Commentary

Patriots' D has to take the lead

Until undermanned offense clicks, there's added pressure to hold foes in check

Updated: September 16, 2013, 4:02 PM ET
By Tedy Bruschi | ESPNBoston.com

Join my weekly chat every Monday to have your question considered for the weekly Bruschi on Tap Q&A.

Even though the Patriots are 2-0, it seems fans have concerns about the way the offense has played. Let's get to the questions ...

Q. Hi, Tedy, a few years ago, everyone was worried about the Pats' defense, saying they gave up too many yards and points. Now it seems that the defense is really what has allowed the team to start out 2-0. It is hard to really look at Thursday's game against the Jets as a means of measure, but they got the job done, and certainly kept the Bills within striking distance in Week 1. Is this D finally for real? Can Bill Belichick and No. 12 lean on these guys the next four to six weeks while the offense heals up? -- Jason (Pretzfeld, Germany)

[+] EnlargePatriots
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesThe Patriots didn't score in the second half against the Jets, but the defense picked off Geno Smith three times in the fourth quarter.

A. Jason, I believe that's exactly what has to happen. The defense has to continue to buy time for this offense to develop as a unit. As young receivers show their inexperience and lack of chemistry with Tom Brady, you have to think that will eventually improve. This improvement has to happen on an accelerated basis due to their lack of depth at the skill positions. The positive thing over the first two weeks is that they have won both games and the defense has kept them in it. They can be counted on until reinforcements come.

Q. What's the feeling inside the Pats' locker room after scraping by over two bottom-tier teams? At least they won, but they can't feel confident. Not to mention, Brady yelling like never before at the offense. -- Jeremy (New Jersey)

A. I feel this way about the entire NFL, but particularly with the situation with the Patriots' offense. The way the offseason is now structured, September has now become an extension of the preseason. With that, teams are still going to be using the month of September to develop their identity. This couldn't be more true for the Patriots' offense. They have to feel good in that locker room right now, that after all the struggles they've had and everything they can learn from, they're still 2-0. This team will be better in December than it is in September. It's all about damage control right now.

Q. Mr. Bruschi, I believe the rookie receivers will continue to progress and eventually make some big plays down the stretch, even without Danny Amendola. What is your projection on when this will happen? I believe it will be very soon. Your thoughts? -- Lance Corporal Thompson USMC (Middle East)

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Which unit is more important to the success of the Patriots this season?

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    44%
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    56%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,125)

A. First of all, Lance Corporal Thompson, you can call me Tedy. But I have to disagree with you, sir. I don't think it will happen very soon. Thanksgiving comes to mind. The only immediate improvement they can hope to have within the next few weeks is the return of Rob Gronkowski. As you probably know, somebody who's wet behind the ears can't step in and do what a 10-year veteran can do right off the bat.

Q. What in the name of Stanley Morgan is going on out there? From your educated eye, what are the types of things you are seeing (or not seeing) from the young receivers? Are they correctable? Will good coaching and time help? -- Pete (Atlanta)

A. Pete, what I saw was every mistake that a young receiver could make: 1. Running the wrong route; 2. Not judging the ball well in the air; 3. Not getting your head around quick enough to the quarterback to spot the ball; 4. Not being on the same page as your quarterback; 5. Being unable to catch the ball. Are some of these problems correctable? They are. Good coaching and time will help. The time is the thing -- it's not going to happen immediately. This particularly hurts when you see a rookie receiver like DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans basically win a game for his team with the plays he made down the stretch once Andre Johnson went down. Last Thursday was the worst-case scenario for these young Patriots pass-catchers. Not only were they confused out there, but they were going up against some complex schemes from Rex Ryan. Then the skies opened up and it started pouring. When that happens, they have to focus even more on catching the ball -- the ball is wet, your gloves are wet, your hands on wet. This situation is even tougher because they have no legitimate starters to learn from. Basically, they are all they have. It's a waiting game.

Q. The Patriots' defense has made the difference the first two games, but were those interceptions against the Jets the result of strong defense or lousy throws by a bad quarterback? How do you think this defense will play when we face a better QB? -- Andy (Pittsfield)

A. Geno Smith did make some bad throws and the football was definitely tougher to catch when the rain come down in the second half Thursday. But you still have to be in position to make those plays. Were they easy catches? The two Aqib Talib had were the result of errors, but I thought Alfonzo Dennard made a great play to come down with that ball. I was never one to complain over a takeaway, and you shouldn't be either! You'll get your wish to see how good this defense is when the Patriots go up against Matt Ryan and the Falcons in two weeks.

Q. Hey, Tedy, do you think this year's Pats defense has what it takes to shut down a high-scoring team with great quarterback and wide receivers? Or should we hope for the offense to click sooner? -- Weel (Weston, Mass.)

A. Against the Falcons in Week 4, if they play the way they have the last two weeks, they will lose. This Patriots defense is solid. My son made a good decision when he drafted the Patriots defense on his fantasy team. But to get a victory against the Falcons in Atlanta, this offense will have to hold up its end of the bargain. Right now, Matt Ryan is in a different class than EJ Manuel, Geno Smith and Josh Freeman. Sorry to be looking ahead, but one-game-at-a-time doesn't qualify when you're not playing anymore!

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AP Photo/Brian BlancoNew Patriots CB Darrelle Revis won't be receiving a warm welcome when he faces the Jets in New York.

Q. Hi, Tedy, how do you feel about the run blocking that was displayed Thursday night? I feel like everyone is talking about the drops (which were frustrating), but minus Brady, the offensive line to me is the most important part of the offense. -- Matt (Boston)

A. Matt, that's a great point. The fumbling problems of Stevan Ridley lessen the confidence of the coaches in the running game. But I agree with you -- the offensive line and the running game has to be relied upon for more production with the passing game struggling. Until reinforcements come (e.g., Gronkowski), the run/play-action game has to be a bigger part of the plan. This week, how often to you think they are going to throw to Darrelle Revis' side? If I were Tampa defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, I'd let Revis lock down whichever receiver he wanted. I might put Revis on Julian Edelman and force Brady to find the other guys again.

Q. Tedy, the start of this season really reminds me a lot of the beginning of 2006. Tom's body language, Deion Branch gone, lack of chemistry with receivers, etc. That year worked out relatively well. How and when did things start to gel that year? -- Ian (Washington)

A. Well, Ian, this year -- on a different level -- reminds me of 2001. Let me tell you why. In 2001, there was a point when the defense was relied upon more because of the lack of production offensively. Defensive players that year knew that we had to buy more time for a young quarterback that was developing. I think we all remember who that young quarterback was.

Q. Hey, Tedy. Is there a chance that the Patriots look to not only add a veteran wide receiver but even potentially another tight end to help out Brady? -- Chris (Washington, D.C.)

A. Chris, it sounds like you want a quick fix, and I'm telling you, the quick fix isn't coming. If there was somebody better out there, he'd already be on the roster. When and if they did sign someone: 1. Is that player ready to play football physically? 2. Do you really want to stop the development of the young receivers and put them on the bench?

Q. Your early thoughts on Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones thus far? -- John (Philadelphia)

A. One thing I've noticed about Jones is the production he's had over the guard. He pressured Manuel and sacked Smith from that position. For him to be able to do that, it gives defensive coordinator Matt Patricia more flexibility.

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AP Photo/Elise AmendolaThe rain came at Gillette Stadium just minutes after Tedy Bruschi's halftime ceremony.

Q. Tedy, do you remember suggesting that a little snow would make for a special Tedy Bruschi night in 2010? I swear I got chills, just watching from my TV, when I saw that downpour strike at the end of your speech the other night. -- Adam (Broomfield, Colo.)

A. Adam, I heard there was a strike of lightning that could be seen from the sky when I was talking. I really didn't mind the rain. I always considered myself a good bad-weather player. Although it's a very nice red jacket, I didn't mind getting it wet. At all.

Q. Tedy, it seems like the signing of Amendola was a total bust. One real game and now out of action ... again. With his history of injuries, why even take a chance with a player that's basically made of glass? -- John (North Carolina)

A. John, that's pretty rough. The one thing I'd say about Amendola is that his mentality is as tough as they come. It's just that his durability can't keep up with his mentality. I remember Ted Johnson. He was a guy who no one worked harder than, and he was tough mentally. Everyone felt like he was a guy you could count on during games on the field. It's just that his body could not hold up. He'd work hard and then have a shoulder injury. Then he'd rehab his butt off to come back from that, and then he's have a biceps injury. You feel bad for players like Amendola and Johnson, but sometimes a player's body gives out on them.

Tedy Bruschi

Columnist, ESPN.com
Tedy Bruschi spent his entire 13-year career with the New England Patriots after being drafted in the third round out of Arizona. He played in five Super Bowls, winning three. He retired prior to the 2009 season.

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