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Monday, August 18, 2008
Scouts Inc.: Pats playing to Lynch's strengths


Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd

John Lynch's first game as a New England Patriot showed a quick peek of what we should expect to see from the 16-year veteran. Coach Bill Belichick is the master at bringing in players some view as at the end of the line and finding a way to get extra mileage out of them. That's exactly what he's doing with Lynch.

Studying the tape of Sunday's preseason loss to Tampa Bay, Lynch played mainly in sub grouping packages and even though he played sooner than expected with Brandon Meriweather suffering a leg injury (safeties Rodney Harrison and James Sanders were already sitting out of the game.), the Pats played to Lynch's strengths.

Belichick will not ask a player to do something he can't and Lynch can no longer play every down. Watching film of this game as well as some from last season when he was in Denver, it's obvious Lynch can't play on the third level and extend downfield and in deep zones. Expect the Patriots to instead get him up near the box versus standard packages in run downs and in a 425 defensive grouping. Lynch is no longer a three-level player but still has tremendous value versus the run based on football instincts and knack for finding the ball.

That's not to say New England will shy away from having him in on passing situations. The Patriots like to play a lot of matchup zones where they zone the strength of the passing formation while playing single man on the opposite side. In this, Lynch could flare out over the slot receiver, disrupt the timing of the receiver and drop into the zone. Receivers have options on their routes based on what they're seeing in coverage. They can change the depth of the route or which way they cut the route. One of Lynch's great strengths is his ability to read routes quickly, anticipate the receiver's next move and make the play.

It also wouldn't be surprising in the 425 sub-groupings that he lines up against the No. 2 receiver, once again being physical on the line, disrupting the route and timing while dropping to landmarks in underneath areas. Again, his knowledge of route concepts and route recognition makes him a huge asset in this role. He could keep receivers from reaching their landmarks or possibly bait them, allowing them to get there but jumping the route for the interception. The Patriots could also disguise their coverage looks by using Lynch over the slot, moving him closer to the line-of-scrimmage off the edge or back into the box playing off the QB cadence. This could keep the quarterback from getting out of a bad play.

Like Belichick has done in the past with Junior Seau and other veterans, he brought Lynch in knowing his strengths and how they help the Patriots defense. Don't expect to see him on the field with just Rodney Harrison or being an every down player. That's not going to happen. But do expect to see him making plenty of plays for New England this season.

Scouts Inc. is comprised of industry insiders and former professional and college personnel directors and scouts.