Our mailbag will be shorter this week while our fine team at Boston.com works hard to re-design the website to make it more pleasing to our 2.4 million per day readership. Next week we'll be cranking out our usual plethora of responses to the many questions you have about the New England Patriots.
For now, here are a few random thoughts about the Patriots and just about anything:
Celebrity restaurant reviewTom Larson, NESN: Siro's in Hull. Tom informs us that there's nothing like the clam chowder. And if you feel a little hungrier you may want to sink into the chicken marsala or the filet mignon while taking in the ambiance of the ocean view.
Harry Manion, attorney: Our famous attorney loves Mistral (not to be confused with mistrial) in the South End. Harry feels Mistral has the best Tuna tartare East of Aqua in San Francisco and speaks very highly of the staff. His other favorite is Grill 23 & Bar on Berkeley Street in Boston. Harry usually orders the chopped salad and enjoys the fine wine selection. He credits the "high energy staff" and wine director Nathalie Vache for being able to recommend "a $50 bottle of wine that drinks like a $200 bottle."
Here's an abbreviated mailbag.
Nick, Great to have you back. Last week you mentioned something that really bothered me when I watched the Pats last year. Why in the world does Charlie Weis continue to run Antowain Smith, a power back, on sweeps? How many times did we watch those running plays get strung out to the sidelines or stuffed for no gain? To be honest, with the speed of today's defenses, very few teams can pull this play off with any consistency any more. Good luck running those plays in the AFC East this season, with linebackers like Zack Thomas, Junior Seau, the additions of Takeo Spikes, Jeff Posey, and Sam Cowart, et. al. Any indications in training camp that the Patriots will see the light and abandon this tactic?
-- Brian Heslin, Alexandria, Va.
A: I still see sweeps, though lately in practice I've noticed more up the gut type runs. I think they still run the sweeps because they'd like to develop that running mind-set with the offensive line. Like everything else they do, they like to mix it up and keep the defense guessing.
I know the first team offense only gets so many snaps in the preseason and everyone is concerned about who the starting RB will be, but in my opinion they should have Brady throw a deep ball every series. Apparently he completes them in practice, so it might help his confidence to make a few in a game situation. Any chance they'll make a committment to the deep pass in the preseason?
-- Will Thimes, Chicago, Ill.
A: I think so. We've certainly seen some deep balls in practice and Tom himself indicated recently he'd like to throw it down field more. I think Brady and Chad Pennington both would like to dispel the notion they can't throw it down field. I get the feeling both of them will.
What do you think of the Patriots maybe going after Dan Wilkinson now that the Redskins have let him go? Do you think he could be the nose tackle they have been looking for?
-- Ed, Boston
A: I thought Wilkinson would be a good fit here, but after making a courtesy call to his agent, the Patriots have backed off. They seem to be in the mode of wanting to use smaller quicker players in the middle and using them in different slots and angles to create some confusion with the offensive lines they face.
Hi, Nick, Just wondering if you knew what happened with the cheerleading squad. It looks like they got rid of most of the regulars and replaced them with new ones.
-- JC, Grafton
A: From what I've been told the cheerleading squad was streamlined, reduced in size, and is a much younger team which averages less than 21 years old.
Nick, How bad is our offensive line hurting? Brenden Stai retired, Joe Andruzzi and Kenyatta Jones are injured, and Adrian Klemm still has done nothing to impress me or show that he was ever worth drafting. How is Dan Koppen from BC making progress? I doubt he will see much action this year but does it look like he could find a role on the line next season? It seems like this is a major area of concern. Are there any free agent offensive lineman still out there waiting to be signed? Also, is Ricky Waters still out there waiting for a contract better than veteran minimum? If so, don't you think the Pats could offer him a $4 million, two-year deal? That was written up as $250,000 signing bonus, $250,000 roster bonus, plus a veteran minimum salary this season of $750,000, and $2.5 million next season. Basically they could cut ties with him after this season and get a productive back in here for only $1.25 million. This guy still has another year left in him.
Eric Dolan, New Bedford
A: The right side of the O-line is banged up. Kenyatta Jones, the starting right tackle, has yet to see playing time in practice while Joe Andruzzi is just getting back in full swing. Lately, we've seen Tom Ashworth and Russ Hochstein, a couple of street free agents playing on the right side. But the team doesn't seem to feel they have insufficient personnel on the O-line. Losing Stai hurt because I think the Patriots believed he was an excellent player. But I don't think they're obsessing over this. Don't forget, they traded Greg Randall (to Houston) for a fifth-round pick. They seem to think they have enough.
What is Antwoine Womack's injury problem? Groin or just stiffness?
-- Colin Gildroy, Westford
A: He has a groin strain, according to his agents. The Patriots do not reveal specific injuries.
Hi, Nick! Do you think the Pats might look to make a trade for RB Duce Staley? Would it make sense for the Pats given the number of draft pix they have in '04 that they could use in a trade? Thanks!
-- Don T., Brighton
A: I'd love to see that, but my sources in Philadelphia tell me he will be re-signed shortly and he'll end his holdout.
If you have to pick one player on each side of the ball that absolutely must step up and have a great year in order for the Pats to be Super Bowl contenders, which two players would you pick?
-- Constantine Chinoporos, Belmont
A: I would say Rosevelt Colvin on defense and Tom Brady on offense. If either were injured I think the Patriots would be in trouble. Colvin gives them a dimension they've never had and he's what might make them a special defense. Brady, of course, is the offensive leader and an outstanding quarterback. I must say, however, I'm more and more intrigued with Rohan Davey.