Friday, December 11, 2009

Light has edge on Kaczur along line

Who wants to talk about something other than LateGate?

(Raises hand.)

Rookie left tackle Sebastian Vollmer was listed as "probable" on the Patriots' injury report on Friday, an indication that he's healthy again and ready to go.

The return of Vollmer presents Bill Belichick with the conundrum he's been avoiding since Vollmer first replaced Matt Light at left tackle in mid-October: Who's the odd man out?

Light and Nick Kaczur have anchored the two ends of the Patriots' offensive line for the last three seasons. But Vollmer, it appears, has been the Patriots' best pass-blocking and run-blocking tackle. Either Kaczur or Light is going to have to step aside to allow the rookie to play.

Belichick isn't going to base his decision simply on the way Kaczur and Light played on Sunday against Miami. A close examination of that game, though, might give us a better sense of the ability of each player -- a sense based on something other than reputation, anyway.

Let's do this the way they do it at Let's go to the film and review each snap and grade both of the Patriots' offensive tackles:
* One point for a clean block, for the lineman doing his job;
* No points for a wishy-washy block or for a play in which the lineman wasn't involved -- though those plays are few and far between;
* Minus-one for getting beat on a pass-rush or pushed back on a run.

It's entirely subjective. But it's all we've got.

First half, first drive (6 plays)
Kaczur: 4
Light: 2
On a play-action pass that took a long time to develop, Light couldn't hold off Joey Porter long enough to keep him from drilling Brady in the ribs. Kaczur, on the other hand, boxed Keith Langford away from Brady until the ball was gone.

First half, second drive (13 plays)
Kaczur: 4
Light: 11
Kaczur picked up a couple of minuses on this drive -- including one on a third-and-7 pass in which he almost let his assigned guy get to Brady. But both Kaczur and Light executed textbook blocks on Kevin Faulk's rushing touchdown, rotating on an axis to keep Langford and Jason Taylor out of the play, respectively. Dan Koppen got downfield for the key block on Channing Crowder, but both Kaczur and Light did their jobs.

First half, third drive (4 plays)
Kaczur: 0
Light: 0
Light released clean on a third-and-2 screen pass but failed to block Vontae Davis, allowing the cornerback to drill Kevin Faulk inches short of the first-down marker. Randy Moss didn't make much of an effort to go after Gibril Wilson, either.

First half, fourth drive (7 plays)
Kaczur: 4
Light: 3
On the very next play, Light overran linebacker Akin Ayodele on a wide-receiver screen to the left. On the fourth-and-1 run the Dolphins stuffed, Kaczur finished the play flat on his back two yards deep in the Patriots' backfield.

First half, 30 total plays
Kaczur: 12
Light: 16

Second half, first drive (2 plays)
Kaczur: 1
Light: 1
Brady took a shot when he threw his 81-yard touchdown pass to Sam Aiken, but that was because defensive end Randy Starks torched Koppen one-on-one.

Second half, second drive (3 plays)
Kaczur: 3
Light: 2
On a third-and-6 pass down the right side for Moss, Light and Kaczur handled Porter and Cameron Wake, respectively. The pressure again came from the inside when Starks again got past Koppen.

Second half, third drive (6 plays)
Kaczur: 5
Light: 4
Jason Taylor came after Light on a deep pass to Welker in the middle, but by the time Brady released the ball, Light had pushed him a good 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Two plays later, on a play designed to be a wide-receiver screen, all Kaczur and Light did was dive at the feet of their assigned defenders -- but on a quick pass, their only job was to make sure their guys couldn't get their hands up. If they were looking down at the offensive linemen rolling into their ankles, they weren't going to bat away any passes.

Second half, fourth drive (7 plays)
Kaczur: 5
Light: 6
On the first-and-goal run before Brady threw his interception, Kaczur found himself pushed back at the line of scrimmage by Tony McDaniel, and the Dolphins plugged all the gaps to drop Sammy Morris for a loss of a yard.

Second half, fifth drive (3 plays)
Kaczur: 1
Light: 3
On the third-and-6 run by Faulk, Kaczur couldn't get Starks off the line of scrimmage, and Crowder quickly plugged the gap.

Second half, sixth drive (3 plays)
Kaczur: 1
Light: 2
The Patriots ran a stretch play to the edge on first-and-10 -- but they did so away from right side where both Light and Kaczur were. Instead, they ran to the left behind Mark LeVoir and the two tight ends -- and the play went nowhere.

Second half, seventh drive (3 plays)
Kaczur: 1
Light: 3
On the final meaningful play of the game, Kaczur got himself steamrolled by Wake, allowing the hit on Brady that caused him to throw it straight to Crowder.

Second half, 27 total plays
Kaczur: 17
Light: 21

Game, 57 total plays
Kaczur: 29
Light: 37

Edge to Light. Look for the two-time Pro Bowler to start at left tackle with Vollmer at right tackle on Sunday against Carolina.

(, for what it's worth, disagrees.)

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