Clint's Corner Archive
Clint's Corner Archive
The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.
Back to the drawing board...
I dedicated as much space in my last column on why the Pats were a 1-1 football team destined for 10-6 as I did on the upcoming Jets game.
It wasn't long thereafter that I, along with the rest of an exasperated Patriot Nation, learned that premier edge rusher Rosevelt Colvin would be lost for the season. A week later, we know that Ted "The Missing Piece" Washington will miss an undetermined amount of time while a fractured leg heals. Also doubtful for next week on defense are Ty Law and Mike Vrabel. Should Vrabel not play, that would leave just one of four starting linebackers from opening day - Tedi Bruschi - in uniform.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was announced that starting G Mike Compton will miss the remainder of the 2003 season, and that fellow starters C/G Damien Woody and WR David Patten were questionable.
Not since the 1989 preseason, when defensive starters Andre Tippett, Ronnie Lippett, and Garin Veras all were lost for the season in the same quarter at home against the Packers, has there been such a rash of injuries to key personnel. The Patriots finished the 1989 at 5-11, Raymond Berry's last hurrah just three seasons removed from an AFC Championship followed by a divisional crown.
I'm not going to write a revised prediction piece, but suffice it to say 10-6 would no longer be a good season, but an unbelievable season given the circumstances. The Patriots defense is not only effectively a new unit in terms of personnel, but likely in terms of scheme as well - a scheme the coaches and players have been working on since last April and had fine tuned during training camp and the preseason.
The Patriots were relying on Rosevelt Colvin to disrupt an opponent's passing game all by himself, ala Jason Taylor or John Abraham. The only way to get to the passer last season was to rush 5, 6 and sometimes 7 players. We will likely see a lot of that this Sunday in Washington as blitzes are likely the only way the Patriots will be able to pressure Patrick Ramsey. The Patriots provided little to no pressure on Vinny Testaverde last Sunday.
Throughout last season and into the beginnings of the preseason, the Patriots were not able to stop the run. Despite a revamped scheme, plug and play attempts to fill the nose tackle position with Jarvis Green, Rick Lyle, and rookie Dan Klecko proved ineffective. After acquiring Ted Washington via trade prior to week 3 of the preseason, Big Ted was on the field following just one day of practice and the difference was obvious. The following week at home against the Bears, Washington was held out of the lineup, and Chicago ran right up the middle.
Willie McGinest had an outstanding game coming in for Colvin against the Eagles. He was much less visible against the Jets last week, and Ted Washington's backup, well, there just isn't one. Look for Richard Seymour to move back inside next week as the Patriots deploy the 4-3 front with McGinest lining up hand-down at one end with Bobby Hamilton outside on the other end. Crennel will likely deploy a rotation at DT next to Seymour, with rookie Ty Warren likely to see quite a bit of time.
At linebacker, career backups Don Davis and Matt Chatham will have to step up against a very potent Redskins offense. Belichick dismissed the appearance of Dan Klecko at OLB in the preseason as "finding a way to get him on the field." While he may indeed have been tinkering when the games didn't count, Belichick in his worst nightmare could not have envisioned 75% of his starting LB corps to be sidelined in week 4. Don't be at all surprised to see Klecko get plenty of reps at either OLB or DE. If the Patriots don't put pressure on Ramsey, they're cooked.
In the secondary, both rookie corners Eugene Wilson and Asante Samuel figure to see plenty of action, with Wilson at safety and Samuel either at nickel back or possibly as a starter should Ty Law not be able to go.
A lot has been said and written about the backups on defense "stepping up," but in my mind, it's the Patriots offense that needs to pick up the slack and take the pressure off of a M*A*S*H unit defense. The O-line will be starting a rookie as well in 5th round selection Dan Koppen, but overall, a banged up Brady and crew are far healthier than their defensive brethren.
Last week the Patriots drove inside the Jets 10-yard line on each of their first two possessions and settled for field goals on each occasion. Their only offensive touchdown on the day came on a Brady scramble after yet another goal-to-go pass play had failed to work as planned. With the Patriots leading in the 4th quarter, the Pats offense went 3-and-out on their first two possessions, taking a whopping 1:53 off the clock. On their 3rd possession of the quarter, the offense was able to gain one first down before punting, taking just over 3 minutes off the clock. A depleted defense was asked to go back out on the field and hold too many times. They came through at home against the Jets, but cannot be asked to do the same on the road against the #1 rated offense in the NFL.
Overall, it's not at all inconceivable that the Patriots will depend heavily on 5 rookies if they're to keep the 2003 season headed in the right direction this Sunday. Let's hope the Patriots drafted well this past April, as their 1st, 3rd, two 4th, and 5th round draft picks are being thrown into the fray.
Am I backing down on my prediction of 10-6? Not just yet. The injuries have certainly raised the bar on making the playoffs, but I still have my longer term eyes set on the bye week rather than December 27. If the Patriots can limp or crawl their way to just 3 wins in their next 6 contests, things will look a lot better for the stretch run as the schedule softens while the casts, crutches, and Ace bandages are thrown aside.
A win in Washington next week would be huge - a great testament to the coaching staff, the fill-ins, and remaining starters alike.
See you next week, and Go Pats!