|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
One of the most unheralded acquisitions after this summer’s lockout was New England’s signing of Brian Waters.
A Pro-Bowl guard in 2010, the veteran lineman has replaced the retired Stephen Neal and has been one of the most consistent producers up front.
Waters has been key to both an effective rushing attack (14th overall, 4.6 average ranks eighth) and an effective aerial assault (third overall, 16 pass TD ranks third) that averages 30.8 points per game, fourth in the NFL.
While the yards and points totals are nice, Waters’ presence on the line has been instrumental in pass protection. Tom Brady has been able to remain upright, being sacked just 11 times during New England’s 5-1 start.
The Patriots’ line has struggled as of late (allowing four sacks against New York, three against Dallas) to fall to ninth overall in sacks allowed, but they have faced the Jets’ and Cowboys’ pass rush, which rank seventh and ninth respectively in the NFL. In the first five weeks however, the Patriots allowed just four QB takedowns.
What makes Waters’ play even more impressive is the lack of experience at surrounds him. Center Dan Koppen was lost for the year after a Week 1 ankle injury, forcing backup Dan Connelly into the starting role. On Water’s right side, the tackle position has been a revolving door between Sebastian Vollmer (who has battled a back injury) and rookie Nate Solder.
These factors have not limited the Patriots offense though, which will continue to soar with the five-time Pro-Bowler and two-time All-Pro at right guard.