If Devin McCourty stays healthy, do you think he has a chance at being Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Chris Ploch, Arlington
At the rate McCourty is going, I certainly think he'll at least be in the discussion. I'm pretty sure he's only missed one defensive snap all season, playing as the Patriots' top cornerback once Leigh Bodden went down with his rotator cuff injury. McCourty is smart -- Belichick lauds his ability to break down film, not just for his responsibilities but all of his defensive teammates -- and there haven't been many times where he looked confused or out of place. However, I think Detroit's Ndamukong Suh -- a defensive tackle with seven sacks at this point in the season -- is considered the frontrunner right now for DROY.
Who called for Tom Brady to run a quarterback sneak twice in a row from the freaking two-yard line against Minnesota?
Richard Booth, Los Gatos, Calif.
Those were done to kill time off the clock. When New England punched the ball in to take a 28-18 lead on the first play after the two-minute warning, the Vikings had already burned all of their timeouts. So down by 10 points with no TOs and the two-minute warning (a free timeout for both teams) gone, the Vikings had no way to stop the clock short of spiking the ball when they took over on offense.
I heard last week that Eric Mangini wants to make things better with Bill Belichick -- is this because he knows his days in Cleveland are numbered or because he truly wants to patch things up with BB? Seems strange that the man who tried to destroy everything BB has built here is building and coaching his team exactly how BB has done for the past decade. Is there an inside story to this?
Ah, the relationship between Belichick and Mangini. It is a complicated one, to be sure, one that became fractured when Mangini left New England to coach the hated Jets, which is kind of like your best friend dating your ex-girlfriend: you just don't do it. I hadn't heard that Mangini wants to repair his relationship with BB, but it wouldn't surprise me if he does. Eric has to recognize that BB gave him his start in the NFL, groomed him, and taught him a great deal. And as you alluded to, he still uses many of those lessons now. But in my opinion, there won't be a reconciliation. I won't say never, but it is a far-fetched idea, mostly because of the perception, which Mangini has not denied, that he ratted out BB and touched off the SpyGate saga. BB has a looooong memory for certain things and still will not mention Mangini by name (he did not last week as he spoke of the Browns' coaches), and as mentioned by colleague Dan Shaughnessy in his column on Monday, in his postgame press conference, BB would not say that New England was outcoached -- something we do often hear from him after a loss.
What's up with the Fred Taylor Toe? Is he ever going to play football or what? Maybe they are keeping him fresh for a secret weapon in the playoffs? Same with Sammy Morris. Love BenJarvus Grenn-Ellis, but lets mix it up and get Sammy some reps. Thanks
Roland Lapierre, Greenfield
Considering I was told by a solid source that Taylor would be back from his toe issue after the bye week, I'm surprised as anyone that nearly a full month has passed since that time and Taylor has yet to take the field. Turf toe, which I'm assuming this is, can be a painful and difficult injury to recover from depending on the damage done to the small ligaments in the affected toe. Taylor knows that he is in the final couple of years of his terrific career, and is likely as frustrated as anyone that he's been sidelined this long. New England returns to the practice field on Wednesday, so we'll all be waiting to see if he returns.
Hi Shalise, What rules govern the Patriots' rights to franchise tag Logan Mankins assuming he doesn't sign a long term contract with the team? On paper this means that the Patriots would have to pay him close to top dollar for the 2011 season, but as they did with Matt Cassell, doesn't this best protect his trade value through the offseason and means he can't just walk out at the end of this season with the Patriots only receiving a 2012 compensatory pick in return? I guess I'm thinking that the franchise tag is the best way of realizing maximum value for Mankins, assuming of course that he isn't willing to sign a long-term contract. What do you reckon? Cheers.
Richard Scott, New Zealand
Love the international flavor we've been having! To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing preventing the Patriots from placing the franchise tag on Logan Mankins next year, assuming no long-term deal is struck (unlikely), and I haven't heard that there is an agreement in place which prevents the Pats from doing so (i.e. Asante Samuel). Fortunately for Mankins, the franchise tag number for offensive linemen is the same whether a player is a guard or tackle, meaning he would make around $10.8 million (this year's figure is $10.73 million) guaranteed in '11 if he's franchised. That prohibitive cost may hold New England back, but as you mentioned with Cassel, it is certainly possible that the Pats would trade him in the offseason, perhaps in a package deal for another player, and Mankins would receive his big-money extension from that team. The rule is that franchise players who sign offer sheets with other teams cost the new team two first-round picks to the player's first/original club, but teams can negotiate, as New England and Kansas City did in 2009 with Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel.