In this week's edition of "Five questions," Patriots color commentator and former WR Gino Cappelletti talked to PFW's Kevin Fishbain about Patriots WR Wes Welker and the secondary.
PFW: What has been your impression of Wes Welker's amazing start to the season?
Cappelletti: He is having a fabulous year, no question about it. Brady and Wes, they just seem tuned into each other. The best thing that's happening between the passer and receiver is catching the ball in stride, within bounds of taking it and going with it. A lot of times, passes are completed, but they are thrown a little bit behind or something like that, that has an effect on the yardage after the catch — that is certainly part of their success. Just to look and see what he's doing at this point in the season is remarkable. They are fine-tuned and taking full advantage of what they're doing with that combination.
PFW: What have you seen so far this season from the D-line, which has not been very consistent getting after the quarterback?
Cappelletti: Everybody has noticed that they haven't arrived yet as far as a pass rush — we're talking about the edge. Once in a while, Andre Carter has come in there and done a nice job. For the most part, it's a work in progress. They got eight sacks, but sacks aren't the number that really counts, it's the pressure. It appears some of the quarterbacks, (Philip) Rivers in San Diego and (Ryan) Fitzpatrick in Buffalo, they piled up a lot of yardage, something that will be a story come the end of the year if that hasn't been picked up. The two basics are stop the run and pressure the passer. They sound easy, but it gets tougher and tougher in the NFL.
PFW: What will the Patriots have to do to slow down Tony Romo?
Cappelletti: They have to find a way to put pressure on Romo. He has guys like (Miles) Austin, (Jason) Witten and (Dez) Bryant; those are quality receivers and they've got speed. There's not a whole lot of time that a defensive back can stay with those kinds of guys. Romo can throw the ball; there's no question. We'll have to wait and see on what (the Patriots) might come up with. Talking about that particular part of the defense is ongoing; somehow you have to apply pressure.
PFW: What's something they can do to help that secondary?
Cappelletti: I know they're working at it and trying to adjust that secondary to a point where they can say these are the guys that are playing and this is what they will play. Single coverage has happened and that gets to be quite difficult at times, unless you're a guy like Darrelle Revis who can really shadow a guy. They used to have Rodney Harrison and guys like that, and they are lacking that in the secondary. If you play six defensive backs like they've been playing from time to time, that's the kind of back that can also play like a linebacker, and they are lacking that right now. That guy that can come up and look like he can play linebacker and he can, and then drop back or do whatever he has to do. They could have someone like that take that kind of role, which would be helpful for the defense. They could use someone to develop into that kind of position; John Lynch did that with Tampa Bay and Denver; Ronnie Lott; those kind of guys. They don't have anyone like that.
PFW: What makes the Patriots so good at filling in for injured players, the way they have on the O-line and on defense?
Cappelletti: To have guys take on roles that they've been preparing for, that's what Coach (Bill) Belichick is all about — he finds depth within his roster. He just can't bring in new players from time to time and teach them the whole system; he has players that he needs because of their versatility. Dan Connolly played guard; now he came right in for (Dan) Koppen (at center) after he got injured. (Nate) Solder, you've got to tip your hat to him, the No. 1 pick who comes in at tackle. That offensive line has done a remarkable job. Bill is ahead of the curve in that department; he's been doing that ever since I can remember — looking for versatility and working guys in, such as guys that are tight ends playing on the line. He sees something in them, but he also relies on their previous position at one time or another, whether it was college or semipro, that they have experience at it, and keeps rotating.