Behind Enemy Lines: Pats - Ravens Pt. 2

Can The Patriots overcome losing Aaron Hernandez

In this two-part series Ravens Insider Jason Butt asked Patriots Insider Jon Scott about New England. Not an insider? Try the FREE PASS

Q:  Do you see Kellen Winslow stepping in and filling Aaron Hernandez's role well this week, or does Wes Welker get back into the rotation and take the majority of the snaps like he's used to?

Jon Scott:  Welker will get more opportunities simply because Winslow doesn't know the offense very well and the Patriots need a passing game that's reliable.  Welker has been that guy for the Patriots nearly every year he's been in New England.  He is so reliable; Welker has a catch in EVERY GAME he's played in New England.


Q: Do you think Brandon Lloyd finally breaks out as a Patriot and has a a big game? If so, why?

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JS:  I'm not sure why Lloyd hasn't been more productive in New England so far.  It seems that he's on the same page as the offense and Tom Brady, but Lloyd has dropped some key passes.  He was close on some that would have been big first downs or scores.  His inconsistency is the issue. One play he drops a sure catch, the next he makes an impossible one.   Lloyd has been targeted 21 times but has caught just 13 of them (61.9% success).  Compared to Rob Gronkowski's 12 catches in 15 targets (80%) you can see why Brady prefers to throw to tight ends.

If given the chance I think the Pats will stick with the backs and the tight ends until the Ravens stop that.  If they do, expect to hear a lot of Lloyd's name called.



Q: What are the problems with the Patriots OL right now and do you think those issues have or can be fixed by Sunday night?

JS: The Patriots offensive line has been a huge issue for them since the retirement of Matt Light and the decision of Brian Waters not to return to the lineup.  Both were experienced veterans who have multiple Pro Bowl nods to their credit.  They were replaced with former first round pick Nate Solder and undrafted lineman Donald Thomas.  Thomas struggled mightily so far (see our Tale Of The Tape breakdown here: http://nwe.scout.com/2/1224299.html ) and Solder has been having issues dealing with speed rushers since his first game in New England.   I doubt it will be fixed by Sunday night, though you might see a different strategy of an extra TE or RB chipping on the edge for Solder at left tackle.  If Dan Connolly (head) returns to the lineup, we'll see a major improvement over Thomas, but even Connolly is no substitute for Brian Waters.

Q: How disruptive can rookies Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones be on Sunday, and how much of a difference have they made for New England's defense this season?

JS: You have to figure the Patriots had Andre Carter (11), Mark Anderson (6) last season, along with Shaun Ellis (12) in their defensive rotation.  That boatload of experience, all 39 years of it was replaced by two rookies who cannot possibly know what to expect from some of the NFL offenses they're going to face.   From a pure athletic standpoint, Jones has been everything the team expected out of him.  Related to Ravens Arthur Jones, the younger Chandler has shown flashes of excellence already.  He has one sack and a pair of forced fumbles.  Last season the Patriots had 20 sacks (10 each) from Carter and Anderson.   Hightower has already surpassed Patriots inside linebacker Brandon Spikes from a pure physicality perspective.  Hightower, who learned defense under Nick Saban, has experience in systems that the Patriots employ.  Spikes never had that benefit.  Expect to see a lot of Jones' name being called Sunday.

Q: Is there a Patriots x-factor you see this week, someone that has a big game that no one is expecting?

JS: On offense, keep an eye on little Dany Woodhead.  He's bound ot have a big game at some point, and against a big Raven's defense, his quicks could be key.

On defense, watch Brandon Deaderick, a guy who has dominated at times on the defensive end position.

And Special teams,  I keep waiting for Nate Ebner to show his ball skills not only  in the return game, but also in the Patriots' secondary.  He's shown flashes of brilliance in camp and during the preseason.  As a former Ohio State rugby player, Ebner is just a man's man type of athlete who will grind it out with the toughest out there.  He brings the attitude of Patriots defenses in the past.  Once he gets his bearings, I expect you'll see more of him


Who wins and why?

I would normally pick the Patriots to win this game because I think they have more talent, especially at QB, but…  I'm actually thinking upset this week.  New England cannot fix their offensive line problems fast enough, and I'd be surprised if the team has had time to adjust to what went wrong against Arizona.  With a much tougher defense this week, I think the Pats offense hiccups.
Ravens 24, Patriots 20

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