Thursday, February 19, 2015

New England Patriots on Paper - First draft "Big Board" for 2015

The New England Patriots are in an offseason position that they rarely find themselves in, that of shedding salaries in the short term to be able to get better and stay competitive in the long term.

The main salary that needs to be addressed or dropped altogether is that of shutdown corner Darrelle Revis, who is every bit as good as his $25 million cap number suggests that he is, but that makes him unaffordable to the cap-strapped Patriots.
Could the Pats draft a cover corner like Rollins to replace Revis if need be?

Other salaries that may come into play during the offseason belong to nose tackle Vince Wilfork, oft-injured weakside linebacker Jerod Mayo and potential free agent safety Devin McCourty, who will likely command eight figures on the open market - but it is the Revis situation which will dictate how the Patriots proceed.

The Patriots have until 3:59 PM on March 10th to decide whether to pick up it's option on Revis and pay him a $12.5 Million roster bonus in addition to a base salary and pro-rated signing bonus that will put his cap number at a debilitating $25 Million, or nearly 20% of the Patriots' projected cap number - which is too much for the team to absorb...

...particularly since his presence may have eliminated the best receiver on the opponent's offense, but failed to help generate a consistent pass rush, nor did it do anything to help them in their abysmal coverage underneath on tight ends and running backs.

this is not his fault, but to look at the defense in this manner makes him more of a very expensive masking agent when one considers the other needs that Patriots have on defense - needs that could be very easily addressed with his exorbitant salary in their pockets rather than in his.

In that spirit, and also acknowledging that it is very early in the team-building process for 2015 - not to mention that the World Champions own late draft stock - our Patriots' big board for the 2015 Draft has an initial linebacker flavor, as the teams' biggest issue to tackle is that of pressuring the quarterback while maintaining an edge presence and improving their ability to improve their underneath coverages:

1. Bud Dupree - 6' 4", 264 - OLB, Kentucky

Compared to Jamie Collins in raw athleticism, and may be better in coverage. Raw prospect as far as pass rushing ability, but has all the potential.  Freakish edge setter and blows up screens with the best of them.

2. Shaq Thompson - 6' 1", 228 - OLB/SS, Washington

A tweener who hits like a brick and has rare coverage skills underneath to compete with backs and tight ends - also doubled as running back for Huskies...

3. P.J. Williams - 6' 0", 198 - CB, Florida State

Rated as the best press cover corner in the draft as he typically shut down one side of the field for the Seminoles...

4. La'El Collins - 6' 5", 321 - T/G, LSU
Mean and intimidating brawler who is best at right guard in the power running game...

5. Vic Beasley - 6' 3". 235 - OLB, Clemson

Compares favorably to Akeem Ayers on the weak side,  may be the most explosive edge rusher in the draft...
6. Quinten Rollins - 6' 1" 203 - CB, Miami (Ohio)

Excellent size and athleticism, rare start-stop ability and defends inside out.  Excellent against screens and wheels but many scouts question his desire to play football as he prefers basketball, and shows that type of athleticism on the football field - but perhaps the best pure corner in the draft...

7. Andrus Peat - 6' 7", 316 - T/G, Stanford

Massive and athletic tackle could give either starting tackle a run for their money if money becomes an issue.  Played well along with current Patriot Cameron Fleming...

8. A. J. Cann - 6' 4", 311 - G, South Carolina

Outstanding drive blocker as a left guard, but needs work in pass protection...

9. Jordan Phillips - 6' 6", 334 - NT, Oklahoma

Massive frame, eats up blocks and can rush the quarterback from the nose.  rare speed for a man his size with an exceptional swim move...

10. Eddie Goldman - 6' 4", 314 - DT/NT, Florida State

More of a nose tackle, Goldman doesn't really have a set of pass rushing moves but is as tough as they come to dislodge in the middle...

11. Ereck Flowers - 6' 6", 324 - T/G, Miami

Huge run blocker that doesn't have the feet for the tackle position.  Could turn into a dominant guard...

12. Cameron Erving - 6' 6", 308 - C/G, Florida State

Took over for Bryan Stork at center for the Seminoles and possesses the versatility that made Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell so successful for the Patriots.  A real darkhorse that could fit very well.

13. Eli Harold - 6' 4", 250 - OLB, Virginia

Another darkhorse Jamie Collins type athlete that could dominate on the weakside...

14. Kevin Johnson - 6' 1", 175 - CB, Wake Forest

Was often assigned to the opponents best receiver, but has a history of Brandon Browner type penalties.  Needs to put on some weight to match his scrappy demeanor.

15. Nate Orchard - 6' 5", 250 - OLB, Utah

Pure edge rusher, and offers little in the way of interior run support yet always seems to be around the ball.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Patriots in uncharted territory with Revis negotiations

It's the silly season once again.

How long before we start hearing Patriots' fans pining for the Larry Fitzgerald's and Calvin Johnson's of the football world? It really doesn't matter, though, as the Patriots could stand pat on their team from 2014 and still dominate the AFC East.

Of course, that isn't going to happen because attrition and salary cap dollars are what makes the NFL turn, and if you have too much of either, a team starts to lose its bargaining leverage.  For the New England Patriots, neither have been much of an issue in the Bill Belichick era - nor, really, since Bob Kraft purchased the franchise 21 years ago.
Is the Lombardi enough bling to bring Revis back to New England?

But last offseason, the Patriots broke character when they signed cornerback Darrelle Revis to a protracted free agent contract that had an incredibly affordable cap figure of just $7 Million in 2014, but due to a prorated signing bonus and an exaggerated $20 Million "Placeholder" team option on the shutdown corner in 2015, his $25 Million cap figure would chew up nearly 20% of the Patriots salary cap for next season.

Even though this placeholder is a team option for New England, Revis is the one holding the trump cards and leaving Belichick and Kraft with very little leverage in negotiating a contract extention to releive Revis' stranglehold on the salary cap.  One card that Revis holds is the $5 Million remaining on the prorated bonus which becomes dead money against the cap should New England choose not to exercise their option to retain his services.

His base salary and prorated bonus are manageable - and even a bargain -  at $13.5 Million, and if that's all the Patriots were dealing with here, they probably would have already picked up the option right after winning the Super Bowl - but there's a little matter of a hefty $12.5 Million roster bonus that the team will owe Revis if he he is not released by March 10th, the beginning of the National Football League business year.

This is the bitch-kitty.  New England's troubles come via this guaranteed roster bonus - and their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to negotiate a contract extension which will pay Revis everything that he is expecting for his services in 2015 - a cool $25 Million - while nullifying the roster bonus and re-engaging it in a different form to be able to spread it across a four or five year deal.

If they can do that, the Patriots can pay Revis as the best cornerback in football next season, which he is, while trimming $7 or $8 million off of the cap hit.  The remaining years on the contract could contain roster bonuses and team options that would measure in the range of $14-$16 million a season and conceivably keep Revis in Foxborough until his skills start to decline as he reaches his mid-30's.

But what if the two sides can't come to an agreement?

No matter what direction the Patriots are forced to go, Revis is going to get paid, but the options are simple.  First, the Patriots could hold on to Revis at his current cap hit and try to negotiate an extension after the fact - and while that won't change the cap hit for 2015, it could make sense for 2016 and beyond where the cap hit would be incrementally easier for the Patriots to absorb.

The second option is to cut him from the roster and try to negotiate with Revis while other teams are throwing bags of money at him, particularly the Jets, who have upwards of $50 Million in cap space and have already expressed interest in retaining Revis' services.  Buffalo and Revis' former coach with the Jets, Rex Ryan, have expressed interest as well, but have less than half the cap space that the Jets possess.

The second scenario may be preferable should Revis opt not to negotiate an extension in New England, the reason being that there are other quality corners on the free market that would come at a much discounted rate - though none of them are in Revis' class.
If not, Maxwell (41) may be a decent replacement

That list is headlined by Seahawks' corner Byron Maxwell, who at 6' 1" and 207 pounds is a larger corner with speed to burn - in fact, it was Maxwell that unseated current Patriots' corner Brandon Browner in the middle of the 2013 season, and also Maxwell that made the Seahawks comfortable enough to let Browner hit the free agent market last offseason.

The Seahawks are in kind of a bind themselves, what with negotiations ongoing to retain the rights to quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch, and they just don't have the cap space to meet Maxwell's salary demands thus far - but while Maxwell's demands are forcing the Seahawks' hands, his numbers approach nowhere near what Revis' current contract entails, thus making him an enticing option for the Patriots.

After Maxwell are names like San Diego's Brandon Flowers, Green Bay's Tramon Williams, Arizona's Antonio Cromartie and Cleveland's Buster Skrine.  The young Maxwell would be the best bet to be reunited with Browner, who had a fantastic season in New England, while Flowers and Williams have reached their peak years and may not be worth a long-term look, Cromartie wants to return to New York and Skrine is a young slot corner who may or may not make an impression on the outside.

If the free agent market doesn't materialize for New England, the draft is another option, though any rookie is going to be a significant drop off from the level Revis plays at.  Some of the top names to watch for in the draft is that's the way this materializes are Michigan State's Trae Waynes, LSU's big cover corner Jalen Collins and Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson.

It goes without saying that losing Revis would weaken the Patriots' secondary, but it is also true that the players that they already have under contract have proven to some extent that they can be competitive, and perhaps be called upon to plug the gap left by Revis' departure.

Browner is pretty much a guarantee on one side, leaving third-year man Logan Ryan, fourth-year guy Alfonzo Dennard and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler to compete on the other, while aging Kyle Arrington again vies for the slot corner job.

Despite their successes at various points, this list is not over-inspiring, nor is the thought of paying Darrelle Revis a king's ransom - but the Patriots put themselves in this spot by doing what they NEVER do, or have never done in the Kraft era, which is mortgaging their future to bring in one player.

This anomaly has given just about all of the leverage in the scenario to Revis, so somewhere along the line there's going to have to be a leap of faith by either the Patriots or the shutdown Corner - either the Patriots pick up his option and start cutting players or going through sticky negotiations to lower some salaries, or Revis is going to have to give up some major money to stay in Foxborough.

So the question comes down to whether Revis is satisfied with winning one ring and wants to chase the money in free agency, or if winning that ring makes him hungry for more - because if New England picks up the option on Revis for 2015, they risk venturing further outside of their comfort zone to do so, and the abysmal cycle to mediocrity begins with the Patriots not being able to re-sign their other key free agents.

So like it or not, the Patriots are in the unenviable position of being held hostage by one player - granted, one of the best players in the National Football league, but one player nonetheless - which is unfamiliar territory for both Belichick and Kraft, and certainly not following their recipe to long-term success.

But the bottom line is, they did it to themselves.  It was worth every penny of the first year of Revis' contract, but year two looks to be a check the Patriots can't afford to cash.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Patriots' Butler The Hero In Classic Super Bowl Victory

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..." Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities

Indeed, the other way.

Poised to rip the hearts out of the New England Patriots and their legion of fans on Sunday night, the Seattle Seahawks were on the threshold of football nirvana, a mere yard away from the Elysian field known as the end zone...

...armed with 26 seconds and one time out, the Seahawks had the fate of both teams in the capable hands of quarterback Russell Wilson - soon, almost every football fan on earth figured, to be in the arms of a feisty, skittle-eating, media-loathing load of a running back Marshawn Lynch, who would surely punch through the exhausted charges tasked by panic and desperation to stop the irresistible force.
Butler (21) falls forward after intercepting Wilson to seal the win

They had everything before them then, suddenly, they had nothing before them.  Instead of going direct to football heaven, the entirety of the Seattle Seahawks went direct the other way, as instead of handing the ball to their star running back, Wilson stepped back and fired a pass toward an unknown journeyman receiver whom had gone undrafted three years earlier and bounced around three different teams' practice squads before finding the field as a Seahawk.

But instead of connecting with reserve receiver Ricardo Lockette, instead of the ball falling harmlessly to the turf setting up a third and goal from the one yard line, Wilson instead found another undrafted rookie free agent - this one adorned in the silver, white and blue of the enemy.

For New England Patriots' reserve cornerback Malcolm Butler, the final play in Sunday night's Super Bowl surely was the best of times, but only after having to endure the worst of times - and in the end, all of the football world looked upon that play with all due incredulity, unwilling to accept the truth of the moment as it was laid out before them in either their spring of hope or their winter of despair.

Two plays earlier, Butler had given up a long reception to Seahawks top wideout Jermaine Kearse to set Seattle up inside the Patriots' five yard line - not because the rookie had a rookie moment, nor because the veteran Kearse high-pointed the ball over the shorter Butler - but because the venom of fate once again was flowing through the veins of the seemingly eternally snake-bitten Patriots...

...just as it did when seldom-used New York Giants' receiver David Tyree trapped an Eli Manning wobbler on his helmet while being given the business by safety Rodney Harrison in Super Bowl XLII after the 2007 season, and also when the youngest Manning threaded a perfect sideline shot to Mario Manningham on his way to the winning score in Super Bowl XLVI after the 2011 season.

Kearse's catch may go down in history as the best of them all - some would say luckiest - as Butler competed for the ball and was able to get a fingertip on it, defelcting it just enough that Kearse couldn't handle it at the high point, but not enough to keep it from landing in the receiver's lap after it bounded off of his knee - a circus catch in any definition.

The worst of times.

"This is going to be my fault" Butler thought to himself as he repaired dejectedly to the sidelines after the play. "I don't want this to be my fault."

Consoled by teammates on the sidelines, Butler still watched in horror as Lynch was stopped just short of the goal line on the ensuing play, then the rookie was sent back in on the next as the Seahawks loaded up the right side with pass catchers in a bunch formation that Butler knew all too well from coach Bill Belichick's relentless instruction.

A rub route, where the the inside receiver - the flanker - pushes upfield into a cornerback playing press at the goal line, escorting the corner backwards into the path of the corner covering the outside receiver, freeing the receiver to make an uncontested catch, this time for the World Championship.

The rookie readied himself, knowing that the rub was coming but also buoyed by the knowledge that fellow corner Brandon Browner, his large and physically imposing compatriot in the secondary had the flanker.  The ball was snapped, but instead of being pushed back into the scrum, Browner jammed the inside receiver, leaving a clear path for Butler to Lockette, who had squared his shoulders in anticipation of the quick strike...

...meeting Lockette just as the ball arrived with enough force to nudge his way into perfect position to grasp the ball out of the air, securing it with two hands and falling forward to the two yard line as his jubilant teammates danced  the dance of a champion.

Most assuredly, the best of times.

After all had settled down, after all of the red, white and blue confetti has stopped falling on the natural grass at University of Phoenix Stadium, and after the Lombardi Trophy was securely in the hands of a stoic and melancholy team owner Robert Kraft, Butler's teammates pondered his dance with destiny.

"Malcolm" asked veteran defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich. "Where were you one year ago today?"

Butler couldn't remember in the middle of the carnage of lights and microphones being thrust in his face, but there is a chance that he was sitting in a literature class at West Alabama University, pondering another night of greasy, mindless labor at his job at Popeye's Chicken, his attention waning between that and Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities...

...a story that he doesn't have to read now that he is no longer a college student and is, in fact, a hero and destined for Patriots' lore - but he should read it, because he's lived it, and there's nothing like knowing what's coming whether it be in classic literature or on a rub route.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Prelude To A Title - Part 7: Revis Is Patriots' 12th Man

"The real value of having a shutdown corner like Revis on the field is that it allows the defense to run with a single high safety that will shade to the corner opposite Revis in support of the direction that the ball will probably be going, which would allow the Patriots to run with four corners in a nickle without sacrificing run support.

Obviously, none of the Patriots' corners are in the same class as Revis, but they are of quality cloth and all would be starters or the first nickle option on other teams - so the dynamics would change and the single high safety idea would probably fade into oblivion, but the Patriots are more able to maintain integrity in the secondary that any of those other teams."
Foxborough Free Press, August 31, 2014

Without question, this New England Patriots' defense is the best to haunt Foxborough since the Championship days, and even the most casual of fans should have been aware of this the moment the Patriots signed cornerback Darrelle Revis to a rich free agent contract in the offseason.

Sure, having a healthy Vince Wilfork to plug the middle of the defense was key as well, as was signing Brandon Browner and trading for linebackers Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas midseason - but nothing made the difference on the New England defense like having a true shutdown corner.
Revis is the best cover corner in the game today

And not just a true shutdown corner, but the best shutdown corner in the business.

Seahawk fans can argue all they want about Richard Sherman being the best, but when it comes to total value and diversity on the playing field, most knowledgeable fans would take Revis every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Why?  Simply because of the aforementioned versatility.  While Sherman shuts down one side of the field, that is pretty much the limit of his effectiveness.  Revis can shut down one side of the field, but he can also take the flanker on the rub, the tight end up the seam and the quick twitch slot man on the crosser, each with equal success.

The trickle down effect of having such a stopper is akin to having an extra man on the field, as his presence means that the Patriots are able to employ a single high safety and either drop the other safety into the box in run support or replace him with a nickle cover corner.

In essence, he is the Patriots' 12th man.

This is one of the main reasons why the New England Patriots are going to be walking out of University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night with the Lombardi Trophy firmly in tow.

With all due respect to the other 50 players on the Patriots' roster, only Revis, quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski reside in such rarified air, players that have such an impact on the outcome of a game that they become keys by default, players whose skill at their given craft far exceed anyone else at their position.
Collins could end up garnering some MVP votes...

With Gronkowski, it's sheer physical ability combined with excellent size-speed ratio and gargantuan hands that swallow footballs, while with Brady it's merely playing at such a high level for such a long time that it's second-nature - though having a rocket launcher for an arm and the intensity of a speed freak doesn't hurt.

But it's a bit different with Revis, if only because the defense doesn't have to follow such stringent rules for formations and such like the offense must, and Revis' versatility is the perfect weapon to take advantage.

The main beneficiary of his presence on Super Bowl Sunday is the front seven, the linebackers in particular, and even more so against a team like the Seattle Seahawks, who have very limited depth among their pass catchers and rely mainly on the running game and the play-extending abilities of quarterback Russell Wilson.

What Revis' versatility does for the front seven is it allows the linebackers to concentrate on defending the read option by "spying" Wilson, which also enables them to move laterally down the line of scrimmage - essential for squaring up and tackling the illusive and powerful running back Marshawn Lynch.

Along with defensive backs Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington, the Patriots have enough in the secondary to account for whatever the Seahawks can throw at them - pardon the pun - and all are exceptional in run support - but where the Patriots could get into trouble is if they allow Wilson to extend plays outside of the pocket...

...because while his receivers are not household names and will probably have trouble in separating from the Patriots' defensive backfield initially, no cornerback can hold coverage forever, and the strength of Seahawk receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin are in finding holes in the coverage once the pass rush breaks down and Wilson is in his element outside of the pocket.

To prevent this from happening, look for the Patriots to attack the Seahawks' offensive line right up the middle, while ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich float in their gaps to prevent Wilson from getting outside.  The interior rush should be keyed by Vince Wilfork's ability to tie up two blockers, and if New England runs with a five-man line and two linebackers - essentially a cloud defense - there's going to be a gap somewhere for either Jamie Collins or Dont'a Hightower to exploit.

The hug blitz will be huge in this game.  For the hug blitz to be effective, the linebacker who has the assignment on Lynch or whatever back is in the game, must maintain his spy station until the back engages a defender in pass protection - which is where the interior rush becomes so important - and provided he's not just chipping and curls out into the pattern, the free linebacker then sprints through the gap right into the quarterback's face.

And if the ends are doing their job and presses to contain the edges, Wilson will have no place to run and will either have to get rid of the ball in a hurry or take a sack.

That said, there is no excuse for the ends to not contain Wilson.  The coverage down the field should be solid and the Patriots have the advantage along the line of scrimmage, particularly rushing from their left because of the injury status and inexperience of the Seahawks' right guard and tackle - so all the ends have to do is maintain their gap integrity and not get pinned inside or escorted around the top of the pocket.

In theory, this is plausible - but when the game starts, theory ends and practical application rules - and whichever team handles reality best will end up winning the Lombardi Trophy.

If that ends up being New England, the MVP of the Super Bowl may very well come from the defensive side of the ball.

The idea is to keep him in the pocket and force him to throw over and around both his own offensive linemen and the rushing defenders, all of who have a significant height and size advantage over the demure (5' 11") third year signal caller.

Prelude To A Title - Part 6: Patriots' Offensive Diversity Too Much, Even For Seahawks

"Within the scope of the Ehrhardt-Perkins scheme that Belichick employs, balance is so crucial that to tip the scales to one focus on the offense - in essence, to put all of your eggs in one basket - makes the offense easier to defend, particularly when facing an elite, attacking defense that can take away what you do best. So the best way to attack an entity like that is to do everything well, and to have as many weapons as possible to rotate onto the field - and in theory, this Patriots' offense will be able to do that in a fashion that is going to be described as 'Dizzying'." Foxborough Free Press, July 31, 2014

The New England Patriots are nothing if not diverse.

Indeed, these Patriots on offense are simply whatever they need to be in order to win.  Because of head ball coach Bill Belichick's philosophy that the 53rd man on the roster is just as important as the top gun, New England sports the type of depth chart that allows him to prepare game plans that can take advantage of his foes weaknesses simply by making minor tweaks from week to week...

...not just in personnel, but by having players on the roster that do multiple things well, identifying how their skill set fills the need to take advantage of his opponent, then building each players' strengths into the game plan.
The onus is on the Seahawks to find an answer for Gronkowski

Take the Patriots' offensive line for example.All three interior starters have professional experience at center, while left tackle Nate Solder is a former collegiate tight end and rookie tackle Cameron Fleming is athletic enough to play tight end and pull to the inside in the running game.  We've seen them all in those capacities at various points of the season

At receiver, both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are prototypical slot receivers, but they have the speed and separation ability play both inside and out, and Brandon LaFell does the same, but at five inches taller to assume more of a possession receiver role.

But that's the thing with the Patriots' offense, and there's really no getting around it, no matter how much people wish for the big play: The Patriots are a ball-control, possession heavy, four-minute offense that relies on three yards and a cloud of rubber tire pellets from their passing game as well as their ground game.

The short, timing-based passing game that allows quarterback Tom Brady to get the ball out of his hand quickly also affords the receivers the opportunity to juke defenders and pick up extra yardage after the catch, a staple of the four-minute offense as it can be construed as an extension of the running game in that it forces the defenders to react rather than to be aggressive and dictate the pace... you can be sure that the Seattle Seahawks will push the envelope by trying to jam the Patriots' pass catchers at the line of scrimmage to disrupt Brady's timing with them - but they can't pick everyone, and with the threat of an established running game dancing in their brains, the Seahawks will be forced to read and react.

The Patriots certainly have the potential to bust a big play on any given possession, but the anatomy of the team philosophy dictates that it is best to control the clock with long, clock-eating drives, preferring to lull a defense to sleep with their methodical and predictable play calling, then hit them over the top or up the seam when they least expect it.

This benefits everyone.  It keeps the offense in a groove, their opposition off balance and their own defense rested and ready on the sidelines - so don't expect a game plan that varies from this recipe for success.

But as much as one would like to see the two teams compete on a level playing field, the fact that 3/4 of the vaunted Legion of Boom secondary are hobbled with a variety of injury, so the first thing that has to happen for New England is to assess the limitations - if any - of the injured birds.

Big strong safety Kam Chancellor is reported to have injured his left knee in Friday's practice, landing him on the injury report with fellow safety Earl Thomas (separated shoulder) and cornerback Richard Sherman (torn elbow ligaments) - but it would be foolish for the Patriots to go into this game assuming their level of limitation, as New England has been done in by sandbagging entities before (see Super Bowl losses to Giants).

So if Seattle is trying to lure the Patriots into a false sense of security, it would be prudent for the offense to conduct their own examination and come up with their own diagnosis - and do it early enough in the game to be able to adjust as needed.

One school of thought from the experts is that Chancellor will be matched up against New England's Rob Gronkowski, who is widely considered to be the best tight end in the business, given Chancellor's size and aggressive nature, not to mention his coverage ability.

If Chancellor is indeed in Gronkowski's face, the best idea would be to send Gronk off the line as the Flanker or set up out wide to the right in the formation where an inside move by Gronkowski will test the strong safety's injured left knee as he will have to plant and stick on an aggressive inside move to hang with Gronkowski.

Same idea if Sherman ends up on Gronkowski.  Sherman is a great perimeter defender in that he is an expert at gaining inside position on receivers and squeezing them out using the sideline as an immovable object.  The way to beat Sherman is to take him either inside or to properly execute back shoulder throws along the sidelines.

Sherman has proven to be an adept defender on the back shoulder throws because of his penchant for pinning the receivers to the sidelines and cutting off their angle, but Gronk's size and hands, Brady's accuracy and velocity on the ball, and Sherman's injured elbow all factor in to this being an advantage for New England.

I doesn't even have to be Gronkowski running the pattern, as LaFell and Tim Wright are big targets for the back shoulder throws.  It's a tight window for sure, but keeping everything to the outside on Sherman where he is forced to use his injured left arm to extend to the ball might have the Seattle defensive coaching staff rethinking and adjusting on the fly.

Add into the mix the probability that the Patriots will be able to wear down the small front seven with both the running game and Brady's quick release, there is no reason to think that New England won't score 30 points against the Seahawks' defense.