By Tom E. Curran
FOXBORO -- Five thoughts from a dominant first half by the Patriots.
1. WOODHEAD WHACKEDWith 8:59 left in the first quarter, Danny Woodhead took a handoff up the middle and got met and met hard by Kendall Langford. Woodhead fumbled, Miami recovered and Woodhead left the field with a head injury. He got checked out on the sidelines by the medical staff for a concussion and has not yet returned. His return is listed as questionable. Woodhead has been on the bench throughout the half and was seen walking around and chatting with teammates. But having next week off is a plus for any player who needs to convalesce and Woodhead would seem to be one now. 2. TURNOVER STREAKWoodhead's fumble snapped the Patriots' seven-game streak of not turning the ball over. Going into the break they've given it up 10 times in 2010. The record for fewest turnovers in a 16-game season is 13 set by the Packers and Dolphins in 2008. The Patriots would seem likely to break that. 3. HOYER GETS YANKEDBrian Hoyer came in for three plays in the second quarter and - after nearly getting picked then throwing one into the Dolphins' bench - got the hook in favor of Brady. Brady played out the remainder of the first half. He's stretched his streak of attempts without an interception to 332. You'd have to expect Hoyer to get the bulk of the second half snaps, if not start after intermission. 4.MORE FROMMOOREPlucked from the UFL, the defensive end continues to be a powerful force for the Patriots since he's arrived. In the first half today, his pressure in the Dolphins' backfield was almost constant. Between he and Rob Ninkovich, there's been a ton of heat brought by the Patriots pass rush.
5. JULIAN RISESPatriots' wide receiver Julian Edelman - who had just four catches for 14 yards coming into this game - had a 94-yard punt return and back-to-back receptions of 22 and 40 yards to set up the Patriots' first touchdown. This week, Tom Brady noted that Edelman has a tendency to press and get down on himself. Maybe this performance will help kickstart him and regain the trust of Brady who's been victimized by a number of Edelman drops this year.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
The Patriots opened a roster spot by waiving defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, but they won't be adding a quarterback to take his place.
According to Field Yates of ESPN, the team has swapped one defensive tackle for another by adding former Browns big man John Hughes, a 6-foot-2, 320-pounder who played under former assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Mike Lombardi when Lombardi was Cleveland's general manager in 2013.
Hughes was released last week after spending just over four years with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2012. He signed a four-year extension with the Browns last season that was worth $12.8 million.
With the Patriots, Hughes figures to work in as part of the rotation on the interior of the defensive line along with Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and rookie third-round pick Vincent Valentine. Unlike Johnson, who was more of a penetrating pass-rusher, Hughes should factor in as more of a space-eating type. He has 5.5 career sacks in 53 games.
Johnson is the latest in a long line of Browns who played under Lombardi to end up in New England. The two most notable Patriots who spent 2013 in Cleveland are defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Dion Lewis. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who arrived in New England in a trade this summer, was drafted by Lombardi's front office as the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.
There’s no way to spin rookie Jacoby Brissett starting a game rather than three-year NFL veteran Jimmy Garoppolo or future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as preferable.
But can the disadvantages be mitigated? Can the fact there is no “book” on a player be helpful?
“I think there’s always an element of the unknown when you’re dealing with a player or something you haven’t seen or scouted as much,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call Monday afternoon. “I don’t know if there’s an advantage there, it’s just that you don’t have as much information on a player or on some scheme that they may use, which then forces you to figure some things out as the game goes along and do some quick self-scouting as you move through the first cquarter, the first half, whatever it is, just to make sure that if it is something new you haven’t seen before, if it is a player that you haven’t played against and don’t have a lot of volume of tape on, that you have an opportunity to evaluate quickly what is going on.
"What’s happening in the game? How much of an impact is that player having? Are they trying to do something that’s disrupting what you’re trying to do with their scheme? I think that happens a lot of weeks during the course of the year based on health and availability, new players, guys being called up, someone that just got signed and you don’t really have a lot of experience watching them play in their system. I would say that’s a common occurrence for us.”
With a fullback or UDFA guard pressed into duty, there’s not a helluva lot that will be altered in terms of scheme. With players like Garoppolo and Brissett, though, the Patriots' long-established offense can take on an entirely different look if different areas are emphasized.
For instance, jet sweep is a play the team won’t use much with Tom Brady except as a “keep ‘em honest” on the edges kind of play. With Garoppolo, quickness when he gets outside the pocket has to be respected so if he fakes that jet sweep and rolls to the outside, he’s a run-pass threat with speed and downfield accuracy. With Brissett, he’s a threat with elusiveness, size and power as a runner. Additionally, if the Patriots wanted to try the old Elway Throwback to the opposite sideline, Brissett may have more arm power than either Brady or Garoppolo.
McDaniels said the Patriots aren’t looking necessarily for ways to “surprise” opponents as much as they are looking for ways to accentuate players’ strengths.
“We’ve got to take the guys that we get to play with, based on health and other factors, and then we consider the defense that we’re getting ready to play against, and the great players and the scheme that they use, and then we try to formulate the right plan to allow our players to go out there and play fast, play well, and do the things that suit their talents the best,” McDaniels explained. “I don’t think that our mindset has changed.
"Some of the variables have changed from one week to the next, which is always the case, and of course, when you get a group of guys a plan and then you work so hard to get ready for Sunday or Thursday night and go out there and watch them play and execute and take care of the ball and do the things you need to do to try to win, and then they enjoy it so much, that’s really the thing that you take the most satisfaction from as a coach.”