Tight end Aaron Hernandez might have caught the game-winning touchdown in the New England Patriots’ 20-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, but his 2011 is shaping up to be a lot less valuable than his 2010 regular season where he was fifth among NFL tight ends with at least 25 targets with 160 DYAR, which measures total value, and seventh with a DVOA of 31.5 percent, which measures value per play.
According to beat writer Jeff Legwold, the Broncos “see Knowshon Moreno as more of a situational player… His role in the [John] Fox era likely will be more of a 3rd-down player.” Legwold is off his rocker here. Moreno is a former 1st-round pick with plenty of talent. Denver may add a RB to the roster once free-agency opens, but I’d be shocked if Moreno didn’t play a major role in this backfield.
He had plenty of targets in the contest, connecting with Randy Moss for the first two scores and http://www.diamonds-cheerleader.com/ for the final touchdown. Moss also earned a big honor during the game, tallying the 150th receiving touchdown of his career sitting alongside Jerry Rice as the second player in league history to reach the mark.
The biggest news coming out of the game, however, was the Mayo injury. The Patriots beat the Dolphins in Week 1, but lost center Dan Koppen and defensive lineman Myron Pryor for the season. The Patriots beat the Chargers in Week 2, but lost safety Patrick Chung, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, and tight end Aaron Hernandez to injuries. And now, the Patriots have lost Jerod Mayo and, perhaps, running back Danny Woodhead for an extended period.
A lot of blame for this loss will be pinned on the defense for giving up 34 points to Ryan Fitzpatrick (27-40, 369 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) and the Bills over three quarters. I choose to look at it from a different angle. Believe it or not the most troubling things to me came in cheerleader websites terms of the offense and coaching.
The Steelers do come into this game with a 5-2 record, but their opponents’ combined record this year is 16-29. The Steelers have won their last three straight, but the Patriots will be Pittsburgh’s first real test in almost a month. The Baltimore Ravens in Week One and the Houston Texans in Week Four were their only other tests. The Ravens embarrassed the Steelers, 35-7, on Opening Day and Houston won, 17-10.
Two big questions: New England faces two huge questions with their roster even before the season starts. First, will Wes Welker be fully healthy and ready for opening day after off season ACL surgery. Welker is an important cog in the Patriots offensive attack and if he can’t go full speed they will have problems. Second, will left guard Logan Mankins be in camp. A restricted free agent, Mankins and the team have had talks about a contract extension, but nothing has panned out.
Earlier this year, the Ravens escaped with a 31-30 victory against New England in Baltimore. It is a game remembered, mostly, for head coach Bill Belichick running after a replacement official following the game and grabbing the official’s arm as he exited the field.
One issue I have noticed with Brady since his season-ending knee injury in 2008 is his diminished pocket presence. He used to have the innate ability, a la Dan Marino, to take a single slide step up or to the side to avoid pressure. Lately, particularly in the playoffs, I’ve noticed Brady getting a case of “happy feet.” He appears to be ducking and tucking the ball when he senses pressure when, in fact, there is no one around. Maybe it’s a result of his injury, or maybe it’s a result of the effectiveness of the Tom Coughlin “blueprint.” One of the reasons I believe Drew Bledsoe’s career derailed was from the amount of hits he took early in his career which resulted in the older Bledsoe always dropping back in fear of getting hit.
And, yes, I am on board the Colin Kaepernick bandwagon. Last week’s performance was one of the best post-season performances I have ever seen from a quarterback. 181 yards rushing from a quarterback?!?! Are you kidding me? Plus, he throws for 263 yards and two touchdowns.