FOXBORO, Mass. — It's no mistake that Baltimore?s Ed Reed has been one of the NFL's best safeties over the last decade. His sheer talent and ruthless work ethic combined to make Reed a six-time Pro Bowler and 2004 Defensive Player of the Year.
The Patriots should be ecstatic that he has long since taken Brandon Meriweather under his wing.
The two have been close since Meriweather?s days at the University of Miami, where Reed also starred, and they've worked out, watched film and spent plenty of time together in the last few offseasons.
Meriweather has a natural talent and is coming off his first career Pro Bowl, but he is still working on becoming a headier player, an attribute that will come with film study. The safety position, particularly in Bill Belichick?s system, is tough for a young player to master, but Meriweather has made noteworthy strides in each of his first three seasons with the Patriots. Due to his close connection with Reed, that trend figures to continue in 2010.
"I do go [home to Miami] a lot," said Meriweather, who has been attending New England?s voluntary workouts. "I go down there because of Ed and because it?s home. I also think you need to get a different part of working out. I don't think it's necessarily that we all have to be [in Foxboro] to get that experience. For instance, I go home, and Ed always tells me that my break is too flat. I would have never gotten that from watching film myself."
Reed pushes Meriweather to be better in so many areas, and the Baltimore safety provided Meriweather with a goal this season: lead the AFC in interceptions. But Reed has also pushed Meriweather in his film sessions, and the mentor?s biggest lesson has been for Meriweather to focus on losses and games in which he has personally struggled.
"I usually watch the games that we did terrible in," said Meriweather, who had career highs with five interceptions and 83 total tackles last season. "It?s more important to look at it in a loss. In a win, everything went well. Everything that you were coached to do, nine times out of 10, if you won and you played good, you did it. That?s not the game I want to watch. We could do that every day in practice."
Last Thursday, Meriweather planned to begin a weeklong study of the Patriots? 38-17 loss to the Saints. Quarterback Drew Brees torched the Patriots for 371 yards and five touchdowns, and a bad read from Meriweather led to a 75-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson.
Meriweather?s film studies aren't down to an exact science, as it will heavily depend on how good or bad the game might have been. Plus, with a lot of free time at this point in the year, there isn?t a real rush to motor through tape after tape. Burning yourself out in March would be fruitless.
Meriweather thought he would start the Saints tape by watching through the game as a whole during the first day. He'd break it down the next day, further study those breakdowns a day after that and then watch the tape as a whole one more time. He estimated this process could span anywhere between three days and two weeks.
From here on out, Meriweather said he'll take a two-for-one approach. While evaluating his game, he'll work on his weaknesses twice for every one time he works on his strengths. He's dedicated to this hardworking routine that will be beneficial to himself and the team, and a lot of that comes from breaking down his own game and scrutinizing his flaws.
But don't think he'll ignore his two-interception game in London against the Buccaneers. After all, everyone needs an ego boost every once in awhile.
"I might watch that one," Meriweather said with a wide grin, "for entertainment."