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Boston Globe: On Ty Law, Belichik, Spurrier, and Coles


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Law covering all the angles

Ailing cornerstone is Patriots' leader

By Michael Smith, Globe Staff, 9/27/2003

FOXBOROUGH -- Ty Law practiced yesterday for the first time this week and remains "questionable" for tomorrow's game at Washington. If he plays and the Redskins don't repeatedly test his sore right ankle, file their collective intelligence under a similar category.


But that probably won't be necessary.

"He tries to put the stress where the weakest part of the defense is," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Redskins coach and offensive guru Steve Spurrier. "If he knows where that is, then he's going after it."

Well then, forget about soft spots in New England's coverage. Hello, Mr. Law. The Patriots' top cornerback has a tender ankle. Speedsters Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner shouldn't be blamed for licking their chops.

But Law, even with a noticeable limp, has enough savvy to keep from being easy pickings.

"You never really see anybody run past Ty," marveled David Patten, himself hobbled by a sprained ligament in his right knee. "With Ty, you never know what he's going to do. He might quick jam you, soft jam you, or show soft jam then quick jam. As a receiver, you're thinking and not playing. That slows you down right there."

Nobody has been able to slow down Coles this season. The $13-million man is the only player in the league to have gained 100 receiving yards in each of the first three games. He leads the NFL with 391 yards and the AFC with 23 grabs.

"We have to be aware of [Coles], know where he is at all times," Law said. "He's a great young receiver. He's probably playing the best football as a wide receiver in the league right now."

On the other side and sometimes side by side with Coles, is Gardner (17 catches, 2 touchdowns), who is coming off a 71-catch, 1,006-yard, eight-touchdown season and is good enough to be the top target on most teams.

"Gardner is bigger . . . plays with good speed," Belichick said. "He plays physically like a 215-pound guy [listed at 218] would. He's a big target, got real good hands."

Both probably will get a crack at Law. The Patriots have had success the past two games playing mostly man-to-man coverage after showing Drew Bledsoe and the Bills more zone in Week 1, when Law was assigned to Eric Moulds. Since then, Law has been at left cornerback, where he has started all but one game over the past two-plus seasons.

Over eight seasons, three ending with a Pro Bowl invitation, Law has developed a reputation as one of the league's more physical corners. Having that kind of reputation has proved beneficial. Law says receivers often step back whether he extends his hands or not.

"A lot of people know if I get my hands on you, it's over," he said. "But a lot of people don't realize that I hardly ever do it unless I make a point to. I have a short wingspan, so I have to rely on a game of angles. I have to rely on feet and body position."

That's where Law excels. Watch how he covers fade routes. Even if he doesn't get a good jam, he has the ability to shorten the receiver's separation and widen his route, leaving the quarterback with little room to fit an already low-percentage pass.

For proof go back to the fourth quarter of last week's win, when Vinny Testaverde tried to go up top to Santana Moss. Law (5 feet 11 inches, 200 pounds) used his size to keep Moss (5-10, 185) close to the sideline, then nearly intercepted the pass.

"Most of the guys I cover are pretty much faster than me foot-speed wise," Law acknowledged. "I'm not going to get into a foot race with most guys. This isn't a track meet. It's football. If I can cut you off, or if I can use my hands or my body to take away from the route, it works to my advantage. Then I've got the best defender in the history of the game that I'm working with: the sideline. Never missed a tackle."

Law also is adept in the art of deception. Quarterbacks and receivers never know what route he's sitting on.

"I pretty much try to look the same all the time," said Law, who usually squares up on the receiver. "I want them to believe, `He's going to jam.' When you think I'm going to jam, it's going to make you sit there and think, `I've got to get off quick,' and I'll just soft jam. Then, you're thinking I'm doing that, and all of a sudden -- bam! -- I'm coming to get you. It's all a mind game.

"I feel like if I can make the receiver think, that's going to make him one step slower."

Any big play, Law said, starts at the line of scrimmage. "You win and lose most battles in the first 5 yards," Law explained. "I feel like I can catch up with anybody in the first 20 or 30 yards. That's my quickness and explosion. But holding it to 50 or 60 yards, that's where I have to continue to work on my game because I'm not a top-end speed guy."

Coles is. And the problem is, there aren't many things he can't do. At 5-11, 196, he's quick enough to fight off jams and not get caught up at the line, yet big and tough enough to go over the middle. He's a complete receiver, one from whom you can't take away one route.

"Coles has everything you look for in a receiver in terms of size, speed, hands, and run after the catch," Belichick said. "He's a tough guy that will come inside for the ball. He's a vertical threat. He can take a short pass and make a catch-and-run play out of it. He's got real good skills in all areas of the game. I don't see any major weaknesses in his game. He's tough. He's young. He's a good, productive player."

Whether he's lining up across from Coles or Gardner, Law, along with his secondary supporting cast of Tyrone Poole and safeties Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson, needs to produce a defensive masterpiece

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1. Memo to Boston Globe: Coles and Skins don't play in the AFC :)

2. Tyronne Poole, the #2 corner, is not exactly Mr. Lockdown. So healthy or not I expect the Skins to stay away from Law and concentrate on a player that the Colts thought was not good enough at CB to be kept around.

Poole on Gardner is a matchup the Skins should be able to exploit all day.

3. With Ted Washington and Ted Johnson missing, the Redskins should be able to run the football. If they aren't, the offensive line should be taken out and shot.

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Originally posted by bulldog

3. With Ted Washington and Ted Johnson missing, the Redskins should be able to run the football. If they aren't, the offensive line should be taken out and shot.

That was a good laugh, I usually prefer to shoot them in both lungs. AHHA I really hope we can exploit the CBs this week,

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Gardner better be able to step today. He has the perfect opportunity to have a big game. Poole has been torched so many times he should be ashes. If Gardner doesn't have a big game, than I may actually side with the camp that thinks he's overrated. All upper elchelon reciever step up when they have these type of opportunities.

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