Ask Shalise: Should the Patriots replace Ochocinco with Moss?

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It was inevitable: once Chad Ochocinco let a sure touchdown slip through his fingers in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ loss in Buffalo last Sunday, one knew the calls to replace him or release him would be coming, and they did. On Twitter, on sports radio, here in the mailbag – some New England fans are ready to throw in the towel on the Ochocinco Experience. Now personally, I think the window to use the “I’m new here” excuse is just about closed, but I’m not ready to ship Ochocinco out of town. For one thing, Tom Brady continues to back him publicly, talking of his work ethic and the strides the two have made. And no one has spotted Brady cursing Ochocinco out on the sidelines like he did with Joey Galloway, so that’s probably a plus.

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After a decade in the NFL, Ochocinco knows drops happen; the timing of that one, however, wasn’t the best. His team needed it, and for a fan base waiting to see when he’s going to bust out, scoring in such highlight-reel fashion would have been his “Welcome to New England” moment.

And of course, there are some fans who want to push Ochocinco out to welcome a familiar face back to the team…

Will the organization bring Randy Moss back? This can be a positive thing because Moss knows the offense. I understand the negative effect Moss could bring to the team attitude but he loves the organization. I think he will help add a deep threat to the receiving core.
Donta, Benton Harbor, Mich.
Chad Ochocinco isn’t working out. Should we bring back Randy Moss?
Chris, South Portland, Maine

I think one of these two questions came in before the game against the Bills, but after Ochocinco’s dropped pass and the play that led to an interception for Tom Brady, I’m not surprised to see them. The most recent update to this was Moss being tracked down in the parking lot of a Massachusetts golf course by someone at WEEI about two weeks ago, and he said “I’m done.” Now, as we’ve seen with athletes across all sports in recent years, retirement is, shall we say, a fluid idea. Could Moss be waiting for the Pats to approach him? Possibly. I’ve been a sports writer for half of my life and I haven’t met anyone – anyone – like Randy Gene Moss, so trying to guess what’s going on in his head would be folly.
As for Ochocinco, it hasn’t been an instant transition, but by all accounts he’s putting in the work, and that goes a long way.

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What happened in the fourth quarter with the Bills at the one-yard line and the play under review to determine if in fact the Bills had scored? The Patriots took a time out, leaving them with only one left. Bill Belichick (appeared) angry with the official and it looked like he was penalized with a time out taken away.
Brian, Las Vegas

Both Belichick and game referee Carl Cheffers said Belichick took the timeout, though I can see why there was a question as to what happened. Pool reporter Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, who is the reporter designated to speak to officials in cases such as these to get an explanation, talked to Cheffers and this is what he said about the situation:
“Coach Belichick wanted an explanation as to what was going to take place after the replay. Obviously, we had a reversal [initially the signal was that Fred Jackson had scored, but he was determined to have been tackled at the one-yard line by Devin McCourty]. We put the ball at the half-yard line. The clock was going to start. He wanted a confirmation of what was going to happen at that point. I went over there and explained to him that the ball was at the half. He asked me when the clock was going to start. I said as soon as I was done with the explanation with him that I was going to go out on the field and start the clock. He stayed down there. I didn’t understand exactly why he stayed down there. I went back over there and he said he wanted a timeout. So I have him his second charged timeout.”

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Do you think the ineffectiveness of the Patriots defensive backs might be due to lack of preparation for a particular opponent? It seems like they don’t know what receivers’ tendencies are when they are lined up in specific formations. Recognizing tendencies would put them in better position to anticipate routes and make plays. They seem lost most of the time. Or is that because they play a lot of zone coverage?
David, McHenry, Ill.

I’d be very surprised if it was lack of preparation. A hallmark of Bill Belichick’s teams is that they are always prepared, for nearly any situation. I think the biggest issue with the defensive backs right now is that the Pats opted to play more press-man coverage (as opposed to the zone they usually play), and man to man is much easier when the front seven is generating a pass rush. Without that, the corners in particular have to cover longer, and any corner is going to get beat if he has to cover for a long period of time. Another issue is technique – Devin McCourty in particular wasn’t jamming his man at the line consistently, giving him an easier path.

What are the chances of Nate Solder playing blocking tight end this season?
Dave, Needham

We saw Solder play as a blocking tight end/sixth offensive lineman when the Pats played the Chargers, but that was the only game we were able to see it thus far this season. With Sebastian Vollmer missing the opener in Miami and the Buffalo game, Solder was called upon to play right tackle. Vollmer missed practice again on Wednesday this week, so the rookie may be back in that spot in Oakland.

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Why are the Pats still holding on to Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick? I know they don’t count against the 53 man roster, but it’s not like they were stellar performers to hold in reserve either.
Bruce, Acton

You’re right that with both on the PUP list neither counts against the 53-man, and since neither is affecting the roster and both have cheap salaries (Brace’s base is $586,000 this year, Deaderick $450,000), why not? I know that Brace’s elbow surgery had a recovery time of a year, and since it was done in January of this year, he’s still well within that window. Deaderick underwent shoulder surgery in late January, but without knowing what it was for, I don’t know what the expected recovery time is. Brace has shown flashes when he played, and the Pats must have felt the same about Deaderick’s performance in his rookie season as well.
Shalise, how long before Ras-I Dowling becomes Eugene Wilson? It was interesting when they picked him that some analysts felt his skills may project well to safety. The Pats are carrying six cornerbacks and only four safeties, though special teams may have been a factor for a few for being kept. Could it also be that Bill Belichick may be bringing Dowling along for a transition to safety? Or maybe for a cornerback/safety hybrid?
Bob, California

Personally when I look at Dowling I don’t think he has the physical frame to handle being a safety. Certainly he has the height at 6-foot-2, and while he’s listed at 200 pounds, to see him in person he is thin. It would take quite a bit of work to put the weight on that he’d need, and he just might not be able to do it. Plus, given the injury history he has – injuries at Virginia are why he slid to the second round and he’s missed a bunch of practices since he’s been with the Patriots – do you want to risk putting him at a more physical position?
Did Bill Belichick totally blow it on his roster cutdown by not protecting either Lee Smith or Will Yeatman, two huge blocking tight ends? If he had it to do over again do you think he would have done it differently? After all, he ended up signing a tight end to the 53 man roster in Dan Gronkowski.
Don, Chandler, Ariz.

I think “blow it” might be a bit … overblown, but I do think Belichick was surprised that both Smith and Yeatman were scooped up by the Bills and Dolphins, respectively. By the end of training camp, Yeatman had edged Smith for the role of third tight end, which was surprising given Yeatman’s lack of football experience in college and Smith’s scouting report, which called him a tenacious blocker. Neither Smith nor Yeatman has played in a game for their team yet.
However, you’re right. Once they were both gone, Belichick turned to Dan Gronkowski, though he isn’t a great blocker either. In a perfect world, given the injuries to Sebastian Vollmer and Aaron Hernandez, would the Patriots prefer to have another big tight end to help protect Tom Brady and open holes in the run game? Sure. But for now, they’re doing what they can with the players they have.

When a player is cut, and makes the roster on another team, how much insight can they bring to the new team regarding the Pats’ playbook and tendencies? Also, do players on injured reserve and the physically unable to perform list get paid their contract salaries?
Dan, Bennington, Vt.

To your second question, players on IR and PUP make their full base salaries. To your first, I think it depends. Linebacker A.J. Edds, who was claimed off waivers from the Dolphins days before the season opener in Miami, said that he was able to tell his new teammates about the tendencies of the players they’d be facing, but he wasn’t able to give much insight into the playbook. (The Colts signed Edds off the Pats’ practice squad this week.)
With you having interviewed Bill Belichick for so long, was it a surprise to you seeing that side of him in “A Football Life”?
Tim, Allentown, Pa.

There were some things that were enlightening for me in the NFL Network program on Belichick. The moments at the old Meadowlands, when he got so emotional, and seeing him play golf (I don’t know why but I didn’t take him for a golfer) were highlights off the field, and we of course don’t see how he and Tom Brady interact in terms of meetings and preparing for an upcoming opponent. However, I wish there had been more about the Richard Seymour trade and also the chance to see how he addressed the team after the loss to Baltimore in the postseason that year. I can certainly see how it was enjoyable viewing for fans who generally see so little of him.