The Ex-Pats Podcast is rising up the ranks of must-listen radio, behind the Pats Pulpit Podcast, of course, as former Patriots C Dan Koppen and former Patriots LB Jerod Mayo are joined by CSNNE’s Mike Giardi to talk about the Patriots.
The two former players are able to reveal insight about the Patriots at a level of intimacy that no one else can provide.
This week’s discussion covered tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, as well as a nice discussion on Dont’a Hightower. Koppen also throws out some information on what Patriots QB Tom Brady does before the snap that QB Peyton Manning never did.
Here’s the transcript of the Hightower/Manning discussion.
“What makes Hightower as good as he is?” CSNNE’s Mike Giardi asks.
“Well first of all, he’s a smart football player,” Mayo replies, “this guy, he knows the defense in and out and he makes sure that everyone is lined up right-”
“Makes sure Jamie is lined up right,” Koppen quips.
“-I’m telling you, he’s a guy, you need a guy like High to line everyone up,” Mayo continues. “He’s a great player, but you talk about the splash plays and you talk about wide receivers blocking. Hightower has done a lot to set other people up. He’s in there sometimes eating up two blockers and then someone comes free and gets a sack and it’s like ‘oooh’ you know, everyone sees the guy that gets the sack, but High is sitting there with two blocks on him.
“I mean, you look at the first game, these guys were coming from every angle. Jamie is coming from all over the place, High is coming from all over the place. And you could put Hightower at defensive end, as well, and put his hand in the dirt. You can put him inside. He’s one of those guys where you can put him anywhere and he’s gonna make sure the job gets done.”
Mayo agrees with Giardi’s deduction that Hightower is the most valuable player on the defense, but when Giardi said that he wished Hightower would stop moving over the formation, Mayo had to interject.
“Well, sometimes, what happens is when you’re just that guy that’s always gonna line up in the middle, now these guys on the offensive side of the ball, they know exactly what you’re doing,” Mayo notes. “You become predictable.
“Now if all of a sudden you put two defensive ends at defensive tackle, and two defensive tackles at defensive end, Hightower’s over here on the outside, Jamie’s playing middle linebacker, now these guys have a harder time pointing people out.
“You don’t have a lot of quarterbacks nowadays that they’re handling their protections. You see a lot of...look at Nick Mangold and those guys, they’re calling everyone out and you can see quarterbacks like, ‘uhhh, I don’t know about that’ you would actually see people having a dialogue, center to quarterback dialogue, trying to figure out who’s the mike, who’s coming, who’s hot, so you don’t have Peyton Manning at quarterback, who’s going to be able to figure all that stuff out.”
“So you’re telling me that Koppen just coasted?” Giardi jokes. “Because he had Brady and Manning just calling everything out.”
“I’m raising my hand to interject,” Koppen says. “One, Peyton Manning did not make the mike calls in the run game. I made the mike calls in the run game for Peyton. The quarterback here [in New England] does everything.
“But it’s easier for the quarterback to do that. I’m not saying that the center can’t do it, but he [the quarterback] can see everybody, he can see the coverage, he can see the rotation, or late rotation, so if you give him that control whether it’s early in the snap count or late in the snap count, he has an option to get out of it and change it to what he wants.
“What gets tricky for the linemen, and not everybody can do this throughout the league, not everybody’s smart or can play fast, it takes someone a few seconds, however you process information and get it ready to go before the ball’s snapped, to each their own, but he [Brady] does it very quickly.
“It could be Mike 57, omaha, blue go, and your whole blocking thing just changed. And it’s not a communication standpoint where I can sit there and go, alright, now we’re sliding this guy, you got him, you guys stay here, it changes in a split second and the ball is gone.
“[Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia] always used to say, we don’t have to have the most athletic guys, we don’t have to have the most number one draft picks, we have to be athletic enough, work together, and be smart.”
“And that’s why this offensive line you will continue to see them get better each week,” Mayo chimes in, “especially now with Tom at the helm, each and every week.”
So there you have it. Brady’s in charge of all the protections prior to the snap, while Manning had his center do it for the run game. This makes me wonder if this could have been a tell for when the run was coming, or if Manning’s center would make dummy calls in the passing game.
These former Patriots seem to think that the offensive line is on an upwards trajectory and that claim passes the eye-test. The Bengals defensive front should be a nice test for the young offensive line.