My apologies for the delay with this entry; I meant to post this earlier this week but I don’t think it has passed its expiration date yet. Without further adieu, here’s another look at the upcoming game from a guy who knows way more about the X’s and O’s of football than I do, Jay Shields.
The more I think about this game the more I think it’s key to target and exploit both Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Welcome to bizarro world. I can’t believe I’m thinking this but I see major vulnerabilities in the two best players at their respective position of their generation.
It’s pretty clear to me that Ray Lewis, one of my favorite players ever, has not lost a step. He has lost two steps. He can’t sidestep blocks like he used to, and this has greatly hurt his shed game. His anticipation is still there, his tenacity is still there, but he physically has dropped off dramatically. I see him as being easily exploited in the wham game because if Gronk can earhole Ngata I think the back can beat Lewis. I think Connoly and the guards can reach and seal him easily. I’m focusing a lot on his run fits because I think at this stage he is exclusively a run defender. I also think that the Ravens will try to force the Pats to run with lighter sets and six man boxes. I anticipate a gameplan with a lot of check with me calls. If the Pats can find a way to isolate him on a back (or, more specifically Hernandez by aligning him in the backfield) they can also exploit him readily in the passing game.
While I still think Ed Reed makes tremendous reads and baits better than anyone, it’s clear to me that he can’t tackle anymore. His will is there, but his body isn’t capable of doing it anymore. What’s the key? Get Gronk on him, and establish it early. It will be a challenge because I think Baltimore will high-low Gronk and press him with a dlineman, but with motion and spacing I think the offense will find a way to force Reed to matchup physically with Gronkowski. Not only am I certain Gronk will run him over, but Reed’s ball skills will be negated by Gronk’s catch radius and overall body positioning. How crazy is it so say a major focus on the gameplan should be to throw directly at Reed? It’s true, though, and an advantageous matchup.
So there are my Wednesday thoughts. What are yours?
Jay also adds this thought in regards to the hurry-up offense:
The hurry-up gets a lot of press in the media because when the Pats go to it they execute with surgical precision. This is because the Patriots have won the substitution game and gotten advantageous personnel that they immediately go no-huddle on to gash. A main component of what the Patriots do is try to personnel a team to death. They will sub at an obscene rate and continually give different looks to a defense. They seldom react to the defensive personnel because they spend so little time in one personnel group themselves and try to dictate what personnel the defense will deploy to stop them. Should the Ravens get in a light look, the Patriots do run quite a few check with me run calls to get the defense to respect the run again. The key to defending the Patriots is not trying to sub with them, but by presenting a unit that has enough positional flexibility to match what the Patriots are trying to do. Tall task, but Baltimore has good personnel to do that.