Back in April of 2002, Belichick and Scott Pioli chose to take tight end Daniel Graham with the 21st overall pick in the NFL draft. Reed went just three picks later, and after eight pro bowl appearances and eight all-pro teams, the Patriots head coach may still be kicking himself.
But after eleven seasons in the NFL, should Reed still be the Patriots' biggest concern on Sunday night?
The Patriots secondary has looked great two games into 2012, but every fan remembers the struggles that same 2011 squad had. In the Ravens and Patriots last matchup in last year's playoffs, the New England defense allowed 306 yards passing and two touchdowns from Joe Flacco and 101 yards from wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Can Devin McCourty and the rest of the Patriots' defensive backs do a better job Sunday night?
Ray Lewis is still a force in his 17th season in the NFL, and looks even better than in recent years after dropping some weight this offseason. If the Patriots are going to hope to get Stevan Ridley going on the ground, Lewis' impact will have to be minimized.
Speaking of the Patriots' running game, athletic and massive defensive end Haloti Ngata will have to be contained by New England's interior linemen Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell and — if healthy — Dan Connolly. If Connolly can't play due to a concussion, Donald Thomas could have his hands full with Ngata.
The Patriots run defense has been great so far, allowing just 125 yards on the ground with 2.6 yards per carry in two games. They haven't had to face a running back as great as Ray Rice though. In the 2011 playoffs, the Patriots did a nice job against Rice allowing 67 yards on 21 carries and no touchdowns. The Patriots weren't so lucky in the 2009 playoffs when they let Rice run free for 159 yards and two touchdowns, including an 83 yarder to start the game.
This is a much different team now, and it seems that Belichick has made it his duty to build a team to stop the rush adding great run defenders Kyle Love, Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Brandon Spikes since that game. Perhaps the greatest concern with Rice is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. New England's zone coverage usually concentrates far more on the intermediate to deep portion of the field, rather than the shallow, where Flacco can check down to Rice. The Ravens' running back can be dangerous if he's got open land in front of him.
So who do you think should be the Patriots' biggest concern on Sunday?
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