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Ask PFW: D main concern

Still unsure about New England's defense? So are many of the fans who submitted questions in this week's PFW mailbag.


Am I the only one not overly impressed by the Pats the last two games? Yes they won, and yes the offense put up big numbers, but in both games I thought the defense looked awful. Both games were against backup quarterbacks and in my opinion the defense got very lucky in both of those games. The coverage was awful against Philly, their receivers just couldn't hold on to the ball, or Young couldn't make the throws. Even against the Chiefs, if [backup QB Tyler] Palko could hit his targets it looked like he would have had a field day. The pass rush is still awful too. There is no way this team can win playoff games against good teams with the defense playing like this.
Tayler Cook

I was just reviewing defensive stats on I see that we are still last with reference to yardage allowed, but a very respectable 10th place with reference to that all important stat of Points allowed. Not surprisingly we are also 2nd in interceptions with 15 (way to go Kyle) and middle of the pack in sacks with 23 thanks to Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. At the beginning of the year, the way the offence was scoring, and it did slow down for a few games, but now the last 2 over 30 again, if our defence holds opponents to 20 points or less, we should win! When we lost against both the Steelers and the Giants we only gave up 23 and 20 points. I believe the small losing streak was more a reflection on the offence not doing its usual job. the defence is what it is, bendable to give up lots of yardage, but tough in the red-zone and takes advantage of teams mistakes. Would like to ask if you agree with my assessment, and do you have the same optimism that I have that the defence can improve more and we can break this curse of one and done in the playoffs. Love the job you guys do and look forward to every Tuesday and the ASK PFW Q&A.
Michael Jewis

Can't say I entirely disagree with Tayler, nor am I as sanguine as Michael. I'm still very cautiously optimistic about the way the defense has played in recent weeks, and I worry, too, that there isn't enough talent there to stop a good offense in the playoffs. However, with each week, I see this group of overachieving underdogs gaining confidence and getting contributions from the most unlikely of places (Sterling Moore, Julian Edelman, etc.). That cohesiveness, despite so many moving parts due to injuries, could help this defense mature in time for the playoffs. By then, hopefully, the injuries to key players like Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will be over with as well and the team will have gotten valuable experience from its backups.
Erik Scalavino

Hi guys! I think we have all noticed some games now in which the offense got off to a slow start. I know the Pats typically elect to defer until the second half to possess the ball (which has been very good for them). But, do you think they should start with the ball sometimes (even as a "test" in some upcoming games in the regular season) to see if it helps them get off to a faster start?
Giovanna Sabatini

Interesting question, Giovanna (love your first name, by the way … same as my late paternal grandmother's). They have, of course, started with the ball on occasion, but only when they lose the coin toss and the other team elects to defer. Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing the Patriots take possession of the football every time they start a game. I'll take my chances with this offense over most defenses any day. The sooner they can jump out to a lead, the better, I say.
Erik Scalavino

Is Rob Gronkowski set to break any TE records this year, since he is becoming even more of a beast?
Mike Vaitkus

Yes. He's already broken his own team record for touchdowns at the tight end position – he set it with 10 last year and has surpassed it with 11 so far in 2011. The all-time NFL record for tight end touchdowns in a season is 13, shared by a pair of current NFL tight ends (San Diego's Antonio Gates and San Francisco's Vernon Davis). Gronk is poised to eclipse them any day now – possibly this weekend against Indianapolis.  
Erik Scalavino

When did Kyle Arrington get so good?! It seemed like last year he was getting beat a lot. Now he is showing skills of a number one corner. Just would like your input. Thanks.
Joe Lutes

I don't remember Arrington getting burned consistently last season. In fact, he did yeoman's work filling in at right corner for the injured Leigh Bodden (you know, until Belichick decided to convert him into an edge pass rusher). But I also don't see his play this year as equaling that of a number-one corner, either. Yes, he's leading the NFL in INTs, but he's had his share of big plays surrendered as well.

Don't get me wrong, I like Arrington a lot, both as a player and a person. For an undrafted player, he's certainly earned his place in this league. I just think that place is as a slot corner, in a perfect world. But he's good enough to fill in on the edge when needed, which has been more often than the Patriots would prefer, I imagine. Plus, he plays hurt, which shows just how tough the little guy is. He's good, not great, but this team needs all the good it can get right now.  
Erik Scalavino

What has happened to Stevan Ridley? He seemed like he could take over the entire backfield at times and now has disappeared completely. Has he done something wrong or hit the rookie wall without even playing? I thought he showed a real spark and might even be used to allow BJGE to completely heal from his turf toe. None of this to slight law-firm as he is sure handed and gets the job done - still remember Fred Taylor saying he was good and needed to be able to show that more. Thanks.
Chu Snow

I'm a little surprised by Ridley's dip in production, too, but I have no reason to believe it's a result of anything he's done wrong, on or off the field. I think it speaks more to the job BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been doing than anything else. Benny runs hard, as we saw in Philadelphia, and takes care of the football. That dependability is something he's earned over time.

Remember, Green-Ellis, an undrafted rookie, wasn't even active on a regular basis his first few years in the league. He steadily worked his way into the lineup over time. Ridley, at least, has the benefit of being a high draft pick and gets to suit up every week, meaning he already has a head start over where Green-Ellis was when he entered the league.

Ridley is a talent, as we've seen. It's just that, in this committee backfield that New England employs, there isn't always a lot of opportunity for one player. I've no doubt, though, that Ridley will see his workload increase as time goes on. Perhaps not this year, but sooner or later, he'll be a factor ... Chu Snow what I mean?
Erik Scalavino


What is with Chung??? Is he ever going to live up to being a top pick??? He is constantly injured!!!!!!! Most of the top players suck it up and play at this time of year. Poor baby has a sore foot. The team has won two games without him. I say cut him and move on.
Tom Idol

Well, well … sounds like someone has some personal issues with Number 25. Thankfully, you have us at PFW to be objective observers. So, let's look at the facts. Since being drafted with the Patriots' top pick (the first of four in the second round) in 2009, Chung has appeared in 16 games as a rookie (1 start), 14 in 2010 (13 starts), and eight of 11 (eight starts) this season.

Yes, he's missed the last three contests due to a right foot problem, but when he's in the lineup – which is almost all the time, contrary to your biased assertion, even when he's dealing with injuries – he is one of the more reliable players in the secondary and an undisputed leader of the group. The team has already cut one such player this year in James Sanders, and I wouldn't want to see them make that same mistake again with Chung.
Not sure what your personal vendetta is with Chung, but get over it. Looking at it with an impartial set of eyes, he's far too valuable a player for New England even to consider letting go.
Erik Scalavino

Hi folks, you do a fantastic job at PFW! The banter between the team is excellent! Anyway enough praise! My question is what's with the constant signing and releasing of Ross Ventrone? The poor guy doesn't know if he's coming or going! Give the man a fair chance at a regular spot!!!
Gary Waldron

First of all, Gary, never, ever apologize for praising us too much. We can't get enough pats on the back. Now, to your question … the constant movement with Ventrone is merely procedural, not anything malicious on the part of the coaching staff. Trust me, this team loves Ventrone, or they wouldn't waste their time shuffling him between the practice squad and the active roster.

Thing is, you can elevate a practice squad player to the active roster, but can't simply re-assign them to the practice squad. League rules mandate that an active roster player must be cut and clear waivers before being brought back to the p-squad. When Ventrone is released, he's not pacing and pulling out his hair, wondering where his next meal is going to come from. On the contrary, he knows exactly where he stands. When a guy like him is cut, he's told not to leave town, that he'll be brought back as soon as he clears waivers. And if he doesn't clear, that means another team has picked him up. Either way, he has a job.

It looks ridiculous, seeing his name in transactions every week, but don't cry for Ross Ventrone. He's doing just fine.
Erik Scalavino

It's obvious that the Patriots like to trade away high draft picks to have more opportunities late in the draft. But I have noticed that there are very few defensive players active on the 53-man roster from the '07 and '08 drafts. Do you think it's time for the Pats to start looking at some big defensive names possibly to draft with the higher picks this upcoming offseason, instead of trading the top picks once again?
Derek Demers

From your lips to Belichick's ears, Derek. We've been saying as much for years now, and he's not listening to us. Keep hope alive, though.
Erik Scalavino

Guys on sideline holding and sending in balls … some have an 'X' on their jacket and some have a 'K.' No one has ever been able to explain why.
Charlie Hassler

OK, technically, this is a statement, not a question, but I feel impelled to respond anyway because I find it curious myself. Plus, I don't want you to "hassle" us, Charlie (see what I did there?).

Aaaaanyway … did some checking, and it seems the 'K' vests are to distinguish between kicker balls and regular ones. The league sets aside separate footballs for extra points, field goals, punts, and kickoffs. When one of those plays is coming, the K-ball boy tosses one to the ref. The guy or girl with the 'X' vest is responsible for getting balls in and out of the game during for the offenses.
Erik Scalavino

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