A week remains until the start of organized team activities, training camp won't kickoff until late July, and with free agency (largely) and the draft in the books, many are wondering what the life of an NFL coach is like during this part of the calendar.
The truth is, like much of the year, Patriots coaches remain busy with a variety of projects, some of which involve self-evaluation, development of the playbook for 2013, and preparation for their regular-season opponents.
The opponent preparation involves breaking down multiple weeks of 2012 film (four games worth can often suffice), which allows teams to familiarize themselves with an opponent's personnel and schemes. Every roster experiences a certain level of turnover during the offseason and schemes will change from year-to-year (especially with head coaching or coordinator changes), but any work to get ahead now will yield some benefit in September through December when time is limited.
With the idea that members of the Patriots' coaching staff are digging deep into their opponents for the upcoming season, we've decided to take a closer look at eight of the Patriots' 2013 opponents, those from the NFC South and the AFC North, and one area on both offense and defense that the Patriots will need to account for next season.
We'll kick things off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots' Week 3 opponent:
OFFENSE: The Buccaneers have one of the best young running backs in football in Doug Martin, and he has a quality offensive line to run behind that will benefit from the return of standout left guard Carl Nicks. Part of what makes this offensive line difficult to counter is the size of the five-man unit. The projected starting five checks in with an average weight of 325 pounds (for comparison, the Patriots don't have a single starting offensive lineman that weighs above 320), and the left side of Tampa Bay's line can wear out a defense in the running game. Both left tackle Donald Penn and Nicks weigh 340-plus pounds, and that kind of bulk can be a chore to match-up with throughout the course of 60 minutes. From a more X's and O's standpoint, the Bucs also have the ability to stress a defense vertically, in particular with wide receiver Vincent Jackson. In his past four games against the Patriots, Jackson has racked up 25 catches for 452 yards, including a two touchdown effort in 2011.
DEFENSE: The Buccaneers' defense presented an amazing statistical contrast in 2012, finishing first in run defense and last in pass defense. It's a safe bet that the pass defense is dramatically improved after major investments in Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson (as well as second-round cornerback Johnthan Banks), while the run defense should be stout again in 2013. The unit excelled with vertical, up-field attacking linemen that caused all sorts of fits for opposing offenses last year. The Patriots will have to find a way to slow down that penetration, and one remedy that teams try to employ to neutralize up-field push is lateral stretch running plays that allow offensive linemen to wash penetrating defensive linemen down and take them out of their gaps.