Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network recently joined ESPN and Grantland's Bill Simmons on his podcast the BS report. Lombardi is someone whose opinion I always pay attention to as he comes from an NFL front office background, has a relationship with Belichick and often offers - what I feel to be - a level headed perspective on teams and players drawn from what he's seen on tape.

The Patriots had generated a lot of buzz during training camp and even some 16-0 talk. However, during the preseason we saw evidence that this team was not perfect and had some issues that could turn out to be big problems this season.

Namely, the offensive line. The offense largely struggled to move the ball, no matter who was at quarterback. While it's dangerous to read too much into preseason, there's some things that you can tell about a team. The past couple years, the pass defense was exposed in the preseason, that applied to the regular season. It wasn't a result of a vanilla scheme, it was poor play.

This year, the offensive line has been the issue, something that Lombardi notes. Here is the transcript of what he had to say on the Patriots:

The Patriots offensive line:

"It's offensively, where are they going to be when you have concerns with the offensive line, and you lose a blue chip player like Brian Waters? Logan Mankins is a blue chip player but he's coming off ACL [surgery]. You know, Matt Light last year had, I thought, one of his best seasons. So you lose three top offensive linemen, I think your offense is gonna be in a little bit of a transitionary state.

When you watch the strength of the team last year, Brady had hours to throw the ball. He stood back there like nothing. I just think that that's going to be a little bit of a problem."

On Vollmer's health being a necessity:

"I think ultimately for the Patroits, that offensive line has to gel. Vollmer's got to play right tackle. He can't miss [games]... I've always worried about offensive linemen who have lower back problems. To me, that's not a good sign and so that means durability is going be an issue. So, to me, until the Patriots can prove on my machine here in my office that their offensive line is to the level it was last year, then I'm going to have concerns about how well they'll effectively move the football."

On the Patriots vs Titans, and how the Patriots game plan:

"Wel, I'm concerned about them in September. I think going into Tennessee against that front in the heat and humidity, I think it's going to be a challenge.

But, look the Patriots do a great job of game planning. You can never really evaluate the Patriots because they are a scheme specific offense. They attack your adjustments within your defensive system. that's what makes them so succesful. They know if they get in this formation, you're going to check to 'this', and they have a play that they have ready to run that attacks what you do. So, that's why it's hard to get a gauge on them."

Has the NFL caught up to the Patriots' offense?:

"I think New England has to find themselves offensively. I think New England will run the ball more effectively this year and they've got to be able to throw the ball outside the numbers more effectively. I think you saw in the Tampa preseason game, they decided to play some man to man, get in their face [and] try to get after Brady and force him to make throws into tight windows...

Obviously the Patriots know this is the game plan, I mean its the Giants' [game plan]. 'How [do you] steal the game from the Patriots?' Play this style. I think the Giants did it, obviously the Jets try to do it all the time and I think you'll see more teams do it. It's better than just playing the soft zone coverage and letting Brady pick you apart."

On the Patriots defense as a strength:

"I do think they'll be much better defensively. I think this is as good a defensse as I've seen them in the front seven as they've had since the '03-'04 era, when they were really physical. They're gonna be hard to play. They're not a Baltimore...there's going to be plays on the field, but they're getting there. I mean, their power in their front seven is impressive and it's gonna continue to improve as the year goes on."

Michael Saver 9/05/2012 12:37:00 PM Edit

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