<
>

Offense a work in progress

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

Q. Good to get a win but I'm finding it hard not to worry about the offense. Tom Brady hasn't looked sharp and I'm not convinced they will be able to move the ball once defenses key in on Julian Edelman and take him out of the passing game. Fair concern? -- Marty (Boston)

A. Marty, this is absolutely a fair concern. But based on what you saw Sunday, if you were to make a conclusion on this team, it would be one based on the defense and trying to establish a physical ground game, with a passing game off play-action. That sounds very familiar to me as it relates to past successful Patriots teams. There is one guarantee: This team has always shown improvement from month to month, and I think that will be the case with this offense.

Q. Hi Tedy, always a pleasure to read your comments. Can you clarify to us a little bit more on the situation with Danny Amendola, slot receiver, and, beside Edelman, some overall sloppiness of the passing attack? What can we expect in the next weeks? Thanks for your insights, regards from Serbia! -- Nemanja (Serbia)

A. Clearly right now Edelman is your No. 1 receiver. In the Minnesota game, your No. 2 weapon was the running game. Combine that with the idea of trying to get Rob Gronkowski going, then Amendola is going to get lost. That's the way it's gone recently. I don't know what else Edelman can do at this point. Amendola is a guy who has been hurt in the past, so maybe the reduced work ultimately helps him stay healthy for the entire season.

Q. Why are Tom Brady and the rookie receivers/Amendola still struggling two years in? -- Jeffrey (Helena)

A. This team is still trying to figure itself out. It's September, which is almost like an extension of the preseason, when all teams are still trying to find out who they are. Right now, this team is Edelman-heavy, I understand. But this is also a team that changes from week to week. Receivers have to get used to being part of it one week, and maybe not being a big part of it the next week. With that comes some slower development of receivers.

Q. Hey Tedy, Sunday's game posted a strong defensive effort, although the offense seemed stagnant, especially in the second half. Was that due to the game plan of preserving the lead and chewing the clock, or are there some issues that need to be addressed? -- Ryan (Florida)

A. I just saw it as them trying to get a win and get out of there. Let's get Gronkowski some looks and get him some more targets so they can end up playing him on a regular basis. Establish the running game. And in got-to-have-it situations, look to Edelman. And a bonus at the end -- getting Stevan Ridley 100 yards. That's the way I saw it.

Q. Tedy, Great job on chats and ESPN, love your insight. Set me straight on TB: It seems he no longer can throw a deep pass accurately over 30 yards. Every game, we see him miss at least one open receiver downfield, and he's a mess if he can't throw to a spot/can't improvise to an altered route. If fans see this, other NFL teams surely do, which means load up for the dink and dunk and dare them to throw deep. We don't have the receivers to do it, and it appears what used to be an automatic throw/TD is the exception rather than the rule. We'll be good as usual, but we'll be lucky to get by teams with an aggressive/talented front seven. What's the fix? -- Dave (Winchester, Virginia)

A. Part of the reason is that you're not exactly throwing to deep-threat receivers. As valuable as Julian Edelman has been -- and believe me, this guy has been balling -- I see him mainly as a threat with short-to-intermediate routes. But notice how they re-established the run this week, and then consider how a lot of deep passes can come off play-action. That can help deep-ball accuracy, because receivers can get open on play-action. Don't get me wrong, Brady has missed throws down the field -- this year and last year. But getting the run going can set things up for a return to success in that area.

Q. Thanks for chatting with us fans! I'm a big Ridley fan, but after last year I know he still has something to prove to you. How would you grade his performance yesterday? I would have liked to see him beat the safety on 3-and-1, but other than that I'm optimistic that they're going with him as the feature back in establishing the run. -- Adam

A. I liked what Ridley did Sunday. I liked what the offensive line did Sunday. The running game looks like it's starting to click. If that can happen, this offense can get going, it can become a power running team with play-action possibilities. With Ridley, to me, it's still week to week. And this week was a good one.

Q. Obviously, I'm happy with the win, but the offense still didn't look great. Less than 300 yards total offense even though we won the time-of-possession battle. Passing game seems to be missing timing, run game isn't generating much on a per-rush basis. Thoughts? -- Mike (Los Angeles)

A. The way the game went, that's all the offense you needed. Right now, this isn't an offensive unit that can dictate to a defense. They are still figuring out things themselves, with the offensive line rotation, with working in Gronkowski, figuring out who the answer is going to be beside Edelman, getting the confidence in Ridley going -- and you still want to make sure Shane Vereen gets his touches.

Q. Tedy, I know you said you would really watch the O-line this week Were you fairly pleased in what you saw or is it still a work in progress? Also, can Bryan Stork help this year? Thanks. -- Brad D. (Asheville)

A. Yes, I thought the offensive line was much more consistent. Moving forward to this week, I'm curious if Ryan Wendell gets healthy if they will still have an interior O-line rotation. I'd like to see Dan Connolly stay at center. Or if they like Wendell there, go with him but just keep it consistent. On Stork, let's give it a little more time.

Q. If Dominique Easley continue to improve, do you foresee a 4-3 defense with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich at end, Vince Wilfork and Easley at tackle and Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Jerod Mayo at linebacker? To me, that's the ideal front seven. -- Jack (Western Mass.)

A. That's what I think would be best. They still tried to implement some 3-4 against the Vikings and there were some major problems with it on the first drive of the game, especially versus play-action. Luckily the Vikings couldn't maintain that type of efficiency. The turnovers ultimately determined the game.

Q. Hi Tedy, I was hoping you could take a minute to explain how the green dot works? Are the coaches only allowed to call in plays or can they talk to you like, "tell xxxx to get his pad level down" or anything like that? Also, can you hear them all the way through the play? Thanks and we miss you here in Wildcat country!!! -- Jay (Tucson)

A. The coaches will relay the defensive signal in and up until the communication system shuts off (15 seconds left in play call). The coaches can talk as much as they want up to that point.

Q. Hey Tedy. The defense looked like how we all hoped it would look with Darrelle Revis getting a pick and Jones making plays all over the field. However, stats don't always tell the story. How did you think they played from a 'technique' standpoint, as that was the key word throughout preparations all last weak? Also, how do you see them getting Easley, Jones, Hightower, Mayo, Collins and Nink all on the field at the same time? -- Tron (Waltham, Massachusetts)

A. Once again, I'd like to see them in a 4-3 front consistently. If Easley and Wilfork can hold up in the middle, with Ninkovich and Jones on the end, then there's Mayo, Hightower and Collins at linebacker. ... They didn't have Collins on Sunday and Deontae Skinner was in there. From what I saw, he had obvious problems diagnosing plays. The first drive of the Vikings exposed weaknesses within that defense. Misdirection play-action -- the defense was one step behind.

Q. Tedy, can you give a little insight on how difficult it is for a practice squad LB like D. Skinner to make the quick turnaround and make the start on game day? What are some positives/negatives you gathered from his play? -- Big Al (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

A. I can understand how it can be extremely difficult for a practice squad player to come in and start. It's not like he's had one thing to work on the entire training camp. This defense is multiple in every aspect -- in fronts, coverages and responsibilities. As a young player, you can often get lost in the play-action part of the game, and that's what we saw.

Q. Tedy, with the home-opener coming up, what are you going to be focusing on as the Pats try to build off their first win? Also, what would be your favorite memory from all the home-openers you participated in? -- Anonymous

A. Offensively, continuing to re-establish Gronkowski in the game plan. With a team like the Raiders coming in, you have to understand the load that's been on Julian Edelman. Going against a Raiders team that has been struggling, it's a nice opportunity for Amendola to have a big game -- almost forcing progress. Could that involve LaFell and Kenbrell Thompkins too? Sure.

My favorite memory from a home-opener was whenever we raised a banner. That's something I hope these guys can do one of these days.

Q. Tedy, do you think this defensive team is somewhat like the 2003 defense? Do you think this team at 100 percent with Brandon Browner in the starting lineup will be scary to go up against? -- Eric215

A. I really like the turnovers this defense is causing. It looks like this may be a big-play defense that thrives on taking the ball away. The 2003 defense was deeper than this unit along the front. But they have playmakers in this defense that we didn't have in '03.

Q. Hi Tedy, what are you thoughts on Deontae Skinner's performance? Our LB depth was a big concern heading into the season, as there is a drop-off in talent after Mayo, Hightower and Collins. -- Brendan (Hoboken)

A. That's the one thing I worry about -- the linebackers. If one goes down, it seems like Skinner is the one who'll be stepping in. If Skinner is the one, and if he doesn't improve, I'd be worried, too. But let's give the kid a break. It's his first start and I'm sure there were a million things going through his head. If Skinner is the guy, hopefully he can learn from his first NFL start and do better in his next opportunity. He'll have to.

Q. What are your thoughts on our run defense yesterday? What stood out to you most that was a major difference from our Week 1 game against Miami? -- Brian (Charlotte)

A. Quality of opponent.

Q. Tedy, I just looked and saw Easley played in 28 plays. Outside of the interception, I hardly noticed him out there. What's your take on how he played ? -- John S.

A. This was his second game. He's still in preseason mode. Plus, he's coming off an injury. Baby steps right now.

Q. Hi Tedy, thanks for doing these chats again. From a defensive standpoint what did you see was the difference between the Vikings first drive when they marched down the field and scored so easily and the rest of the game when the D stepped up? -- Dan (Stoneham, Massachusetts)

A. I felt the Vikings got away from some of the concepts that were working. After the first drive, it was hard for Matt Cassel to maintain that type of efficiency for the entire game. But as the score got higher, it seemed like Norv Turner felt like he had to throw more. Maybe a little impatient there. When you see a young linebacker struggling with play-action reads like Deontae Skinner was, I thought they could have attacked that a bit more.

On the touchdown, it looked like that was Jerod Mayo's man, but Kyle Rudolph ran a nice route that made it hard for Mayo to get through the traffic. The play design was a nice fake to Cordarrelle Patterson on a jet sweep. That type of play-call creativity seemed to disappear as the game progressed. The defense ended up dictating the tempo to the Vikings by taking the ball away, but I thought the Vikings abandoned some of the things that were successful for them early in the game.

Thanks to everyone for the questions today. We'll chat again next week.