Thursday, August 7, 2014

Patriots to focus on depth against Redskins; Mallet scheduled to start

Brian Tyms has had a tough life.

His parents both abusive and neglectful, the New England Patriots receiver bounced from one foster care group home to another until he finally landed in a permanent home at the age of 12, where years of love and respect from his foster parents somewhat soothed over the pain of his parents drug-addled existence and subsequent related deaths.
Tyms has a shot at the roster, but will have to make his mark on special teams

Sports, particularly basketball and football, helped him channel the anger and disappointment - but in starting organized sports so late in his childhood - he didn't play football until his senior year in high school - he didn't attract any scholarship offers.

Undeterred, the 6' 3", 210 pound Tyms hit the books and the field at Broward County Community College before enrolling at Florida A&M, where his exceptional grades and constant haranguing of the coaching staff earned him a walk-on tryout and, eventually, a scholarship.

Tyms is uniquely qualified to endure the rigors and constant disappointment that comes with the life of an undrafted free agent in the National Football League, what with bouncing from the San Francisco 49ers to the Miami Dolphins to the Cleveland Browns and now in camp with the Patriots, where he will get the opportunity to strut his stuff against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night.

Tyms has been a steady, if unspectacular, contributor in camp and catches everything that the quarterbacks throw his way, and has built a particularly strong rapport with backup signal caller Ryan Mallett, whom it is being reported will actually start the team's preseason opener at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland...

...which is neither here nor there, given the fact that the Boston media are issuing conflicting reports regarding who is starting the game, though it goes to figure that Mallett will get the majority of the reps no matter who lines up first, and Tyms could be the player that benefits the most.

Brady won't play, but Mallett (15) and Garoppolo (10) will see action
If the Patriots are indeed shopping Mallett around as most media outlets are speculating, we will be in for a pass-heavy game with players like Tyms, Wilson Van Hooser and Derrick Johnson getting extended looks while veterans Josh Boyce and Brandon Lafell will see more than they would otherwise, as it would go to figure that an impressive resume tape on Mallett would include every throw an NFL quarterback would be likely called upon to deliver.

In that scenario, the tight ends should see some significant action as well, as Justin Jones and Asa Watson have a golden opportunity to tighten up the race to make a roster spot for themselves in the absence of Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui.

If the Patriots are not shopping Mallett, there will still be balls in the air, but the Patriots would likely sustain a more balanced attack as there are some questions as to the pecking order amongst the running backs, which also will involve the tight ends as inline blockers and safety valves in play action.

Linebacker depth on display:

With there being zero doubt about the three starting linebackers for the Patriots, there is some conjecture as to what kind of depth the team possesses.

At this point, backup run-stuffer Steve Beauharnais has had a ferocious camp and is a virtual lock, as is cover 'backer James Anderson.  The former Panther and Bear Anderson represents possibly the best nickle linebacker the Patriots have fielded in more than a decade, if not longer.

If there is to be a sixth - and perpetually game-day inactive - linebacker on the squad, it will likely be between veteran journeyman Darius Fleming and rookie free agents Deonte Skinner and Cameron Gordon, though the raw and smallish Gordon may ultimately end up on the practice squad.  Both will get long looks this evening.

Garoppolo in a real game situation:

Some guys leave it on the practice field, some are gamers.  Is Jimmy Garoppolo one or the other, or neither?  Patriots' fans may be pleasantly surprised to find out that Garoppolo has never really been a workout warrior, but has proven time and again in college that he steps up and delivers in actual game situations.

This is not to say that the Eastern Illinois product is going to light it up, and there is every reason to believe that he will stink up the joint.  But here's the thing: some guys are just gamers, and we'll find out tonight if Garoppolo has any of that in him as far as the pro game is concerned.

Connolly, Klein and who backs them up:

In the unfortunate absence of rookie center Bryan Stork, Belichick has been running mostly with Dan Connolly at center rather than incumbent Ryan Wendell, and second year man Josh Kline has all but assumed the right guard position held down last season by Connolly.

Belichick has talked up Wendell recently, which is usually the kiss of death.  The boss does praise players who do a good job for him, but Belichick got right into what sounded like a scripted list of accolades last week - almost like a letter of recommendation - as he spun a yarn of how Wendell went from being cut and then to the practice squad and eventually to starting center.

Don't be surprised if Wendell is an early cut, as Belichick likes to release veteran players whom he respects early enough in the preseason to allow them time to latch on somewhere else.

Expect Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey, Braxston Cave and rookies Cameron Fleming and Jon Halapio to get the majority of the action as Belichick attempts to start putting his offensive line together.

How much does Browner play, and where?:

There appears to be quite an amount of conjecture as to where Brandon Browner will fit in this secondary, but those who have taken the time to do any research at all will discover that he lost his starting outside corner job to Byron Maxwell last season in Seattle, and was relegated to nickle and dime duties covering the double slot.

With the Pro Set virtually assured, White will get every chance
At issue is a lack of deep speed and seeming difficulty turning to look for the ball without losing his man in coverage, particularly down the sidelines.  We may see that manifest in some manner tonight as Browner will probably receive a good number of reps. 

He will play outside and inside, with his best spot as an enforcer and intimidator over the middle, perhaps even in coverage on Washington's sensational sophomore tight end Jordan Reed.

Another intriguing point of focus should be on corner depth, particularly with rookies Malcolm Butler and Travis Hawkins displaying good anticipation in camp, with Butler even taking snaps with the first team opposite Darrelle Revis at times.  Both are in the mix for a sixth corner and will get plenty of looks on Thursday night.

First real look at the running game:

The Patriots' typically do not tip their hand as to scheme and such in the preseason, but with the tight end-centric offense essentially on life support, Belichick will most likely return to the Pro Set on offense this season, featuring backs with diverse skill sets in a split backfield, one tight end and two wide receivers.

Why?  Because the aforementioned diversity within the running back corps is the key to keeping the opposing defense back on their heels as both Shane Vereen and rookie James White are equally adept at pass catching as they are running the ball, and to make sure that one or both are in the backfield at any one time can create mismatches on the second level and effectively set up the play action.

It will be interesting to see how power back Stevan Ridley is used in the Pro Set, as he has taken reps as a lead blocker in the split backfield - ala Sammy Morris - in camp at times, with favorable results.

So....Vereen, White, Ridley and...who else?  Brandon Bolden is reportedly dealing with an undisclosed injury and is back in Foxborough, so big backs Jonas Gray and rookie Stephen Houston will get some looks against the Redskins - and it's pretty safe to say that it is those two and Bolden are in competition for one roster spot.

All three have good hands out of the backfield and all of them have a powerful running style, but whomever emerges with the fourth spot in the backs rotation will most likely be rendered a game day inactive, but when you're talking about making an NFL roster, those things don't necessarily matter as much as getting your foot in the door.

No comments:

Post a Comment