Washington a good acquisition
PHILADELPHIA -- Here in Philly for the third Patriots preseason game. Lincoln Financial Stadium is a keeper. Quite a place. Again, let me thank all of you for a top quality mailbag once again and while we are back at full throttle, let me extend my weekly apology for not being able to answer every question. Many of the questions this week dealt with the Patriots running game and their acquisition of Ted Washington for a fourth-round draft pick. In my opinion it was a no-brainer -- you needed a run-stopper at the nose tackle spot and you didn't have to give up much for him. So why not take a chance on a guy who's 35 and probably not far from the end of his career to help you for this one year?
Good job by Scott Pioli for reacting quickly to the obvious need after watching the middle of the Patriots defense get run over against Washington. I'd been wondering since the draft, who on earth they hadn't addressed this especially after the Bills had strengthened their middle with Sam Adams and the Jets with DeWayne Robertson and Chester McGlockton. Let's see if Washington has something left.
On to some other thoughts:
We decided a few lunchpail guys who like to eat -- the staff of Patriots Football Weekly -- to select a few decent eating establishments for us in this week's celebrity restaurant review. Here's what the guys chose for good eats
Fred Kirsch, Head Honcho: It took Fred a while to come up with his, but he chose the tried and true Golden Temple in Brookline. "The lobster sauce is impeccable," said Fred. "Everything tastes so fresh."
Andy Hart, writer: Andy chose Davey's Locker on the waterfront in New Bedford. Casual, like Andy, Davey's Locker has fresh seafood and Andy's tried just about everything.
Dave Querzoli, Patriots Video News Host/Producer: Take this one to the bank. I've known Dave's family for years and I know food is important. Dave selects Great Chow on Beal Street in Quincy. Dave describes it as gourmet Chinese food. He singles out the great vegetables. Sure, Dave.
Bob Doyle, Patriots Video News Editor: Bob gives us something a little different: Punjab in Arlington. "Good Indian food," says Bob. He particularly recommends the chicken tikka marsala, or something like that.
Bryan Morry, Editor: Bryan was going to give us another establishment but didn't like the service the last time he went so he's moved on to his new favorite, Portofino's in Warwick, R.I. Bryan's into the shrimp fradiavolo, the clams portofino and the roasted garlic spread on bread.
Breaking away from PFW, we have one more local favorite from football super agent Tom Condon, who never forgot his favorite place to eat when he played for the Patriots for one game in 1985: The Red Wing on Route 1 in Foxborough. Condon still remembers the best fried clams with juicy bellies.
Nick, Enjoy your work. What do you feel the odds are that either Lawyer Milloy or Ty Law will be let go next season due to their salary situation? Or even Brady in the future? Thanks.
-- David O'Connor, Boston
A: Brady is safe. A team will always pay big money for a young All-Pro quarterback. As Lawyer and Milloy's cap number rise as does their age they're at risk. Much depends on the development of the young defensive backs.
Nick, Over the past say 10 years can you name a player or two that you thought going into camp would never make the team but turned out to be a pretty good player? Is there a player or two who you thought would be great that turned into a bust?
-- Patrick Flynn, South Hadley
A: Troy Brown, Dave Meggett, and Tom Brady on players who might not make the team. Tony Simmons had such great size and speed and never made it. Thought Michael Bishop had a great arm, but didn't make it. I thought Andy Katzenmoyer was going to be a star linebacker. Just didn't like football enough.
Nick, On Sept. 7, the Patriots open up in Buffalo at 1 p.m. at the same time the Red Sox play the Yankees for the 19th and last time this season. (And it is looking like it could be a Pedro-Clemens duel.) Hypothetically speaking, if Boston and NY are tied in the standings going into that game, where would you rather be? Buffalo or in the Bronx?
-- Brett Coasta, Tampa, Fla.
A: In that case I'd rather be in the Bronx. To me, there's nothing like a Red Sox-Yankee series and considering Pats-Buffalo is only the first game, I'll take a late-season Red Sox-Yankee series.
Not a question, just agreement that Crennell should be given the credit for the Pats defense. As I understand it, when Crennell interviewed for the 49ers job, Belichick told them that Crennell makes all the on field calls. That's a lot of trust by Belichick in Crennel and really says it all. I am looking forward to this year's version of the defense and how well Harrison and Colvin will fit in. Hope they can stop the run!
-- Richard Booth, Los Gatos, Calif.
A: Good point, Richard. Crennel is a heck of a coach. I, for one will always give him his proper credit.
Hey, Nick, no need to post this question online, it would probably just waste space. I was wondering if you knew of any good ways to score tickets to any Patriots games this season, without paying three times face value. I had a typo in my billing address, and TicketMaster cancelled my order. Of course, TM never told me they were cancelling my order until I looked at my bank statement. So now, it appears I'll be watching all the games from home this season. Thanks for any help you can give.
-- Jeff Pittard, Brighton
A: The only way is to go through a ticket agency or buy them from a season-ticket holder who doesn't want to go to the game.
Hello, Mr. Cafardo. I am very worried about the running back situation. Do you think that Antwoine Womack will ever be healthy enough to show what he can do? If not Antwoine Womack, then who? We need a running back that is going to give us that three- to four-yard average to keep the pressure of Tom Brady. I do not think that Pats can win and go the playoffs if Brady is going throw those short passes 60 times a game. Thanks for the time.
-- Mike Goddard, Nashua, N.H.
A: I understand your concern, Mike. Just think of two years ago. The running game was OK and they won the Super Bowl. I don't think they need to do too much, just show there's a threat of the run and make those third-and-ones and fourth-and-ones to extend drives and take time off the clock.
Nick, Thanks for keeping us up on the Pats here in D.C. With Otis Smith gone, who do you think is most likely to start opposite Ty Law at CB? Do you think releasing Smith was a bit premature? I know the two rookies have been playing well, but isn't CB a tough position to start a rookie at? Also, why haven't we seen more of Tyrone Poole at CB in practice/preseason games? Wouldn't he be a safer bet to start there given his experience? Is Leonard Myers also in the mix? Thanks for your thoughts.
-- Patrick Boulay, Fairfax, Va.
A: I think Myers is in the mix. He's had to return from such gruesome double-groin surgery. But he's way ahead of where he was last year. He understands the defense. He's pretty fast, too. I think he makes the team.
I know this is a Patriots site but how come the Red Sox players, one of the best offensive lineups in the league early on, can't hit the broad side of a barn with a bat in August? How come the only players scoring runs at Fenway in August plays for the opposing team? And the bullpen! During a pennant race! Why do they do this every stinking year? Why? Why? Why? Sorry. I had to vent. I feel better now. Ignore this.
-- Danny Griffin, North Pole, Ark.
A: Danny, hang with them just a little longer. I was round this team for about 40 games, about half of them on the road, and they're a high character team. They might slump, but they always seem to come back. Maybe they'll be different. Don't give up yet.
Are the Pats heading to the Super Bowl or what? I can't believe it! I have the best team in the NFL! With the new acquisition of "My Main Man Teddy" through means of highway robbery, teams will be lucky if the score 14 against these Patriots. No response n
Has Parcells had any really success without "our" Bill? It seems that with the Giants, Pats, and Jets, he only really turned the team around once he got his favorite assistant back in camp. Are some people secretly wondering if Parcells can hack i
A: That could be an issue, Carl. I think Parcells will turn that team in Dallas arou
Nick, Based on his college career, I was kind of intrigued with the selection of Tully Banta Cain in the draft. To date, it doesn't seem like he has been on the practice field at all. At this point, do you think his chances of making the squad are shot?
-- Jack Virtus, Vero Beach, Fla.
A: He's been slow in re
Hi, Nick. You'll probably get asked this 100 times this week: What do your contacts tell you we can expect of Ted
A: Thanks for the
Hi, Nick. Really enjoy this column. Keep up the good work. Just read about the Pats trading for Ted Washington. This is a great move if h
A: Good question. It seems he has recovered because he passed the physical and he has played in the first two preseason games. His weight has always been an issue. If you can keep him under 400 pounds, you're doing well.
With former Bear Ted Washington and Rosie Colvin on defense, how about adding Big Cat Williams for our thin OL? As far as I can tell, he's still out there and at his age he's probably not looking for a big contract. If he could give us one good year, it would help enormously.
-- Will Thimes
A: Big Cat was brought in for a tryout. He's supposed to sign with a team (maybe
OK, I would say Belichick knows how to piece together a defense, but judging from the poor group of talent that is brought in year after year on offense (particularly WRs), I would say that he needs help on the offensive side. I just laughed when in 2001 he gave Drew guys like Shockman Davis and Sean Morey and failed to address the running game and expected it to produce.
-- Mike, Chicago, Ill.
A: I wouldn't say the offense has been an afterthought, but the emphasis has been on defense. They feel defense and special teams wins games.
Does the Washington trade seem a little fishy to you? You would be a better judge of value than I, but it seems to me that a fourth round pick for a four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle is a steal. Is their any chance that the Bears know
A: What the Bears know is this: he's 35 years old, in the last year of his contract and they believe he has a year left, if that. He's coming off a big injury year, they have other, younger DTs they feel are better suited for the youthful direction they're going in. This is a gamble, but for the Patriots there's not much risk.
Concerning our offensive line,
A: There are no rumors about Pace. I
Looking far ahead, what do you see as the Pats number one concern regarding the draft next year? Do you see them selecting a RB, WR, OL, or CB.
-- David Wessel, Boston
A: That's pretty far in advance, but I'll say running back. I think they'll also go after a younger safety.
Mailbag rocks, Nick. I asked in the first bag about the hole at nose tackle. Now, its been filled. I considered Wilkinson to be about $1 million better than Washington and I wonder if price played a role in the outcome. If so, what do you think about how big a role the financial management issues play in the decisions Belichick and Pioli make? Too big or just right? Not that I think Washington's a dud, but from my perspective, the price tag has cost them Robertson and Wilkinson this year at a need spot, and we're trying to win a Super Bowl here, not just barely make the playoffs for 10 straight years.
-- Timothy Cardozo, New York, N.Y.
A: I was surprised they didn't proceed after Wilkinson a little more diligently than they did. I think they knew he was looking for a long-term deal and they weren't going to do it. Money is always an issue. It's an issue everywhere, really because of the tight cap. They did go after a big-time player in Colvin and in today's game that's about the best you can hope for. Everyone else has to be fit into a very tight roster.
What kind of car did Tom Brady receive for being MVP?
A: Cadillac Escalade.
Do you think the Patriots will win the AFC East or will it be hard for them to win it? Also, what do you think of the AFC East? Who do you think will win it?
-- Ryan, Rockland
A: I like their chances a lot more with Ted Washington. I still like Miami.
Here's an idea. What if the Patriots could scoop up Duce Staley from the Eagles? Duce obviously doesn't want to take a back seat to Buckhalter and wants to start. The Eagles on the other hand don't want this thorn in the side to carry over into the regular season. He could be had for cheap right now, and poses an upgrade over Smith and insurance for career 3rd down scat-back Faulk. What do you think?
-- Joshua Medeiros, Marstons Mills
A: I would love to see it because I feel Staley is an excellent back, but I'm not getting any indication that would happen. I wrote last week that the Eagles will likely re-sign him, then a story appeared that Staley might be trade bait. But I haven't seen any indication that the Eagles are trying to deal him.
I wanted to ask a question or two and make an observation, but first I have to say - I hope you love your job, because you have to be the luckiest guy ever! Following the Pats and getting to watch the best product any New England based sports franchise has put out there is an amazing thing!
OK - now for my questions and observation. I, for one, am not worried about who the starting tailback will be. I want to know: How is the offensive line looking?? What the heck happened to A. Klemm?? This time last year, I was saying to myself, Klemm should step up into a prominent role...and then the Pats traded a few OT's and I said to myself...Klemm should step up into a prominent role...will he ever step up?? or am I hoping for something that will never happen?
And for my observation: I am tired of hearing the wide receiving core referred to as the "Smurfs." They are all quality players. If we need size up the middle, why don't we run a two tight end set (like Indy) -- Fauria and Graham are too talented to keep off the field!!
-- Matthew DiAntonio, Weymouth
A: Matthew, I do love my job. I loved it early in my career when I covered high school sports, college sports, the years I covered Marvin Hagler, the Red Sox and now the Patriots. It's been great. To write sports for the section considered the best in the country is a dream come true for me. As for the O-Line, I believe Adrian Klemm is simply an underachiever. He came into the league highly regarded. he should have been a big time tackle. He came from a passing offense at Hawaii, so he should be a decent pass blocker, but we do see him get beat from time to time. I would think this is his last hurrah to make an impression. I think he started strong, has faded a bit, but he was working with the first team again in practice this week. Don't worry about labels like "Smurfs." It can be a good thing as long as, like you say, the players are productive.
Nick...great mailbag last week! My question...if it is so important for quarterbacks to get game experience to develop, why didn't the Pats allocate Rohan Davey to NFL Europe for some valuable playing time? I remember when we all had hopes for Michael Bishop...and once he played in Europe, it was obvious that he had significant limitations.
-- Name Katheryn Dunham, Kennebunk, Maine
A: I don't believe the Patriots place a great value in the NFL Europe experience. During the Bill Belichickk era, I haven't seen any players who have played in Europe stick with the team. I think they believe a guy like Rohan Davey is better off staying around Foxborough in the off-season and working with the coaching staff on his game. That's what they did with Tom Brady between his first and second year.
Two questions: Asante Samuel seems to be exceeding people's expectations at corner. What were the perceptions of him that caused him to be picked so low in the draft?
Also: Bethel Johnson didn't seem to take very good care of the ball in the Giants game. Is this a concern of the coaching staff and, if so, are there any signs of improvement?
-- Mike Martorano, Tewksbury
A: One thing that probably hurt Asante Samuel was playing at Central Florida, as opposed to one of the bigger schools. Teams see the potential, but then they weigh it against the competition he's faced. Scouts also weren't sold on his speed, most believing he had average speed for a corner at best. In certain defenses that stress speed, he was probably eliminated from consideration. But he has excellent instincts and he's always got his hands around or near the ball which is what the Patriots defensive coaches like from their corners. The Patriots are concerned about Bethel Johnson's dropsies, but I think they feel they have a very talented player on their hands if they can solve him of th
Nick, with the big question mark being the running game, do you see the Pats looking for a proven free agent or a #1 draft pick next year? I WOULD LOVE TO GET
MAURICE CLARRETT FROM OSU. I think he is the most talented back that I have seen come out of OSU or even all of college. What are your thoughts on the RB situation and Maurice -- Jason Valera, Fitchburg
A: Drafting a running back would have to be a top priority. I love Clarett's ability, but there are obvious questions about his maturity. The Patriots don't mess with guys who can't get their act together, and I think Clarett would have to prove he had his act together.
I remember you saying that the last two years Tom Brady had won the "hardest working" player award at training camp from Belichick and therefore gotten the prime parking spot. Were there more than 1 winner for that? and if so, who else won it last year? But most importantly, who won it THIS year?
-- Pats Fan in CO, Boulder, CO
A: Here are nine: Tedy Bruschi, Kevin Faulk, Rosevelt Colvin, Lawyer Milloy, Mike Compton, Bobby Hamilton, Je'Rod Cherry, David Givens and Tom Brady.
I am a HUGE Patriots fan born and raised in Chicago, I was 8 when the Patriots played the Bears in SB XX and to get my brother mad I rooted against the Bears and have been a Pats fan ever since.. You are my No. 1 link to my Patriots and you do a great job. I am making my a trip for the preseason game vs. Bears in two weeks and to see two Buffet shows with my brother (Does life get any better Buffett and the Patriots aghhh). What a week that is for the Boston area Wednesday Patriots beating da Bears, Thursday Jimmy Buffett's first of two shows nearby at Great Woods and the start of the TPC golf tournament, Friday the golfing continues and the Red Sox open a huge three-game series at Fenway against NY, then Saturday Buffett again, along with the Sox and golf then finally Sunday Sox-NY and the TPC ends. That is a lot of big events going on in such a short period of time, how bad will traffic be in that area? I know Foxboro, Mansfield and Norton are all very close? Oh yeah, any ideas on how to get Sox NY tix for that Friday night game?
P.S. Solider Filed does look like crap now! The same guy who designed that also designed the newComiskeyy, enough said!
-- Chris Tucker, Chicago, IL
A: What a life! You've got it made, Buffett and the Pats. It is an exciting time around this area; the gold will be huge with Tiger Woods here and the Sox-Yankees are always big even though the Sox are so far out of it (for the divisional win) now. I know that the TPC is using some of the Gillette lots and then transporting people to the tournament. As for tickets, you can always make a deal around the ballpark.
And I shamelessly reiterate Nick, since we play him on opening day..Drew Bledsoe appears to be a helluva nice guy. God bless him and his family. Now...regarding his athletic ability; What I never liked was his inability to move his feet and avoid a pass rush..not to mention his INTs. What we saw Brady do on that last drive in the Super Bowl, with the composure of a veteran with ice water in his veins, will always surpass anything Drew did. Bledsoe and Marino were a lot alike in that they live(d) and die(d) by the bomb. I prefer a QB who can orchestrate a nice sustained drive. Bledsoe and Marino are in the mold of Terry Bradshaw, and Brady is like Montana...although to compare any of them to those greats is to elevate their status above what it is. What really irks me is the myth that Bledsoe fans keep perpetuating that Drew was such a nice quiet soldier when he
was benched in favor of Brady. It is totally bogus. Just because we didn't see him sulking on the sidelines didn't mean he didn't go absolutely OFF on Belichickk, which in fact he did, behind the scenes. Word got out that he claimed he was promised he would get the starting job back once he got healthy and his resentment was intense. That resentment was born of selfishness, and I provide proof of that assessment by pointing to the fact that he didn't show up at the victory celebration with his teammates. Brady on the other hand was more than gracious in giving Drew a ton of credit (Drew was "nice enough" to help coach him while making millions on the sidelines) and I'll never forget that scene where Brady is pounding on Bledsoe's shoulder pads at the end of the Bowl shouting "WE WON, WE WON"! There was Bledsoe with a sheepish grin on his face no doubt saying to
himself, "yeah, we won alright, just get out of my face cause I'm better than you". Note to Drew, NO WAY JOSE!!! The Pats beat you twice last year, and will beat you twice again this year.
-- Paul DeSalvo, Derry, N.H.
A: I guess we're rehashing this again. It's a good story, Paul. There's nothing wrong with believing that. It's great the Patriots beat the Bills twice last year, but the Bills also went from 3 to 8 wins because of Bledsoe. Now they have a defense. Aren't you a little bit worried about the Bills?
What is with Womack? Will he ever practice again? What's your take on him? Do you think he is legitimately hurt? He doesn't seem too worried about making the team, and it seems like he should be.
A: Chris, he has a groin strain, so it's definitely legit. I saw this situation with Robert Edwards. He worked so hard to come back from his major knee surgery, and once he did he started having groin and hamstring strains, and pulls. I don't know how good Womack is. They have him working out at fullback, which tells me that he might not be a halfback in the NFL.
Running back by Committee? What's wrong with that? The idea that each running back presents a different "look" to the defense, is a very valid one. So why not interchange them during the game, to give the "D" another adjustment to make, just to make it more difficult for the them? As a matter of fact, since the Patriots stress interchangeability, and already use the philosophy in their defensive schemes, and offense line, why not all positions, including QB? Everybody has bad days. When the defense has Tom Brady "figured out" combined with a "bad day" for him, why not determine early enough to bring in a QB that has a different style than Brady, maybe for just one offensive series? The most recurring argument against changing QB's is the damage to their ego. In a "team" oriented organization, that shouldn't be an issue. To much emphasis is placed on "starting the game", which brings up my second question.
They went back to individual introductions at the first preseason game. Was that just to introduce new players to the Patriots fans or have we seen the last of the team intros?
-- Ed Sherman, Easthampton,MA
A: As long as you're averaging four yards a carry and gaining tough yards when you need it, it doesn't bother me who the running back is. What it usually translates into however, is the absence of a dominant runner. Let me put it this way, if the running game is as good as it was two years ago, that's all you need. I do noforeseeee a situation where Brady would be yanked to bring in a more mobile quarterback like Rohan Davey, unless there was a blowout in progress. As for the players being introduced in individually, that's usually the players who request how they're going to be introduced. They haven't named captains yet, so I would guess when that happens, usually after the final pre-season game, they'll discuss their introduction for the regular season.
As training camp has progressed the WR position has emerged as a real strength. Any chance the Pats could trade one of these WR's (Ward, Patten, Givens) for a NT who is a No. 2 on a deep DL? Do you know anyone fitting that description?
-- Joe Chrzanowski, Belchertown
A: A strength today could be a weakness tomorrow. With the injury histories of Brown and Branch, I'd keep six receivers just in case. I doubt a team would trade you a top defensive lineman for a receiver, unless that receiver iTerrellel Owens or Jerry Rice.
Down here we get pretty much zero on what's going on outside of Miami. Since you picked Miami this year you should know that they are having the usual problems, i.eFielderer/Griese (and aren't you happy that the Brady/ Bledsoe thing doesn't take up so
much of your time?) and maybe Junior's instincts are getting in the way of following the schemes and then there's a little P&M among the troops that wasn't there last year.
Anyway, its nice to have you back and I'm still stuck on my admiration for Kevin Faulk. Which brings me to the same question I asked last year -- why do they run sweeps witAntowainne and send Faulk up the middle or off tackle?
-- George Morris, West Palm Beach
A: Miami isn't off to a great start are they? A few injuries, a little bickering. Maybe they'll self-destruct. I think it's too early to determine that. As for the running game, I hope they use Smith as they did against the Redskins - off tackle, let him follow his blockers and gain the yardage that's there and hopefully wear down the defense. I think Faulk should run the sweeps, though I think they try to change it up because when Faulk is in there the defense knows he might run a sweep.
Nick, thanks for answering my question last week. I'd like to clarify my question: Will Brady complete a pass of more than 20 yards in the air? Thanks--love the mailbag.
-- Paul Sadowski, Chicago
A: Of course he will, Paul.
HAHA, Warren steers into the learning curve. What's next? Warren has Tech background. Warren bears down on opponents. Warren sooner rather than later. Warren farms knowledge. Now, I could live with that. The Pats now have karma. No Pats teams has ever been to Super Bowlwl without an Aggie on the roster.
A: Aggie Heaven, eh?
I am very interested on your opinion of this year's Pats teams against the 2001 champs. Do you think that they are better then that team and do you give them as good a chance?
Also, do you think the Pats will be better than 9-7 and will they sweep the Bills again? All I hear from the hype of national radio stations here in New York is that the Bills are serious contenders but no mention of our Pats? Why?
-- Mike O'Connor, Albany, NY
A: I think it's so hard for anyone in this division to win more than 10 games, but one or two teams will, and I think you can take your pick. The Patriots could certainly win 10, though I thought they'd win 10 at this time last season, too, and I fell a game short. The Patriots have a chance to beat Buffalo twice again because I think their defense gives Bledsoe fits, and they always play their best games against him. Bledsoe needs to beat the Patriots at least once to remove that stigma that Belichickk is in his head. Whether he will or not, remains to be seen. I think Buffalo's defense might be disruptive for Brady this year with Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey doing a lot of blitzing. Those games might come down to the running game. Bledsoe is trying to be more conservative and use Travis Henry more, control the clock better and keep the defense fresh.
I really think that BiBelichickckk was counting on Stephen Neal to reach up and grab a starting spot this year and his injury really will have a big impact on this team. I heard current WWF champ Brock Lesner in a radio interview a few weeks back and he said that Stephen Neal was the toughest guy he's ever seen, be it NCAA or "professional" wrestling.
-- Ettore Santarelli, Methuen
A: Neal was really climbing, you're right. Neal beat Lesnar in the national college wrestling championships. He's a tough guy.
Hi Nick, glad the Pats mailbag is back. I think the Pats are going to be pretty good this year, especially with the free agent pick ups and all those rookies. I like the approach Belichickk is taking with the draft. By stockpiling picks he's giving the organization a legit chance at finding the next superstar or stars. Even though Baltimore is going to be pretty good this year, this year's draft was very thin. A 19th pick this year is probably like an early-to-mid second rounder next year (at least that's what I've read), therefore I think that trade was a no brainer, and it gives us another team to pay attention too, which is always fun, especially if you love football like most New Englanders. I'm curious to hear what you think about Belichickk's draft approach and if you think they'll try to trade Davey at the end of this year. Sox are giving me a similar feeling as the Pats did in '01. They have heart, and they always come back when you start to count them out.
-- Rob Manning, Norwell
A: I think the draft approach changes depending on the year and the needs. For instance, the Patriots usually don't go for guys just because of speed, but I think that's what they did with Bethel Johnson, feeling he was the fastest receiver. They look for players who can fit their type of defense. Sometimes those players aren't rated as high by other teams. They've done OK with their system. They've hit some and haven't hit on others. We need to see a bigger impact from last year's picks, especially Branch and Graham.
You wrote in your abbreviated mailbag "I feel very strongly about Andre Tippett being a Hall of Fame candidate. Ditto Cappelletti." First of all, Tippett is not a Hall of Famer because...well...IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE RESERVED FOR SUPERSTARS! He was a great player, but his impact was exaggerated because of his martial artist background. I can only imagine what his memory as a player would be if he were a Jet or a Giant with N.Y. propaganda being a notch (only slightly) above New England's. Hall of Fame for Tippett? Take a reality pill...and after you do please abbreviate this Nicky Two Fingers; for you to type that sentence I quoted above using Tippett's name first and demoting Cappelletti to "ditto", is nothing short of an insult. Not only to Gino but to the honor of The Hall. Gino, as you know, was three times the player that Andre was and was actually a SUPERSTAR. Ditto applies to Tippett cause his type were/are a dime a dozen. I can't believe I actually just said "the honor of the Hall", because it has much less credibility w/o Gino as a member.
-- Paul DeSalvo, Derry, N.H.
A: Paul, what Andre Tippett were you watching! One hundred sacks as a linebacker? Are you kidding me?
Hi Nick! Do you think Ted Johnson will have a breakout year with the Pats this year? Personally, I think he's as overrated as my friend Biz's tailgate fare, but TJ seems to be getting a lot of attention. What's your take? Thanks.
-- M. Richard Simoneau, Jr., Marlborough
A: He's still their best run-stopping linebacker. You need him in the middle on first and second down.
Dan Klecko reminds me of a young Fred Smerlas. Both undersized, around 280 pounds, yet very strong. Both played at bad programs, especially in their senior year, yet each really produced in college. Dan was Big East Defensive player of the year for a 4-8 Temple team that was outscored 351 to 242. I think he will surprise people and be better than anyone expected. A lot can be said for someone who goes out and busts it each game for a bad team and wins individual honors regardless of team quality. When someone like him or Fred gets surrounded by quality players and team they really excel.
-- Geoffrey Kent, Lowell
A: When Fred played he was considered a good sized player and he was a great player. I never heard anyone say he was undersized at the time because nose tackles weren't 320 or 400 pounds like some of them are now. Klecko is really small and I don't know if I believe that he's 280. Until he proves otherwise, he's a spot player. He may, as Bruschi did, prove to everyone he's an every down player. He certainly has the heart and determination.
Nick, From your last mailbag, it looks like you are "INTRIGUED" by Rohan Davey. This question is really hypothetical, If brady gets injured during the middle of the season and Davey takes us to the Super Bowl, do you think the Pats will use Brady as a trade bait or is he still Belichickk's blue eyed boy?
-- Kuha, Waltham
A: Davey has a great arm, but he didn't look very good against Washington. I wouldn't ride that pony quite yet, but Tom will be the quarterback as long as he's productive and wins.
Hi Nick, I just got the Direct TV NFL Package down here so I can watch the Patriots play! Am I going to see Bethel Johnson or is he a year or two away from playing time? And is Antwoine Womack ever going to see the field? Thanks to you and the Globe for keeping me informed on the hometown teams!
-- SFC Timothy J. Beary, Fort Jackson, S.C.
A: They've got to be thinking about him as a kick returner. He's had some great ones in pre-season. As a receiver? He might be a year or two away. he has to show he can hold on to the ball, but if you need a decoy down the field? This guy can really run. He'll stretch a defense, that's for sure.
Welcome back to another year of Pats football. Am I missing something? Last year, the Patriots couldn't run the ball nor could they stop the run. What has changed? The defensive line is pretty much the same. The addition of Colvin should help them but more so putting heat on the quarterback. How are they going to stop the run? What is going on with the ground game? The short pass doesn't get it done, you need the sustained drive supported by rushing the football. Can we accomplish this? If not, might be a long season.
-- Bob Cloutier, Monroe, Conn.
A: Bob, I'm sure you wrote this prior to the team acquiring Ted Washington. I think Washington should make a big difference in teams being able to run the ball up the middle. I think as soon as that Washington game had ended Belichickk knew he had to do something, and he did. Now he has to hope Washington, at 35, has something left and can stay healthy. As for running the ball, it's never going to be a great running team. They just don't emphasize it.
Hey Nick, just wanted to say thanks for the great column...it gives somethingomthing to do at work on Monday.. just a quick question for you...(hopefully you'll actually answer this one) do you think the Pats have any interest in any free agent running backs? Have you heard any names thrown around? What's your wish list if you could have any one on the free agent wire? Do you think there would be any interest in Duce Staley since it looks like the Eagles are letting him go?
-- Eric Smiley, East Providence
A: Staley would be the only running back that would interest me, and I'm not sure he's really available. Rumors are the Eagles might trade him, but I know Chicago would go all out. By dumping Ted Washington, they now have some cap room to make it happen. Don't forget the team trading for Staley has to take on a $2.2 million salary. Right now, the Patriots have about $1 million of cap space.
So much for stopping the run and having one of the deeper linebacker squads in the NFL. The Skins game reminded me of a game last year.... Is Trung Candidate even considered to be a premier running back in this league? Is the Washington O-Line considered to be one of the premier lines? Are we in trouble stopping the run already or is this just a case of Crennel not digging too deep into his bag of defensive schemes because we play Washington in a few more weeks? On the other side of the ball it looks like Spurrier did dig into his bag of tricks a little bit while the Pats intentionally ran some pretty bland offensive plays. Do you agree?
-- Glenn Cipolla, Newburyport
A: I do agree. Again, I think the arrival of Ted Washington should shore up that run defense a bit so the linebackers can make plays. Certainly, the Patriots were playing a very basic defense with occasional blitzing by Vrabel ands Bruschi, so they were holding things back as was Spurrier, who has the biggest offensive playbook in the league, or maybe on par with Jon Gruden's.
Nick, after watching yet another train wreck of a Pats preseason broadcast, I've got to know who's directing these things? Usually the quality of the preseason broadcasts are nothing to write home about, but Saturday's game against the 'Skins was especially bad. Of many problems, the most glaring was that no fewer than four times after returning from a commercial break, we'd missed entire plays, one of which was Bethel Johnson's return for a touchdown. Watching the replay after the fact just isn't the same as seeing it live.
I realize they're just preseason games, and coordinating any kind of broadcast like that is challenging, but good grief. They seem to find new and exciting ways to make a game frustrating to watch all the time. Are these the same crews that do regular season NFL games? They sure don't seem like it.
-- Kevin Leonard, Coventry, R.I.
A: I believe it was the local broadcast by WCVB-TV, Channel 5.
Hey Nick great work. I think you and Borges are missing the bigger picture from the Pats, Skins game. If were BB I would want my D on the field that long. Reason being is the Skins are going to win with O and the more BB sees of the Skins O the better chance he has of beating it when it counts. BB can pickup how the line blocks how the QB moves his head how far the WR are breaking their routes down field.
-- Brian Cregg, Great Falls
A: Good thought, although BB was very upset his defense was on the field for 36 minutes.
I can't help but think our backs would be much better with the insurgence of a quality line! I like the guys we have, they are all "good" men but we need more talent. The clear choice is Orlando Pace. Getting him won't be easy, but it's worth a try. Championships don't come easy, and most of the times they're costly. What do you think the possibility is of us picking up his contract?
-- MSgt Peter Robinson, Ramstein Air Base
A: Pace would be great, but two things working against that: 1) money; 2) his agent is Carl Poston. right now the Patriots are having trouble with Poston who also represents Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy. The Patriots want to reduce their cap numbers, but Poston, a very good and tough agent, isn't biting. To get a guy like Pace right now I'm guessing you'd have to clear $5-$6 million of cap room.
Should we be surprised with the youth of the defensive linemen that the Patriots are not immediately better at stopping the run, especially in the 3-4 alignment with the natural gaps?
-- Bob Orlando, Stoughton
A: You're right Bob. Young guys like Jarvis Green, Ty Warren and Dan Klecko certainly need time. Even though Warren has played in a 3-4 in college, it's totally different than playing in the Patriots' 3-4.
I find it curious just how often you are critiquing Belichickk in the last fe months. I am especially "confused" about taking him to task over not letting his assistants speak to the media and how that is causing them too not be considered for head coaching jobs. You do know that Parcells did this and Belichickk was still able to receive two head coaching jobs and countless other offers. Coughlin received a job after working with Parcells. If you research this you will find other coaches besides Belichickk currently doing this. What doesn't make sense is for you to criticize Belichickk for doing this when in the last two years Rome Crennel has interviewed for a head coaching job and Charlie Weis interviewed and was offered the offensive coordinator job with Carolina. If Belichickk's policy was so bad, why did Charlie Weis turn down Carolina and sign a new contract with NE? Please comment on my comments and my feeling that although you definitBelichickect Belichik as a coach and think he is one of the best, you don't respect him as a person.
-- Jerry Cohen, New York, N.Y.
A: Jerry, I'm just going by what coaches in the league have told me. If you don't get your name mentioned very often, if people don't understand or know what your defensive or offensive philosophy is; if GMs or owners don't see how you react to the media on your feet as opposed to having time to collect your thoughts, then you're behind the guys who do get to do those things if everything else is equal. It's common sense. Romeo Crennel is an outstanding defensive coordinator, the perception is the defense is all Belichickk. Now I know you know better Jerry because you're an astute guy, but to the casual fan, all they associate Belichickk with is defense and, oh yeah, Crennel is the defensive coordinator. I wasn't around the Giants when Belichickk was there but the older writers who covered those Giants teams said that Belichickk was often available to speak to the media. Anyway, Jerry, why did Belichick leave Parcells after Parcells had named him head coach of the Jets? And by the way, most assistant coaches in the league are able to speak to the media. It's down to a handful of teams, if that. Even a very controlling Mike Shanahan allows freedom of speech. Think about it, 22-year-old players are allowed to speak, but 50-year-old coaches aren't? As a reader wouldn't you like to hear what Charlie Weis was thinking on that double reverse he called? All we're trying to do as media is be as thorough as we possibly can with reporting the game and the issues. Don't you like listening to Rumsfeld once in awhile instead of Pres. Bush all of the time? We know Bush is in charge, but we get a more detailed description of events from Rumsfeld, I think. Let's try to put this in perspective. This is a football team we're talking about. This isn't a serious, breach of security matter. It's a football team, not the US Military. Can we all agree at what level our discussion is taking place here? Crennel was interviewed last season in San Francisco, who got the job? Dennis Erickson. Weis was interviewed for a coordinator's spot in Carolina. The money wasn't as good and it's a small market. The other thing JNick, What are your thoughts on the rookies this year? I see that Be-- Steve McManama, Brighton
A: The way it's heading is the rookie corners - Wilson and Samuel - will get a lot of playing time. One of them may be a starter.
What's the latest with Mike Malan? Still with the Patriots?
-- Lee Kay, Lafayette, Calif.
A: Still there. He could be a practice squad player. The Patriots appear set at FB with Fred McCrary, Centers and Patrick Pass.
Like any typical Pats fan, I'm absolutely enamored with the current rookies we have. Particularly Samuels and Wilson. Unfortunately (from a football fan's studyingtive) I'm stuying abroad right now in New Zealand, and as you can imagine there's a significant dearth of football coverage here. As much as I've read about the two rookie cornerbacks, there's no substitute for watching them in live action and I'm dying to know how they're playing. I'm glad to see Wilson's InI'm total up, but im more interested in how he plays every down, what he's lik-- Dae Ho Kim, Weston
A: Both Wilson and Samuel have good hands. They're always around the ball. Both have been beaten at times, but that's expected especially against some of the more experienced receivers. They seem to stay with their man well. Samuel looks like he has very good recovery ability. If he gets beat he can usually get himself back near the ball. Looks like Wilson is avery good tackler which is a plus because Otis Smith was avery good tackler. The Patriots have mostly been playing a zone with the two where they go one-on-one for a certain distance and then let the safeties take them. A couple of times there have been mixups. For the most part they've been very good which is why Smith was let go.
It's funny, I'd asked about Otis Smith's position and the whole defensive back outlook for this season on last week's mailbag, and like many people, was-- Zack Williams, Aptos, CA
A: Poole didn't get off to a great start here, but it wouldn't shock me if he was the other starter with the two kids used in nickel and dime packages. They did pay Poole a lot of money - starter money.
Nick, Thanks for taking my question. With Otis on my mind I'm wondering what other surprises there will be in the cutdown process. I'm thinking Patrick Pass could be an odd man ouacquiredthe newly aquired full backs. On defense, maybe Bobby Hamilton or Rick Lyle as the Pats have picked up Warren and Klecko in the draft, maybe even Pleasant. Any thoughts on those positions?
-- Brian, Waltham
A: I thought Pass at first, but he's been very effective late in games against the third team. I still think the coaching staff likes him a great deal. Hamilton and Lyle know the system and the defense, but I agree there might be one more big surprise before all is said and done. You wonder whether Pleasant will eventually retire, but the Patriots like having him a round to help the younger guys.
With all the Patriots draft choices next year and some players to trade, why don't the Patriots go after Orlando Pace or Duce Staley. Either one would make a big difference for the 2003 season. What you think?
-- Rayford C. Robinson, Jackson, Miss.
A: It's so tough because of the salary cap. You're asking them to add about $7-$8 million in salary cap when they only have about $1 million of cap space remaining.
I know it's a typical layman mistake to focus on the QB, RB, WR while ignoring the linemen, but I'm doing it anyway. I have two questioacquire1. why not aquire a big "jump ball" Keyshawn Johnson type receiver? Seems like that type of passing game fits the Pats (and Brady) better than the small and quick set. 2. A running back who can improvise once in a while sure would take the pressure off the line. Especially with a QB who can dodge but can't run. Why stick with the straight ahead guy? Is it money? Defense-minded coach? Smash-mouth philosophy?
-- Geoff Stevens, Savannah, Ga.
A: Geoff, I'djump ball see the jumpball type. They thought they had him in Donald Hayes. It definitely won't happen this year. As for the running back, you're probably talking about Barry Sanders. He's not walking through that door.
Keep Otis Smith around as a coach. This would keep the morale high among the players especially with Milloy and Law. What do you think about this?
-- Ray Robinson, Kackson, Miss.
A: Good thought Ray, but Otis wants to play. We asked Belichick about Smith as a coach and he didn't seem to think the time had come yet.