patriots would bring back Mangini. Things did not end well with him when he left, and Matt Patricia appears to be on the rise as the coordinator in waiting. He’s calling a lot of the shots with the defense and has seen his role increase over the past couple of seasons. The defense needs better players, plain and simple. The coaches can only do so much, regardless of how creative they are.
Paul Perillo

What if BB wasn`t worried about pass rush, instead, between line of scrimmage and red zone there are chances for interceptions, but if we are good in the red zone the most they get is three points and we get seven. Being good in the red zone, maybe better than a pass rush?
Bill Eaton

Being tough in the red zone is always important, but that and a pass rush are not mutually exclusive entities. Why can’t the Patriots have a solid rush and being stingy in the red zone? In fact, it’s hard to be tough in the red zone without a good pass rush. It’s never the design of the defense to allow the opponent to consistently move the ball deep into its territory. Allowing points, whether it’s three or seven, is not good. Obviously field goals are much preferred over touchdowns, but too many of those can kill you too. I’d rather have a defense that can stop the offense from getting into scoring position in the first place. And certainly Belichick’s “plan” is not to forgo a pass rush in favor of solid red zone play.
Paul Perillo

How many coaches have more Super Bowl wins than Belichick? How many QBs have won more Super Bowls than Brady?
Dave Chambers

Pittsburgh’s Chuck Noll won four Super Bowls in the 1970s with the Steelers. He is the only head coach to win more than the three Belichick currently owns. Noll’s quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, won all four of those. Also, San Francisco’s Joe Montana also won four Super Bowls, three under Bill Walsh and one for George Seifert.
Paul Perillo

During the Oakland game there was some confusion among the officials on a fourth down. The TV commentators said something about the wrong ball being on the field -- that they needed to bring out the "kicking" ball. In the NFL, do they kick with a different ball than they play with?
Mark Aiken

They do indeed using a different ball to kick with in the NFL. On the play you’re questioning, the Raiders were planning on going for it on fourth down but the special ‘K’ ball had already been sent in assuming a punt was forthcoming. When the Raiders lined up to go for it, the announcers commented that a regular ball had to be sent in to replace the kicking ball. All punts, kickoffs, field goals and extra points are done with this special ball.
Paul Perillo

Of the following D-linemen, who do you think is likely to be back next season: Mike Wright, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Gerard Warren, and Andre Carter? Or none of the above?
Josh Duval

I think there’s a better than average chance that none of the above is the answer. Wright is a question mark given his concussion history. He’s close to returning and if he’s able to stay healthy perhaps he’ll be part of the future up front. If not, unfortunately I think he may wind up being forced to retire. Carter has a chance to return as well. He hasn’t been spectacular but has played reasonably well and appears to be a nice fit up front. The other three almost certainly won’t be back. Haynesworth will cost some money moving forward and Ellis and Warren are approaching the end of the line. It would not surprise me to see all five gone.
Paul Perillo


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