I am not revealing any sort of confidential secret when I say the Patriots have had their problems in recent years guarding tight ends. They may have had success holding Tony Gonzalez down a year ago (one catch for sixteen yards) and Antonio Gates has been checked once or twice, but on plenty of occasions, the Pats have been scorched by opposing tight ends.
Here is some evidence for you non-believers. The Dolphins Anthony Fasano has caught ten balls in his last two games against the Pats. The Jets Dustin Keller had seven catches in New York’s week two win over New England and while he was held in check last season, he had a monster game against the Pats in 2008. Meanwhile, Heath Miller has done good work against the Pats and Dallas Clark has been an absolute Patriot- killer ever since the 2006 AFC Championship.
Now in years past, the problem for the Pats has been personnel. Quite simply, the Pats linebackers have lacked the quickness to cover some of these guys and the safeties have lacked necessary size. Consequently, the matchups have not been real good.
But help looks like it’s on the way – at least for this season – and that’s because the tight ends on the Pats remaining schedule are dropping like flies. First off, Antonio Gates has a dinged up ankle and while he may play this weekend, he figures to be at less than 100 percent. Next, the Packers Jermichael Finley, who was off to a hot start, is out for the season. And now comes word that Indy TE Dallas Clark has all kinds of trouble with his wrist. While Clark is still waiting on second and third opinions, it sounds as if he might be out for the year.
All of this is good news for a Patriots defense that hasn’t exactly distinguished itself against the pass through five games. Now there are plenty of good QBs left on the schedule and the Pats still need to figure out a way to hide (or protect) one of their corner spots. But perhaps that becomes a bit easier if they don’t have to worry about every tight end ripping them apart at the seam. In a season where the Pats have been dropping like flies, this is some of the best injury news New England has received.