Tom Brady and the Patriots’ passing game has evolved immensely over time, but with that level of increasing success, the Pats seemed to have forgotten their routes. Should the Patriots refocus their attention toward the screen game in 2010?
Former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was the master of maximizing talent, taking a green-eared quarterback from the bench and turning him into a Super Bowl MVP. He knew Brady had the intangibles to be smart with the football, so Weis didn’t make Brady take many risks in 2001 and the Patriots monopolized the screen game.
As Brady’s talent grew and Weis departed, however, the screen game has mostly become a thing of the past. Yeah, they still run bubble screens to the wide receivers, but why not get the running backs more involved?
Kevin Faulk’s skill set is made for the screen game. He’s an effective blocker who can sell the fake, slip out into the flat and scat through the defense to pick up a chunk of yards.
It would also be a good way to get Laurence Maroney more involved with the offense. He’s a player who absolutely needs to be playing with confidence, and a well-executed play that’s designed to get him into the open field would yield positive effects.
Now, this isn’t to say that Brady’s skills are waning and the offense should regress as a result, but teams were able to key on New England’s two passing targets last season. Defenses could put a safety over the top and shut down Randy Moss, and strong-tackling teams punished Wes Welker. From there, the Patriots had little in their reserve to counterattack.
By keeping defenses on their toes, they’ll have fewer resources to double-team Moss, and the linebackers and safeties won’t be able to bracket Welker. If the Patriots get the short passing game going — with guys not wearing No. 83 — they’ll also suck in deep pass protections, greatly opening the field for Moss.
It’s also about efficiency. Welker has been Brady’s great safety blanket for two seasons, but there’s no telling how effective he’ll be coming off the knee injury. Giving Brady a chance to dump off a handful of low-stress passes each game will limit Brady’s wear and tear, which was obviously an issue last season when he suffered two separate instances of broken ribs.
The Patriots still have the tools to go down the field with their passing game, but they can’t lose sight of how helpful it is to utilize the short-passing game and screen game to set up the big play. The offense was good last season, but there were glaring weaknesses.
There’s no harm in trying to rededicate themselves to the screen game in 2010.
NESN.com will be answering one Patriots question every day until July 24.
Friday, July 9: Who will be New England’s most valuable 2010 draft pick?
Sunday, July 11: If they need Brian Hoyer, can he do it?
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