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Friday, August 12, 2011
Picked-up pieces from 1st quarter review

By Mike Rodak

Taking a look at the television copy of Thursday night's preseason opener against the Jaguars and offering some first quarter observations:

1) With their switch to a 4-3 base defense this season, the way opposing offenses approach the Patriots will change. In the 3-4 defense, the emphasis is on 'staying home' and reacting to the play; in the 4-3 defense, the job of the defense line is often to charge upfield and disrupt plays before they can set-up. The Jaguars attacked this aspect of the Patriots' defense on a 16-yard Rashad Jennings run on their first drive. On the play, LDT Darryl Richard and LDE Jermaine Cunningham were both allowed to break through the line at the snap, with LG Will Rackley pulling to his right to seal Richard outside. This allowed RG Uche Nwaneri and RT Guy Whimper to execute seal blocks on WLB Gary Guyton and MLB Dane Fletcher, springing Jennings into the secondary.

2) Cunningham's early sack of Jaguars QB Blane Gabbert was the product of a few different aspects of the play. First, the Jaguars executed the play action, drawing Guyton closer to the play. Second, TE Zach Miller appeared to misjudge how deep upfield Gabbert was behind him, opting to push Cunningham behind Gabbert -- or so he thought -- only to allow Cunningham free passage to Gabbert. With Guyton coming in strong, the rookie quarterback had no choice but to try and run from Cunningham, unsuccessfully.

3) With multiple injuries to interior offensive lineman, Patriots OT Mark LeVoir was called upon to play right guard to start the game. On a third-and-5 Danny Woodhead outside run in the first quarter, LeVoir overextended himself trying to block LDT Tyson Alualu to the inside. He also took out LG Thomas Austin in the process, preventing Austin from blocking MLB Paul Posluszny. Both Posluszny and Alualu were able to beat Woodhead to the outside and prevent the first down.

4) The second sack of Gabbert in the quarter appeared to be more of a team effort rather an an individual performance by any Patriots pass rusher. Right as Gabbert hit the back of his drop-back, LDE Mark Anderson forced him to step up by beating Whimper around the edge. RDE Rob Ninkovich then put an inside move on LT Eugene Monroe to force Gabbert to begin panicking. This is when RDT Landon Cohen completed his stunt around Nwaneri and was in position to take down Gabbert.

5) TE Aaron Hernandez's 20-yard catch-and-run was an easy read for QB Brian Hoyer, with a clean pocket and an apparent miscommunication by the Jaguars. With their regular (2 TE, 1 RB, 2 WR) personnel on the field, the Patriots spread into a five-receiver set and put Hoyer in the shotgun. SLB Daryl Smith dropped into a zone while MLB Paul Posluszny tried to jam TE Lee Smith on his seam route, leaving the middle of the field wide open for Hernandez.

6) The Patriots made a shift at safety for this game, using Brandon Meriweather as their strong safety -- over the tight end and often 'in the box' -- and leaving Patrick Chung as the free safety, 'over the top.' Last season, it was often Chung playing closer to the line and Meriweather in the deep zone. This will be something to monitor as the preseason progresses.