Patriots

Ten most important Pats heading into 2015: 'D' linemen

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Ten most important Pats heading into 2015: 'D' linemen

Leading up to the first day of training camp, we’re going to look at the most important Patriots, counting down from 10 to 1. 

7. FAT GUYS ON THE DEFENSIVE LINE

Why? With talent on the edges and at linebacker, you want a stable group that can stop the run. There’s a couple of players on this roster who have proven they can do so, and a couple that better start showing they can, considering where they were drafted.

Previous Performance: This was a good group last, season but not elite. They were coached well and allowed to play to their strengths. Alan Branch was a nice find after washing out in Buffalo. He’s a massive presence, hard to move, with surprising lateral quickness along the line of scrimmage. But is he a 50- or 60-snap player? Doubtful. Chris Jones is best in a limited role, which is what he settled into as last season progressed. Seaver Siliga is sound and gave the unit a charge late in the year after returning from injury, especially versus Miami and the Jets. 

Questions surrounding the Group: There is no Vince Wilfork. And while Vince in 2014 wasn’t the Vince pre-Achilles injury, he still played at a high level, still played a much higher percentage of snaps than anyone else on the interior and there is no one, and I mean no one, better at giving a two-minute answer to an innocuous question. There are also two alleged high-end talents that we’ve either seen very little of (Dominique Easley, last year’s first-rounder) or not at all (this year’s first-rounder, Malcom Brown). If they are what some inside the building believe they can be, the fatties become a legit strength of the team. If they don’t . . . 

Overall Outlook: I don’t love what’s here. Silaga has never been healthy for a full season. I believe Branch and Jones are what they are. It’s the X factors that may decide whether this group elevates, or there could be more nights like the one the Pats had in the playoffs versus Baltimore. Remember that? 129 yards for Justin Forsett, and fat guys on roller skates. That’s never a good look.

EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

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EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.

Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

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Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

If your team makes a goal-line stop in the fourth quarter, but you can't see it on the All-22 tape, did it even happen? 

Bill Belichick said the fog that hovered above the Gillette Stadium turf on Sunday night didn't impact the play on the field, but it did make its imprint on the game in other ways. First of all, spotters and coaches up at the press level had some difficulty relaying information to coaches on the sidelines. Video on the hand-held tablets for sideline use -- as well as the old-school still-frame pictures Belichick prefers -- was also obstructed. 

Then on Monday, as coaches tried to digest the film, the fog butted in on the process again. 

"It affected us a lot this morning because it’s hard to see the game," Belichick said during a conference call. "The fourth quarter is – I don’t know – pretty close to a white-out on the sideline film. The sideline cameras are at the top of the stadium, so that’s a tough shot.

"The end zone cameras are a little bit lower and they get a little tighter shot, so the picture is a little bit clearer. But, on that shot, a lot of times you’re not able to see all the guys on the perimeter. It’s kind of an in-line shot.

"Yeah, the first half, start of the third quarter, it’s all right. As they get into the middle of the third quarter and on, for those of us with aging eyes, it’s a little strained to see it, and then there’s a point where you can’t really see it at all, especially from the sideline. So, yeah, it affected us."

Belichick re-iterated that the fog didn't do much to the product on the field (other than maybe making life difficult for kick and punt-returners), refuting Julio Jones' claim from late Sunday night. When it came to digesting the film, though, that was another story.

"It was more, I’d say, just tougher for, whether it be our video camera or the fans that were sitting in the upper deck. It’s just there was too much interference there," Belichick said. "It was probably hard to see the game. I know when we tried to look at the pictures in between series – you know, I don’t look at the tablets, so I won’t get into that – but the pictures, it was kind of the same thing. It was hard to really be able to make out exactly what you were seeing."