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Tim Hasselbeck on M&M: ‘Way too early to be pushing the panic button’ on Pats defense

10.29.12 at 1:41 pm ET
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Tim Hasselbeck

ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck joined the Mut & Merloni show with Rob Bradford and Troy Brown on a Patriots Monday to discuss the Pats’ victory over the Rams and how the team is doing this season. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Hasselbeck talked about the Patriots’ offensive strategy and their need for a dependable outside receiver.

“I definitely think there’s, and this has been talked about a lot, it’s important to have an outsider receiver who can create a presence in that offense so you know you’re not relying so much happening with Wes [Welker] and the option routes and with the tight ends trying to work the middle of the field the way they do,” Hasselbeck said. “You’ve seen the Patriots in the past, whether it’s to try to isolate Aaron Hernandez to try to get matchups and space that way. … It’s important to get Brandon Lloyd involved and have him make that impact they thought Chad [Johnson] was going to make a year ago, and they probably assumed that Brandon was going to have playing outside the numbers. That’s really the biggest difference for that offense. If they can get a presence out there then it just makes them so much more difficult to defend.”

Lloyd has two touchdown catches against the Rams. Last week he had just one reception on eight targets.

“Last week I thought he was bad,” Hasselbeck said. “Then I think you look at him this week and he has two touchdowns and he had two catches. That’s a nice ratio. But I think you need more production out of that spot. That’s one of the reasons that Deion Branch is back on the football team. They’re looking for somebody that Tom [Brady] has confidence in, that can play outside the numbers, and that’s been a challenge for them.”

Despite pointing out the need for a dependable receiver, Hasselbeck said he feels pretty comfortable with the Patriots offense. He is, however, concerned by the defense.

“I really don’t have concern about them offensively,” Hasselbeck said. “Are they going to be great each and every week on offense? No, it’s difficult to do that. … To me, it’s been in recent memory been about the defense — obviously, pass defense being an issue. Seeing the safeties, when guys get running on them, look exposed. They need to generate a pass rush. I really believe it’s about finding a way to come up with impact defensive plays … whether it’s sacks, whether it’s sack fumbles, whether it’s tipped balls that lead to interceptions. You need to do that. If you can generate a couple more possessions for your offense each and every week, with that offense, then it’s a totally different story.”

Hasselbeck said that there is no need for panic as the team continues to develop throughout the season.

“You don’t need to be playing your best football Week 4, you need to be playing your best football when you get into the postseason. With some young players on the defensive side of the ball, I think it’s way too early to be pushing the panic button on where New England is and where everything is going to shake out with them in the playoffs.”

Hasselbeck cautioned that fans’ expectations might be too high for this team.

“I think we’ve just come to expect so much out of the Patriots,” Hasselbeck said. “The reality is they’re winning football games. Can you find holes in them? Sure you can, but they’re good. They really are that good.”

Following are more highlights from the interview.

On the Jets and whether Tim Tebow should start at QB: “I think that they’re nose-diving. It’s not the right move to go to Tim Tebow. The more I watch him, and I’ve been as critical of Mark Sanchez as anybody, the guys around him have not played well at all, so evaluating him has been difficult. … They don’t have playmakers around Mark. They’re a team that gets a lot of attention but they haven’t done anything. I just don’t think there is a lot of talent. I think it’s going to get worse for them as the season goes on.”

On how things are lining up in the AFC: “The most complete team is the Houston Texans. Then you look at the Denver Broncos and you say if Peyton [Manning] is going to continue to play like this, get some rapport with some of the talented players that he has around him out there … that will be a good team. I don’t think we can say at this point, ‘Hey Denver is better than New England.’ … Either team has a chance to win any game that they are in.”

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, Patriots Monday, Tim Hasselbeck,
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