Rusney Castillo to Debut Tonight

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(Photo: Steve Nesius - Associated Press for The Boston Globe)

Last month, the Boston Red Sox signed the newest Cuban defector Rusney Castillo to a 7 year $72.5 million contract. The final month+ of the 2014 season is the seventh year so Castillo will be around for the next six years. Castillo is slated to be the Red Sox starting center fielder and leadoff hitter in 2015. With the recent success with Cuban defectors (such as Yoenis CespedesAroldis ChapmanYasiel Puig, and Jose Abreu), Castillo is expected to jump right into the big leagues and produce. The Red Sox just missed Jose Abreu by a couple million bucks last offseason and they weren’t going to miss out on another Cuban player this time.

Castillo initially looked like a legitimate speed guy who could drive the ball all over the field and hit for a high average. Then he got on a special training program and now he looks like he’s got some serious muscle. We might be getting some more power out of him than initially anticipated. After a horrific year offensively for the Red Sox, it looks like they’re really going to light it up in the 2015 season. They might not be able to pitch (yet) but they’ll sure as hell crush the living hell out of the baseball.

There aren’t many reasons to keep watching the Red Sox this year but Castillo is one of them. He’ll make his highly anticipated MLB debut tonight in center field against the Pittsburgh Pirates. I can’t say I’d blame you for not watching, but I’ll be right in front of my tv at 7:05 to get a look at Castillo.

Chris Chenard

Twitter

Not Quite Derailed Yet

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(Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports)

Now that was more like it. The New England Patriots picked up their first win of the season in a 30-7 ass kicking of the Minnesota Vikings. The Patriots looked much closer to what many of us expected to see this year; a dominating defensive team that will suffocate the life out of its victims. They still have offensive issues but the Patriots took a huge step forward from their week one debacle.

-Greg Jennings, welcome to Revis Island. Darrelle Revis looked as advertised on Sunday. Revis was targeted four times and Matt Cassell was 1/4 for 4 yards with 1 interception and 0 touchdowns. On the interception, Revis played it so well that he looked like the intended receiver (albeit Cassel threw a terrible ball). The Patriots had Revis shadow Jennings and follow him around the field and he delivered; essentially taking Jennings out of the game. That’s how you use Revis and what we saw on Sunday was enough for me to know he’s still got it. Get ready for more of Revis Island, Jennings won’t be alone there for long.

-Devin McCourty finally gave us a glimpse of his potential at safety. McCourty made a great play, intercepting a pass and returning it 60 yards to the 1 yard line (that would be punched in for a touchdown). McCourty played center field, read Cassel flawlessly, and made his way over to make the interception. We’ve been waiting for it and McCourty showed us another glimpse of his potential.

-Overall it was another good day for the Patriots secondary. Logan Ryan had a really nice day covering Cordarrelle Patterson and he picked up an interception. Coverage all around was good.

-Alfonzo Dennard was a surprise inactive and it’ll be something to keep an eye on going forward. He may be dealing with some type of shoulder injury.

-I wish someone would fill the second safety spot.

-The linebackers were once again rough. They looked big and slow, particularly on the opening drive of the game. Jamie Collins was out with an injury and Deontae Skinner looked like he had just eaten Collins before he got out on the field. Jerrod Mayo was solid on the day like he usually is.

-I think the Patriots have finally found a role for Dont’a Hightower. Hightower isn’t good in coverage and against the run he’s iffy but he can definitely rush the quarterback. I like what the Patriots have done blitzing Hightower from different directions and I they should keep it up because it’s clearly his strength.

-Nobody had a more monster day than Chandler Jones. Jones was literally all over the field on Sunday, creating pressure on Cassel while racking up two sacks. Oh, and he also blocked a field goal attempt and ran it back 58 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first half. Defensively, we saw the Chandler Jones who is capable of being an elite pass rusher and taking over a portion of a game. I wonder why that is? Oh that’s right, they let him stand up at OLB and rush the quarterback. Well I’ll be damned, they actually used him right and he looked good. Rocket science.

-The defensive line wasn’t too bad. There were definitely adjustments made to help stop the run and get some pressure on the quarterback. Chandler Jones’ performance really improves the unit as a whole so it’s safe to say that when Jones goes the defensive line goes. They were solid on the day, not outstanding, but solid.

-The defense, as a whole, was much improved this week. The defense looks like it can reach its potential as an elite defense. But of course, just remember that they still let the Vikings waltz down the field on their opening drive completely unopposed. On the plus side, they didn’t allow a single point after that. The Patriots should be winning games on defense this year and it looks like that’s the way it’s going to go.

-The Patriots stuck to the running game this week and really just sucked the life out of the Vikings by pounding the ball and eating up the clock. Stevan Ridley had a really solid day, picking up 100 yards on the ground and he didn’t fumble. Fumbling is an issue with Ridley so whenever they can feed him the ball and he can rack up yards and eat up the clock without losing it, it’s a huge plus. I would like to see more of Shane Vereen in the future because his lack of use was apparent in the passing game. I would like to see more of the dual back sets we’ve seen in the preseason when Rob Gronkowski isn’t on the field.

-Julian Edelman had another terrific day. Took hits, made plays, returned some punts; there’s really nothing to complain about with Edelman. He’s filled Wes Welker’s role nicely and become Tom Brady’s go-to guy. The passing game really starts with Edelman. I would be cautious going forward though, there was some loose speculation of a potential injury last week and it certainly looked like he may have fought through a concussion on Sunday.

- Whenever Danny Amendola does anything, it’s called back by a stupid penalty. I don’t know if he’s having issues getting open but when Amendola is open, Bradyisn’t throwing to him. I don’t know what’s going on there with Amendola but it needs to be figured out. They’ve got to get this guy going. He’s healthy and when he’s on the field, he’s a decent player who can contribute.

-What exactly is the purpose of having Aaron Dobson or Brandon LaFell? It feels like these two are literally just on the roster to decapitate people on pick plays. They’re big outside targets, throw them the ball. Dobson needs to start going for the ball rather than waiting for the ball to get to him because he allows for the corner covering him to make a play on the ball almost every time. It doesn’t even feel like the Patriots have any intentions to throw the ball to LaFell, he’s only out there blocking on running plays. Who the hell knows why.

-Why was Kenbrell Thompkins inactive? Logjam I guess? He’s the only other receiver that looks like he actually makes contributions.

-Rob Gronkowski might as well have been put on a milk carton this morning. We hardly saw him at all yesterday and he didn’t even have a ball thrown to him until the second half. I guess that’s not a bad sign. If Gronkowski is healthy at the end of the year, that’s a good thing.

-So Tim Wright

-The offensive line looked better. The Patriots went with six lineman pretty frequently and they really stuck to the running game which both felt like a way to get around the line’s pass blocking problems. Overall they were actually ok when it came to pass blocking. Brady wasn’t pressured nearly as often as he was in Miami. Nate Solder with three penalties on two plays was impressive. Seriously, two penalties on one play?

-Brady looked better. Definitely inched away from the panic button a little bit. Brady made some nice throws but I still have an issue with his lack of spreading the football. Would he please throw to someone not named Edelman, Gronkowski, or Vereen? Throwing to the same two or three guys all year isn’t going to do you any good later on.

-Offensively the Patriots were still mediocre. They have got to get this thing rolling. I like the use of the running game to drain the clock in the second half but the passing game is in a scary place right now. They capitalized on turnovers and short fields but otherwise they didn’t look good. Oh, and their first drive (run, run, run, punt) was one of the most infuriating things I’ve seen in a while.

-Overall the coaching staff was much improved from week one. It didn’t feel like there were many problems with the coaching. They made adjustments and were definitely more prepared this week than they were for the opener.

-Penalties are killing this team right now. I don’t have a problem with holding/pass interference in the secondary or unnecessary roughness penalties because long term I believe they help you out but the Patriots are taking a lot of dumb penalties. They’ll clean those up over time.

Much better performance from the Patriots overall this week. The train is back on the rails and it looks like they’re on the right track. T they should crush the Oakland Raiders in their home opener next weekend.

Chris Chenard

Twitter

Week 2: Patriots @ Vikings – What to Look For

The New England Patriots will look to get their first win of the season tomorrow in Minnesota after their dreadful season opener in Miami. Here are some things to keep your eye on when you’re watching the game tomorrow.

Tom Brady: Was last Sunday just a bad day for Brady? Or is there more to it? If you’re like me, you think week one was a continuation of Brady’s decline. My concerns are with the rate of his decline and I want to see if it’s accelerated or not. If Brady goes out and has another bad game like he did in Miami, I’ll be inching closer to the panic button.

Running Backs: The Patriots got away from the running game in the second half against the Dolphins (for no reason) and it killed them. Look for Josh McDaniels to incorporate more of the run game this week. Shane Vereen should have another great day in both the passing and running games. Hopefully Stevan Ridley doesn’t fumble.

Julian Edelman: Look for more of Edelman. Edelman was great in week one and then McDaniels basically took him out of the game for who the hell knows what.

Aaron Dobson: Dobson missed week one for some mysterious reason. Hopefully he’ll be playing tomorrow and we can get a good look at him. The Patriots need him.

The Rest of the WRs: I know he’s not Larry Fitzgerald but would Brady please throw the ball to Danny Amendola when he’s open? Amendola isn’t horrible and he can contribute if he’s given the opportunity. It would be nice to actually see Kenbrell Thompkins make some plays and at least be involved in the offense. If Brandon LaFell sucks eggs again I might kill someone.

Rob Gronkowski: Hopefully we’ll see some improvements from week one as Gronkowski works his way back. He’ll probably see an increased role and Brady will force him the ball plenty.

Michael Hoomanawanui: Hooman’s not being asked to do much. Please just block the guys screaming off the edge.

Tim Wright: Is he going to contribute or not?

Offensive Line: Well this should be good. Hopefully the Patriots will adjust to their issues and improve this unit but that’s a lot to ask. I think we very well may see the offensive line have their lunch eaten again by an aggressive Vikings front seven. Head Coach Mike Zimmer killed them last year when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals and I’m looking for that to happen again.

Chandler Jones: Please please PLEASE Bill, stand him up on the outside. Let him rush the QB, that’s his job.

Defensive Line: Tackle RBs? Don’t leave giant gaping holes everywhere? Apply some pressure to the QB? Who knows if these guys are even going to be able to do any of that.

Linebackers: I think Dont’a Hightower is actually pretty good at blitzing the QB. I’ll be looking for more blitzes with Hightower. I would like to see Jerrod Mayo step it up and make a play in the open field this week.

Linebacker Depth: So Jamie Collins won’t play tomorrow because he’s dealing with an injury. Expectations were high for Collins this year and he’s not off to a good start. The Patriots have a scary bad depth situation at linebacker and one week into the season it’s already going to be put to the test. I think these guys are going to get killed tomorrow.

Darrelle Revis: I want to see Revis matched up 1 on 1 following Cordarrelle Patterson around the field. Hey Bill, that means don’t play him exclusively in zone on the left side of the field. Show me that Revis is still Revis and use him right.

Secondary: I’m looking for more of the same from the cornerbacks this weekend as they were solid last week. I would like to see Devin McCourty make a big play this week, I’m still waiting for his breakout.

Strong Safety: Would SOMEBODY fill this hole? Seriously, ANYBODY. It blows my mind that this spot is still a gaping black hole on the defense.

Adrian Peterson: Obviously, the Patriots caught yet another break here. Peterson won’t be playing tomorrow because of his child abuse situation. I expected Peterson to rip the Patriots defense apart this weekend and of course he isn’t playing. When I’m ready to bury the Patriots and bench Brady, something has to happen to throw a wrench into my agenda.

Cordarrelle Patterson: This is our first look at Patterson so let’s take a look at him. If you remember, at the 2013 NFL Draft the Patriots traded down with the Vikings in a trade that amounted to Cordarrelle Patterson for Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Josh Boyce, and LeGarrette Blount. Collins isn’t playing, Boyce was cut, Blount is gone, and Ryan will be playing. Meanwhile it looks like Patterson might be a legit player. Let’s see, so far this isn’t looking like a great trade for the Patriots. But hey, look at all that depth and value!

Matt Cassel: Oh, hey there bud. How’s it going?

Ultimately, the Peterson situation changed my mind. I was going to pick Minnesota in this game but I’ve flipped. I’ll take the Patriots but it’ll be close.

Chris Chenard

Twitter

Adrian Peterson Indicted for Child Abuse

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Adrian Peterson has been indicted with child abuse. He’s facing charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. He apparently disciplined his son with a “switch,” which is essentially a stick. According to Jay Glazer, the Minnesota Vikings are deciding on Peterson’s status this Sunday. Why it’s even a debate who the hell knows. But the NFL is the NFL, so when Peterson missed practice to deal with this in Houston yesterday, head coach Mike Zimmer called it a “veteran day.” 

The NFL is on an absolute roll this week. There’s no way they can allow Peterson to play on Sunday, not after the week they just had. But of course, they tried to sneak him in. The NFL is never going to learn. They need to stop trying to hide these things and punish the players for what they do. Instead, the league only cares about protecting the owners’ wallets.

Obviously, this has implications on the New England Patriots. This weekend, they probably won’t have to deal with the best running back in the league. Just about everyone had Peterson ripping the middle of the Patriots’ defense apart, myself included. Once again something breaks the Patriots’ way.

Chris Chenard

Twitter

A Brady Bunch of Problems

So if you haven’t spent the last week defending the sacred cow, then you recognize that Tom Brady played like garbage on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Brady had one of his worst games in recent memory, going 29/56 for a horrible 51.8% completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 32.22. Brady went 2/16 on passes over 15 yards (the worst of any quarterback in 9 years) and 1/10 on passes over 20 yards. An absolutely horrible day for Brady. At first glance, you would say people are overreacting to one game… but it’s not one game.

Go back over the last couple years. Tom Brady has showed signs of decline, whether you want to accept it or not. Tom Brady’s completion percentage has gone down each of the last three years (65.6% to 63% to 60.5%) while his quarterback rating has dropped from 72.74 to 61.09 since 2011. Just using your eyes you can see Brady struggling with accuracy, ducking ghosts, and not being able to move in the pocket like the magician he once was; clear signs of decline. Do you remember the AFC Championship Game last year? The last time we saw him, Tom Brady looked horrible in the AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos.

Coming into the year, I thought Brady was going to have a big year and lead the New England Patriots back to the Super Bowl. After Sunday’s game, I don’t know anymore. What I saw on Sunday was a continuation from what I saw in the AFC Championship Game last year. Tom Brady looked old and I’m not sure he’s going to get better. At the end of last season, after seeing the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the feeling I had was that the Patriots would never be able to win another championship with Tom Brady at quarterback. That feeling is back.One of the things I mentioned in my season preview was the rate of Tom Brady’s decline. If Tom Brady’s decline has accelerated and he’s in the process of falling off the cliff like so many past NFL players, the Patriots could be in trouble.

I’ve had concerns for a while now that the Patriots and Brady are on a collision course for a nasty breakup this coming offseason. With Brady’s restructured contract (that’s well below market value) starting next year, the decisions made with Wes Welker and Logan Mankins, and the drafting of Jimmy Garoppolo; it just seems so obvious. The Patriots have prepared for a conflict and are ready to move on from Tom Brady if things go sour. My concern now? It might happen in the season.

How long are we going to let this go on before something has to change? Brady didn’t look good and if he doesn’t get better the Patriots might be realistically looking at opening the season 1-3. If the Patriots are 1-3 or 2-2 and Brady has continued to play like garbage, I think there will be a legitimate conversation about making a change at quarterback. Now it’s early, but there are a lot of red flags popping up and it’s a thought that should at least be in the back of people’s minds. Putting the pieces together, this is a long term concern I have for Brady this season. I am not riding a declining Tom Brady into the ground, that is not an option.

I don’t think Brady is processing the game as well as he did in the past. I feel like the speed of the game, at times, overwhelms Brady and he’s falling back to his safety blanket. Rob Gronkowski played limited snaps (only 38) and was targeted 11 of the 25 times he ran routes (45% of the time). This was a big reason I didn’t want Welker back here when his contract was up. I felt that Brady panicked, had tunnel vision, and just funneled the ball to his most reliable receiver. He’s doing it again. He’s forcing balls to Gronkowski rather than hitting the open receivers. Letting Brady play at his current level of play is not in the best interest of the football team. If Brady doesn’t get better and the team doesn’t improve, the Jimmy Garoppolo era might begin a lot earlier than any of us anticipated.

Chris Chenard

Twitter

Don’t Let Goodell be the Sacrificial Lamb

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So this Ray Rice situation and the alleged cover up by the NFL has completely gone off the rails. The NFL has told so many lies that they’ve now talked themselves into such convoluted a pretzel they don’t even know which way is up. They’ve said they didn’t know about the second tape, they’ve said they asked for the second tape and never got it, and they said they assumed they had all the evidence; how in the world does that make sense? Oh, it doesn’t, because the Associated Press reported that the tape was actually sent to the league office. Let alone the fact that some of the league’s best reporters actually talked to league officials who watched the tape.

The NFL clearly attempted to cover up this entire situation and it’s blown up in their face. Roger Goodell is at the forefront taking his well deserved backlash. Goodell has faced criticism for quite some time for ruining the NFL with the pussification/destruction of the sport, his lack of transparency, and his indecisiveness when it comes to handing out punishments. While Goodell deserves the criticism, people are letting the real targets off the hook; the owners.

The NFL is 100% ruled by the owners. The owners are on a mission to reach $25 billion in annual revenue and they don’t care what it takes to do it. The blinders are up and the money is the only thing the owners are looking at and they’re destroying the league in the process. How does it start? You put your bitch in the commissioner’s seat. That’s what Roger Goodell is; the owners’ bitch.

Roger Goodell acts in place of the owners. He carries out their will and his sole job is to protect “The Shield” (aka the owners). When the owners want more offense to attract more casual viewers through fantasy football, they’re responsible for the increase in defensive penalties. Defense is punished more than offense because offense brings in viewers. Things are hidden or situations are shady (like Bountygate) to protect the owners’ brand. Player safety rules aren’t in for safety reasons, they’re in to protect the owners from getting their asses sued because they hid concussion information for years. That’s what Goodell’s job is.

Roger Goodell and the owners don’t care if Ray Rice is kicked out of the league or only suspended two games. However, they do care if one of Steve Bisciotti’s, owner of the Baltimore Ravens, star players is involved in a domestic violence situation of this nature. Bad PR for the Ravens is bad PR for the league, hurting Bisciotti and the rest of the owners. So Goodell has been sent on the mission to help cover it up through his blatant lies.

Goodell has the full support of the owners in this situation. Robert Kraft and John Mara, the owners of the New England Patriots and New York Giants, have both come out in support of Roger Goodell, ensuring that his job is safe. Look at what all three of them have said in the last 48 hours, they’ve all said the exact same thing. Goodell is on the exact same page as the owners because he’s working for them. Goodell does their bidding. Even the comments coming from the Ravens don’t make any sense. Ozzie Newsome, GM of the Ravens, said that Rice told them exactly what was shown in the video. So why was he cut only when this magical video came out? The NFL saw the video and thought they could fudge the truth because the video would never get out. Now that it’s out, they’re lying about it.

The NFL has been blatantly lying in a terrible attempt to protect themselves and it’s blown up in their face. The owners are trying to protect the brand and it has turned into a complete PR disaster. Next month should be fun, when the NFL advertises their pink equipment in support of breast cancer in an attempt to pretend they care about women. The NFL is all about money and the owners have created one of the biggest scandals the league has seen in an attempt to protect that venture.

With the excessive level of the blatant lies, the NFL has lost all credibility. You want the Patriots angle on all of this? It makes you wonder what really went on with Spygate; and it goes both ways. If you want to hold Spygate against the Patriots, you should want to know what was on the tapes that mysteriously disappeared. If you think the Patriots were overly punished for Spygate, you should want to know what was on the videos that resulted in such a heavy punishment. The NFL doesn’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to any of their internal investigations now. Oh, and the “investigation” they’re about to do now on this situation? It just so happens to be overseen by John Mara, the Giants’ owner who has already pledged his support of Goodell.

Goodell is a fraudulent bitch who deserves to lose his job. Just remember that he won’t because the owners are the ones running the show, they just trot Goodell out to take all your fury and be the whipping boy. Even if Goodell were fired, the next guy would be just as bad if not worse. $42 million seems like a lot of money for an errand boy.

Chris Chenard

Twitter

NOffense

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So I wrote up this big post about the offense last night and then Tumblr got all messed up out of no where and I lost it all so I’ll briefly restate my thoughts on the offense from Sunday’s game. I’ll try to be faster with these game recaps, still getting into the habit of writing these things.

-The first half was fine, the Patriots did a good job of capitalizing on Miami’s mistakes and turning turnovers into points

- The running backs were fine, Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden were fine, Ridley had a great run that was called back by a dreadful holding call (more on that later), the problem with the running game was that the coaches abandoned it at halftime for no reason

-Shane Vereen had a great day, he had a great 3rd and 10 run to pick up a first down that kickstarted a 90 yard touchdown drive, Vereen gave you good rushing yards and some really nice passing plays; exactly what you’re looking for

-The wide receivers were dreadful, Danny Amendola was invisible and the only play he made (that would have moved the Patriots into Miami territory while down by 3 early in the 4th quarter) was called back by a horrid penalty, Kenbrell Thompkins was ok I guess but he didn’t have much of an impact

-Brandon LaFell was absolutely horrific, he had 0 catches on 6 targets and committed 2 penalties, he should have been flagged for a third pass interference when he twisted a Dolphin defender’s head like a bottle cap, he was called for the penalty that brought back the Amendola play when he essentially killed the cornerback on a pick play (I wonder how Belichick feels about that?)

-Julian Edelman was the only other player who had a great day, he had 6 catches for 95 yards in the first half and looked just as good as he looked last year, in the second half they stopped throwing to him and the one time they did Brady had all the time in the world and chucked it over his head, going away from Edelman was another awful coaching decision in the game

-I have to wonder where Aaron Dobson is, I understand he missed nearly the whole offseason thanks to a mysteriously delayed foot surgery but he was on the field at the end of the preaseason, the Patriots are going to depend on having Dobson on the outside and they need him in the lineup, he needs to make a second year jump

-Rob Gronkowski wasn’t right, he doesn’t look like himself and he wasn’t running very well (which is expected coming off an ACL tear), even on limited snaps it was good to see him back out there playing and working his way back, he still contributed with some catches and a touchdown

-Michael Hoomanawanui was awful, he committed the awful holding penalty that pulled back a real nice run from Ridley early in the game and Cameron Wake made him look like a turnstile in the second half

-Tim Wright…. meh

-the offensive line was brutal (not that anyone is surprised), they had no plan in place for getting rid of Logan Mankins, guys were just rotating in and out and getting beat all over the place, they let Brady get absolutely killed (26 pressures, 4 sacks, 8 hits, 11 hurries), nice coaching decision to keep dropping Brady back when he couldn’t even plant his back foot before he was hit, Greg Bedard put together a neat chart breaking down who allowed what 

-Nate Solder is wildly overrated as a pass blocker and Sebastian Vollmer has his own issues (including injuries), both tackles got smoked on numerous occasions

-the coaching change from Dante Scarnecchia (retired)to Dan Deguglielmo is something to keep  an eye on, Scarnecchia always seemed to coach up the offensive line into a serviceable unit regardless of personnel, I have to wonder what the real talent on the offensive line is and if Deguglielmo can make it work

-That Logan Mankins trade looks great right now

-It was horrible day for the coaching staff; they were unorganized, didn’t make adjustments, abandoned the run, stopped using Edelman, couldn’t protect Brady, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, Josh McDaniels once again just seemed to not have a clue

-Ryan Allen had a great day eh? couldn’t handle a snap that ended up getting blocked and he had a dreadful punt early in the game that barely went anywhere

All this and I haven’t even gotten to Tom Brady. My concerns with Brady are a lot deeper than I think a lot of people realize and I’ll get more in depth with it in another blog post. I’ll give you a hint; I have a feeling the Jimmy Garoppolo era is going to begin a lot sooner than people expected.

I actually think the bulleted format makes my thought process easier to follow so I’m going to continue doing it for game previews/recaps.

Chris Chenard

Twitter

Chump Caliber Defense

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Where the hell do we start with this one? The Miami Dolphins put on a complete ass kicking in the second half of yesterday’s season opener. The Patriots came out of the gate looking ok. They had a decent first half to open the season; building a 13 point lead by taking advantage of Miami’s mistakes. What came next was an absolute disaster, starting on defense.

This Patriots defense was expected to be elite this year. They finally have legit talent at key positions in Chandler JonesDarrelle Revis, and Devin McCourty with decent players filling out the lineup. Bill Belichick is supposed to be a defensive genius with his playbooks in the Hall of Fame. So what’s the problem? They have the talent… but they’re using it like it’s the old NFL. Belichick is still struggling to adapt.

Starting with Revis, the key to everything this year. What the hell was he doing only on the left side of the field? The reason you got Revis is to shadow a team’s best receiver, not to stay on one side of the field. That’s why he’s Revis. That comes down to the coaching staff just not taking advantage of having Revis on the field.

Revis didn’t have an awful game, he had solid coverage and made a couple nice plays defending passes. He got burned twice by Mike Wallace; one was a crossing route running across the field for a completion and the other was a double move where Wallace beat him and blazed down the field only for  Ryan Tannehill to fire an easy TD out of bounds. Revis made a nice play breaking up a TD pass to Wallace but, in a fluky manner, the ball bounced off of Wallace’s leg and back to his hands for the touchdown. Revis had a bit of a hamstring issue at the end of the game but it didn’t sound serious, overall he had a solid day with a couple mistakes.

What about the rest of the secondary? The pass defense was actually ok throughout the day. The coverage was ok for the most part. It wasn’t to the level of the Legion of Boom but it wasn’t horrific. Alfonzo Dennard had an interception and Logan Ryan forced a fumble, halting Miami drives and giving the ball back to the offense. Malcolm Butler looked like an undrafted free agent. Butler had a horrific play where he got away with highway robbery on a should-be pass interference. The corners overall didn’t have a terrible day, my question is did any safeties even play?

Did anyone see McCourty anywhere? Did McCourty do anything? Did he make any plays? I saw McCourty chasing Clay on an overthrow in the end zone, that was about it. I saw Patrick Chung on a kickoff return. Did he do anything defensively? I thought Chung was strong against the run? Did he try and stop Knowshon Moreno from running down the Patriots’ throat? What about Duron Harmon? Where the hell was he yesterday? Literally. I don’t know if I even saw him on the field. Safety play is (and has been) an issue for the Patriots, they have no presence in the middle of the field. McCourty doesn’t play like the ball hawk he should be and there’s nobody out there laying the wood. The safeties were invisible yesterday.

Then we get to the real problem with the defense; the front seven. The linebackers started off pretty good. They made a couple plays, Dont’a Hightower rushed Tannehill frequently which I feel like is the only thing he does relatively well but he’s slow and apparently hits QBs with too much force. Jamie Collins forced a fumble and seemed solid but at the same time there was one play where he got burned big time by Charles Clay and Tannehill once again overthrew his open target. Jerrod Mayo had a nice delayed sack but other than that was just sort of there. The linebackers are still slow, can’t really cover, and they sure as hell didn’t help stop the run. This linebacker corps is built like a run stuffing group from the 90s and they can’t even do that.

The defensive line was atrocious. Vince Wilfork had a horrible game. Wilfork couldn’t push the pocket or stop the run yesterday He was missing tackles that he should never miss. Wilfork did not have a good start to last season before he suffered the achilles injury and I was against bringing him back on an extension this year. He doesn’t look much better and the Patriots didn’t do much of anything to address the interior defensive line. At the same time, Tommy Kelly apparently asked out, which didn’t help an already weak area on the team.

There was zero chance of an interior pass rush outside of Wilfork and stopping the running game wasn’t much different. Running backs (particularly Moreno on his late TD run) were bouncing off of guys and just kept on powering through. The Patriots are soft on the interior defensive line and Moreno ran right over them.

What the hell is up with Dominique Easley? I don’t want to rip him too hard because he’s a rookie coming off an injury and hadn’t played a snap yet but he doesn’t look like what he was sold as. He was sold to us as an undersized, penetrating interior pass rusher and it looked like he packed on about 40 pounds and couldn’t do much of anything in terms of penetration. He got yanked from the game after a brutal penalty jumping across the line and that was it for his day.

The defensive ends are a whole other issue. Uhm, paging Rob Ninkovich? The Patriots didn’t add a pass rusher (*ahem* Jared Allen) and the one they did add, Will Smith, ended up getting cut at the end of the preseason. So you’re now relying on Ninkovich to apply some pass rush and he’s just not a pass rusher. As a rotational piece, Ninkovich is fine but he’s not a pure pass rusher. Otherwise, he was invisible too. The Chandler Jones situation is really pissing me off.

There might not be another player on this team more misused than Chandler Jones. Elite edge rushers in the NFL nowadays stand up on the end of the line and coaches allow them to pin their ears back and just rush the QB. What does Belichick do? He makes him get down on the end of the line and watch for the run. Then, because he’s undersized for a lineman, he gets pushed around by the guard or whoever is on him. He’s a PASS RUSHER. Put him at OLB, stand him up, stop trying to control him, and let him get to the QB. Chandler Jones can manhandle tight ends and speed by tackles but they need to let him start standing up and bull rushing the QB. That’s what he does well. They did it in the preseason and it worked. Why the change? The misuse of Jones is a criminal offense. They had zero pass rush. Belichick needs to adapt to modern NFL defenses now.

The Patriots defense was bailed out early on by Miami mistakes. From Tannehill making bad throws to Miami just being stupid. Sure, the Patriots get credit for making the plays but what if Miami was a good team team? The score would have reflected the ass kicking the Patriots received yesterday. Belichick is supposed to be a defensive genius. He has all the talent and players he needs. He needs to adapt to the players, and the league, and use them right. His system doesn’t work. He needs to stop being so controlling, lighten up on the reigns and be more aggressive. Take chances and let your players make big plays. It’s looking like just another year of the “bend but don’t break” garbage that hasn’t helped them at all over the last seven (or so) years. Right now, the Patriots defense looks overhyped and not Super Bowl caliber. Meanwhile, how’s Denver look?

Chris Chenard

Twitter

A Black Eye on the NFL (UPDATED)

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By now, everyone is familiar with the Ray Rice incident that occurred in the offseason. A video surfaced in February of Rice dragging his unconscious fiance out of an elevator after punching her in the face. Authorities stated that they had a video of the incident within the elevator and all evidence was shared with the NFL for disciplinary reasons. This was a high profile incident with one of the league’s star running backs. The punishment? A whopping two game suspension.

The criticism the league took for the ridiculously light punishment was completely justified. Rice was suspended two games while all pro wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended 16 games for smoking pot. The public outcry prompted the league to release an (insincere) apology for the suspension and establish a new domestic violence policy. For players involved in domestic violence: the first offense is a six game suspension and the second offense is a lifetime suspension. Much better, except the league stood by Rice’s measly two game suspension.

Now the video from within the elevator has surfaced because of course it has. In today’s media, these things never stay hidden for long. The NFL and the Baltimore Ravens both claim that they did not see the footage, contradicting what was reported at the time. The claim made by the league makes them look worse if they’re telling the truth (which I don’t believe they are). As Sam Ponder points out, if the NFL didn’t see the video like they claim and only handed out a two game suspension, they didn’t even make much of an effort to investigate the issue. If they did see the video, which I 100% believe they did, then they made a reprehensible decision to only suspend Rice for two games.

No matter how you slice it, the NFL made a horrifically bad decision with the way they handled this situation. How do you make a bad decision worse? You lie about it. And that’s not even getting to Ravens glorifying his return to the field in the preseason, the fans who gave him standing ovations, or the people who supported and justified his actions. This is the same organization that supported Ray Lewis in a very suspicious murder investigation and did nothing to punish Terrell Suggs two years ago, so expecting the organization to do something about this situation is probably setting the bar too high. All I know is that maybe John Harbaugh should take some notes from his brother out in San Francisco.

Chris Chenard

Twitter

UPDATE: I’m stunned that it actually happened but the Ravens released Ray Rice. I’m glad that they ultimately ended up in the right place but what it took for it to happen is ridiculous. If the video never got out, they never would have released him. They still deserve to be crushed for trying to cover it up.