FOXBORO, Mass. — Listening to interviews in the locker room with New England Patriots players this week, it’s as if the Indianapolis Colts only have three players.
The majority of questions posed to Patriots players have been related to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and outside linebacker Robert Mathis. While those are the three best players in Indianapolis, there are other quality players to focus on.
The Colts have two quality bookend offensive tackles in Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus, one of the best run-stopping five-technique defensive ends in the NFL in Cory Redding, and cornerback Vontae Davis, who allowed just 47 catches on 90 targets for 587 yards this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Those names are not quite as sexy as Luck, Hilton and Mathis, but they are players New England will have to game-plan around.
In this week’s No-Huddle Offense, I’ll be throwing out my thoughts on the Patriots’ entire season and the upcoming matchup against the Colts.
1. Aaron Dobson had the most productive rookie season by a Patriots wide receiver under Bill Belichick.
Prior to Aaron Dobson‘s 2013 season, newly signed Colts wideout Deion Branch had set the bar for rookie receivers under Bill Belichick in New England. Branch had 43 catches for 489 yards with two touchdowns in 13 games with the Patriots in 2002.
Those numbers were important coming into the season, because either Dobson or fellow rookie wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins or Josh Boyce would need to step up for the Patriots this season with so many key players missing. Dobson topped Branch with 519 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games. Thompkins nearly passed Branch with 466 yards and four touchdowns on 32 catches.
2. Nate Solder compares Robert Mathis to Junior Gallette.
Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder gave an interesting player comp for Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis on Wednesday: New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Junior Gallette. Both players were very productive this season. Gallette had 12 sacks to Mathis’ 19.5.
Solder helped limit Gallette to zero sacks and four hurries in the Patriots’ Week 6 win over the Saints.
3. Logan Ryan and Kanorris Davis played against Hilton in college.
Rutgers faced off against Florida International on Sept. 11, 2010, when Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan was a freshman. Ryan recalled that FIU used Hilton much like the Colts do today: in a number of different roles and positions.
Special teamer Kanorris Davis played linebacker at Troy University, which formerly shared the Sun Belt Conference with FIU. He recalled that Hilton’s injuries limited him in college, but that he was explosive and showed the same great effort that he does in the pros. Davis also said it looks like Hilton got bigger since college.
4. Justin Green says the Patriots can jam Hilton.
There’s some fear given Hilton’s shiftiness that it would be dangerous to jam the second-year wideout. But rookie cornerback Justin Green says he’s seen some teams have success against Hilton in press coverage. Hilton’s a smaller guy, so that could be the key to contain him.
5. Darius Butler will have his hands full.
Former Patriots second-round pick Darius Butler is now Indianapolis’ main slot cornerback. The New England castoff will have his hands full with Patriots receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman.
Butler has improved a lot since leaving New England, but perhaps being back inside the walls of Gillette Stadium will bring back some bad memories. Butler had his worst game of the season against the Denver Broncos, allowing six catches for 117 yards. A player New Englanders are quite familiar with, wide receiver Wes Welker, had three of his seven catches in that game against Butler for 62 out of his 96 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.
Butler came to New England in the same 2009 draft class as Edelman. Edelman and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer are the only ones who remain.
6. Thompkins is forced to step up.
With Dobson out and Boyce on injured reserve, Thompkins will be forced to step up Saturday. The rookie wideout has had an up-and-down season, but he has to put that behind him now that New England is in the postseason.
7. Stephen Gostkowski pumps himself up with Enya.
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostskowski held an entertaining session with the media Thursday. He talked about how he tries to go into games calm, not listening to pump-up music and taking supplements like his teammates. Remaining calm includes listening to Enya, Gostkowski joked.
8. Philip Rivers is the perfect quarterback to go to Denver and beat Peyton Manning.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is 2-0 in the playoffs against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and 0-2 in the playoffs against the Patriots. History can’t always predict the present or the future, but those numbers certainly work in New England’s favor — if the Patriots can beat the Colts, of course.
9. Chris Jones has been a popular man in the locker room.
Patriots rookie defensive tackle went to Brownsburg High School in Indiana. A swarm of Indianapolis media has been talking to him all week. He said he doesn’t really think about the Colts being a hometown team, just New England’s current opponent.
10. Luck called Devin McCourty a premier player.
I asked Luck how difficult it is to throw deep against the Patriots with safety Devin McCourty patrolling the back end. Here’s what he had to say:
“I think it’s obvious watching film that he is a great student of the game, per se. He has a great feel. He’s a premier player, so we’ll be aware of where he is.”
11. The height difference between Nate Solder and Danny Amendola is hilarious.
Look at this year’s team picture. It’s just fantastic that the team’s tallest player, 6-foot-8 Solder (No. 77), is standing next to one of the team’s shortest, 5-foot-11 Amendola (No. 80). Click the picture to make it larger.
Photo via Facebook/New England Patriots