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Hannah: Cassel and receivers don't merit passing grades

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / October 21, 2008
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FOXBOROUGH - It's clear to Patriots great and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Hannah that the team's offense is a little hog-tied with Matt Cassel at quarterback in place of Tom Brady, but Hannah said Randy Moss and the rest of the wide receivers were "spoiled" by the accuracy of Brady and have to adjust their approach to make things work with Cassel.

Speaking at the ESPN "Monday Night Football" luncheon at Patriot Place yesterday, prior to the Patriots facing the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium, Hannah said he's noticed a difference in the way Moss has gone after balls without Brady.

"Oh yeah, a huge difference," said Hannah. "I think the difference is Brady could deliver it out in front of him, so all he had to do was go slip it down in that forward gear and go a little faster and he'd be under it. Cassel can't throw the ball probably as accurate as Tom did. So, all the sudden he underthrows the ball. Now, you got to learn to put on the brakes a little bit and leap. It's a different way of running and a different technique."

Hannah said if Moss, who entered last night's game with 20 catches for 300 yards and two touchdowns, wants the ball more he has to go and get it. That's exactly what Moss became famous for when he first entered the league with Minnesota.

Hannah cited a deep throw Cassel made to Moss against the Chargers last week in the first quarter that was batted away by San Diego corner Quentin Jammer. Moss was open and waited for the slightly underthrown ball to reach him rather than go after it.

"Moss is running down the field and the ball is coming and he never lifted his arms for the ball," Hannah said. "The [Sunday] Night guys said, 'Oh, da-dah, da-dah, da-dah [about Moss trying to fool Jammer with his eyes]' Well, that's a bunch of bull. At some point in time if you see that ball you have to jump for it. You have to grab it. You got to take it away from the other players.

"I don't think our receivers right now as a whole - [Wes] Welker fights for everything he gets because he's used to coming across the middle - but I think a lot of our speed-type receivers are spoiled by Brady. They're going to have to learn to . . . fight for that ball, and they're going to have to go up and take it away from the other guy because Cassel can't put it in your hip pocket."

Another problem with Cassel at the controls has been sacks.

Hannah was critical of Cassel's pocket presence, saying he holds on to the ball longer because it takes him longer to read the defense than Brady, resulting in more sacks.

Entering last night, Cassel had been sacked 19 times, two fewer than Brady last season. Hannah said Cassel has to learn not to get nervous if there's not a receiver open right away.

"Quarterbacks sometimes cause their own sacks," Hannah said. "When you're running four- or five-man patterns, the quarterback really has about 2.8 to 3 seconds to get rid of the ball; that's it. So a lot of times his sacks are because he holds the ball too long.

"A lot of times a quarterback can get nervous and he'll [go] outside of the pocket. He'll just start running and do things that basically cause sacks. A quarterback's got to learn to step up. If he runs outside, he's running exactly where the offensive linemen are taking their guy. It's a learning experience, not only for an offensive lineman; it's also a learning experience for a quarterback to know where to be in the pocket."

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