New England Patriots: Pierre Woods

Camp Countdown: LBs & development

July, 23, 2010
7/23/10
11:30
AM ET
The Patriots’ first public training camp practice is Thursday, July 29, and with 82 players on the roster, there is plenty to analyze. ESPNBoston.com has picked what it feels are the top eight aspects to monitor. As part of the “Countdown to Camp”, they will be counted down with one each day leading up to the first practice.

No. 7: Young linebackers and their development

Why it’s a top issue: One of the Patriots' main weaknesses in 2009 was a lack of a pass rush: The team blitzed more than 40 percent of the time, ranking them seventh in the NFL, which was a sign that there wasn't enough pressure out of the standard four-man rush. The fourth rusher most often comes from the outside linebacker spot. Furthermore, the heart of the defense is the inside linebacker spot and former undrafted free agent Gary Guyton played 84 percent of the snaps there in 2009, the second highest total of any defender.

Why it might change: From a personnel standpoint, the selection of second-round draft choices Jermaine Cunningham (outside linebacker) and Brandon Spikes (inside linebacker), the return to health of 2009 third-round draft choice Tyrone McKenzie (inside linebacker), and, to a lesser degree, 2008 third-round draft choice Shawn Crable (third round).

Historical perspective: The inside linebackers are the youngest in Bill Belichick's 11-year tenure. No longer can Belichick count on veterans like Tedy Bruschi, Roman Phifer, Ted Johnson and Junior Seau, which highlights the importance of development. Cunningham is the highest outside linebacker (53rd overall) the Patriots have drafted in Belichick's tenure.

Xs and Os thought: When the Patriots set their initial 53-man roster in 2009, they kept 3 inside linebackers (Jerod Mayo, Guyton, Eric Alexander) and 5 outside linebackers (Tully Banta-Cain, Derrick Burgess, Rob Ninkovich, Adalius Thomas, Pierre Woods). Special teams contributions are often a factor in that decision-making process.

Looking to the future: How realistic is it to expect immediate pass-rush contributions from Cunningham at outside linebacker? Pat Kirwan of NFL.com examined the topic earlier this year, pointing out that teams relying on rookie pass-rushers should be careful in doing so.

Fun fact: Mayo lives five minutes from Gillette Stadium. "I feel I can get so much better as a football player living near work," he explained.

Camp Countdown:
No. 8 -- Tight ends & the red zone

Special teams tackle leaders

November, 26, 2009
11/26/09
6:47
AM ET
A look at the Patriots' leaders in special teams tackles (based on coaches' film review), which can highlight the value of some lesser publicized players:

LB Pierre Woods -- 12
LB Eric Alexander -- 9
S Brandon McGowan -- 9
S Pat Chung -- 8
WR Sam Aiken -- 7
CB Kyle Arrington -- 5
S Bret Lockett -- 5
S Brandon Meriweather -- 5
WR Matthew Slater -- 5
LB Rob Ninkovich -- 4
K Stephen Gostkowski -- 4

Patriots defensive snap count

November, 23, 2009
11/23/09
3:36
PM ET
A look at snaps played by Patriots defenders in the team’s 31-14 win over the Jets (as charted in the press box, small margin for error):

ILB Gary Guyton – 51 of 51 snaps
ILB Jerod Mayo – 51 of 51
S Brandon Meriweather – 51 of 51
CB Jonathan Wilhite – 51 of 51
CB Leigh Bodden – 50 of 51
S Brandon McGowan – 50 of 51
OLB/DE Adalius Thomas – 40 of 51
NT Vince Wilfork – 39 of 51
DE Mike Wright – 37 of 51
DE Ty Warren -- 34 of 52
OLB Tully Banta-Cain – 26 of 51
OLB Pierre Woods – 19 of 51
DE Derrick Burgess – 17 of 51
DT Myron Pryor – 17 of 51
CB Darius Butler – 12 of 51
S James Sanders – 9 of 51
S Pat Chung – 5 of 51
DT Ron Brace – 1 of 51
S Randy Moss – 1 of 51

(Two false start penalties included in snaps)

ANALYSIS: The base alignment was a 3-4, with the Patriots using a 3-2-6 dime (6 defensive backs) in most passing situations and occasionally a 4-2-5 nickel (5 defensive backs). … Butler and Chung were the fifth and sixth defensive backs in the sub package. … When Chung left the game with a head injury, he was replaced by Sanders. … Mayo and Guyton played every snap at inside linebacker, keeping Junior Seau on the sidelines for the third game in a row. … Including penalties, the 51 snaps were the third fewest the defense has played in a game this season (46, vs. Falcons, 49 vs. Titans). … Banta-Cain made the most of his playing time, finishing with five tackles and two sacks in just 26 snaps. … After seeing action solely on early downs, Thomas is playing again in sub packages as he’s had more of a chance to rush the passer in recent weeks. … Woods played on defense for the first time since Oct. 18 against Tennessee, starting at outside linebacker and working in a rotation. … This was the second time this season that Moss has been called upon as a safety in a Hail Mary situation.

5 for Friday

November, 20, 2009
11/20/09
10:18
AM ET
Five quick-hit Patriots thoughts on Friday:

1) Without Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour, many questions have been asked about filling a leadership void on defense. This was the adversity-filled week to find out, and second-year linebacker Jerod Mayo officially declared that a big part of the torch has been passed his way with his strong remarks Thursday.

2) After playing all but two plays in a sub package against the Colts, this week's game should feature more of a return to the base 3-4 alignment against the Jets' No. 1 ranked rushing offense. The outside linebacker spot opposite Adalius Thomas will be important to watch. If Tully Canta-Cain isn't healthy enough to play, it could thrust Pierre Woods back into the lineup. Woods hasn't played on defense in the last three games.

3) The Patriots need to be more efficient in the red zone, but their 25th ranking in that area is a bit misleading when considering the Buccaneers are the NFL's top red-zone offense. Would you rather be the Buccaneers (12 TDs in 17 trips) or the Patriots (18 TDs in 40 trips)?

4) With Jarvis Green (knee) unlikely to play and Ty Warren with a nagging ankle injury, and with the physical Jets running game to stop, this could be the week the Patriots call on rookie Ron Brace more along the defensive line. Brace saw his first action since Week 2 when he was on the field for the final two goal-line plays Sunday in Indianapolis.

5) Nine games into the season, the Patriots have already had five different players as a primary kickoff returner because of injuries: Laurence Maroney, Julian Edelman, Kevin Faulk, Brandon Tate and Matthew Slater. That hasn't helped them in the field-position game. The team's average drive start is the 24.9 yard line -- 13th in the AFC and 22nd in the NFL.

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