Patriots

Curran: Could Pats pass rush use a little Moore?

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Curran: Could Pats pass rush use a little Moore?

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - The recognizable names with long resumes keep joining, or re-joining, the Patriots. Shaun Ellis. Andre Carter. Gerard Warren. Mark Anderson. (OK, nobody really knew Anderson, but the kid had a dozen sacks in 2006.) These signings are aimed at fixing the lack of pressure brought by the Patriots front seven. It's a shortcoming that's led to the Patriots' talented secondary sometimes being hung out to dry and to the team's statistical standing to be a downright embarrassment (47.1 percent of the time opposing offenses converting on third down in 2010). But along with all the additions made in this calendar year, one made at the end of last season should be watched as well. Eric Moore, a scrub's scrub since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2005 draft, made plays for the Patriots after being signed off the street on December 3. In four games, he had 13 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Not the stuff of legend, but worth remarking upon. And to that point in Moore's career, there had been nothing remarkable to discuss; the 30-year-old Moore had done precious little. The Patriots signed him out of the UFL where he played after finding no team willing to take a flier on him. At 6-4, 268 pounds, Moore seems to be the kind of upfield 4-3 defensive end the Patriots could make use of as they transition to what seems to be a more attacking style of defense. Further, he's motivated. His agenda at this point isn't playing for a big free agent contract or elevating his brand to make a Pro Bowl. He is hanging by a thread and fighting to stay a part of this team. The Patriots have had myriad success stories from guys in similar situations or with older guys inclined to chase team success more than personal ones. "I'm just trying to get better," Moore said Saturday after finishing a lengthy post-practice practice with a few other defensive ends. Asked about his 2010 flurry of solid play, Moore stayed party line, answering, "That was in the past. I gotta just work on what I'm doing right now and trying to get better. ...At the end of the day, Coach Bill (Belichick) makes the decisions. I'm going to do what I can do and put good game film out there. "Moore warmed a little when talk of technique and study was broached. "I take what the offensive player gives me," he said when asked what his style of pass rush tends to be. "If he gives me the speed rush, I'm going to take it. If he gives me the power rush, I'm going to take it. Whatever he gives me, I'm taking. I just study hard. Study the offensive player and see what he's doing and try to learn what NOT to do when I go against him."During this camp, Moore has more than his share of solid drill work and pressures in 11-on-11 drills.When asked about doing well in 1-on-1s, though, Moore was bewildered. "What 1-on-1s you guys been looking at?" he asked."I been horrible in 1-on-1s. That's something I need to improve on. I'm a little rusty coming back in."Hard grader? "I'm kinda hard on myself," he admitted. "If I don't expect the best out of me, who will? I got guys watching me day in and day out. If I'm out there playing around and not doing my job, they'll see that same thing. Every mistake you make you will fix the next week or the next day. If you're a player who doesn't correct your mistakes, you won't be in the league long."Some players say that because it's the right thing to say. Moore has lived it. And that gives this often overlooked player a fighting chance to stick and make an impact in a suddenly crowded defensive end field.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.

Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?

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Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?

The Patriots improve their record to 4-2 with a win over the Jets, but there are still a lot of concerning factors for New England. Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen talk about something the team isn't used to - close games.

Giardi also dives into whether there is a major problem with the locker room dynamic, and whether all the moves they made in the offseason were blown way out of proportion by the media and fans of the talent added, but didn't factor in the personalities they lost.

Koppen and Giardi also look at how the offensive line play has fallen off, despite the same personnel as last year. Finally, discussing the late scratch of Stephon Gilmore due to a concussion. Anything to read into the timing?