Let the real games begin
After a long training camp, four preseason games, this reporter can't wait for the real thing to start next Sunday. By that time, I'll have made my predictions for the upcoming season. It's always fun to go back and see what you predicted prior to each season because you normally get a good laugh. You wonder how on earth you picked THAT team to win a division or a Super Bowl.
I was a game off on the Patriots last season. I remember in my gut I wanted to pick 9-7, but I let the preseason games dictate my pick, and I went for 10-6.
I'm trying desperately to resist the temptation I feel to over-inflate the Patriots record based on the preseason between now and next Sunday when the Globe football preview hits the newsstands. Whether I'm strong enough to resist remains to be seen.
Here were my picks in the Globe preview section prior to the regular season last season:
AFC EAST - New York Jets. Jets prevail in tremendous battle with wild-card Patriots for the AFC East title. Vinny, Curtis and very talented players on defense get the job done.
AFC North - Pittsburgh. Dominate the regular season.
AFC South - Indianapolis. Manning escapes Belichick, while Tony Dungy improves the defense.
AFC West - Oakland. Raiders get all A's.
NFC EAST - Philadelphia. Gotta love the way Jeffrey Lurie runs this organization.
NFC NORTH - Green Bay. For you, Terry.
NFC SOUTH - Tampa Bay. Gruden Magic.
NFC WEST - St. Louis. Silly offensive numbers.
AFC Champion - J-E-T-S! Curtis Martin gets what he deserves.
NFC Champion - Tampa Bay. Tough defense and much improved offense.
Super Bowl winner - Tampa Bay. Bucs justify their deal with Oakland for Gruden.
Let's analyze and disect. Jets pick was pretty good. They went on to win the division and then lost to Oakland in the AFC divisional playoffs. Never did I think Chad Pennington was in the equation. They did "prevail in a tremendous wild card battle with the Patriots (OK, Miami was in it, too)." Pittsburgh won the AFC North with a 10-5-1 record over 9-7 Cleveland. Messed up on Indy, which finished 10-6 a game behind Tennessee. Picked Oakland right. Picked the Eagles in the NFC East and the Packers did win the North and the Bucs the NFC South. Out to lunch on the St. Louis pick. Picked the Jets over Oakland, which was wrong. At least I got the Super Bowl winner right.
What do I think of the 4-0 record? I don't dismiss it. I'm not going to say it's irrelevant as much as I would like to. Why? You have to trust your eyes. The Patriots defense should be among the top 10, if not the top five in the league this season. They have a pass rush because of Rosevelt Colvin, a run-stopper in Ted Washington, who should help Ted Johnson make plays, a top corner in Ty Law, and two hard-hitting safeties in Rodney Harrison and Lawyer Milloy.
The offense is OK. Only Tampa Bay scored more points in the preseason (108). Brady will always be a top QB in the league. Everyone in Patriots Nation wishes they could have addressed some areas such as one more offensive lineman and a running back, but with a strict salary cap it's awfully hard to address every need in one off season.
Of concern is special teams. It's too early to say they miss Tebucky Jones, but kick coverage hasn't been top notch so far and that's where Jones excelled. Barring injury and despite a wicked schedule, this should be a playoff team.
Look for a big fight in the courts from Yarde Metals vs. the Patriots. The Bristol, Conn., firm wants its six season tickets back after one of their male ticket-bearers was arrested for using a women's rest room during the Pats-Packers game last season. The patron waited 20 minutes in line to use the men's room. That was at a time when Yarde contends that the Patriots didn't have the right ratio of men's to women's rest rooms. The Patriots have a behavior code and they're sticking to it. Yarde feels this policy is unfair and they're going all out. Yarde filed an injunction to prevent the revocation of tickets and a Suffolk Superior judge should rule on it shortly, which will dictate what the next step for Yarde would be.
Team Marketing Report does a Fan Cost Index on the price of going to a football game around the league. As you would expect, the Patriots are No. 1. Based on their 2002 average price for a ticket, parking and concessions, it cost a family of four an average of $408.64 to attend a game at Gillette. Second to the Pats were the Redskins at $384.12. The Patriots aren't alone in being an expensive buy in Boston as the Red Sox also rank No. 1 in major league baseball, while the Bruins and Celtics are also in the higher bracket among hockey and basketball teams. It just costs a lot to to watch a sporting event in Boston.
Didn't get a chance to extend my sympathies to the Coleman family. Former Red Sox broadcaster Ken Coleman passed away last week. I spent many years traveling with Ken on the Red Sox beat and he was not only a legendary broadcaster, but a great person.
Celebrity restaurant review
Dom DiMaggio, Red Sox great: Dom splits his time between Florida and Massachusetts, but he does enjoy the Oceanic in New Bedford. "Service, atmosphere, good food and a fair price. You can't beat that," said Dom. DiMaggio, who says he wishes Red Sox fans would not give up on beating the Yankees for the divisional title, enjoys the roast duck on the bone. "I don't like it sliced. It has to be on the bone," insists Dom, who occasionally heads down to Pawtucket for dinner with PawSox owner Ben Mondor at McCoy Stadium. DiMaggio's other favorite spot is the Mattapoisett Inn in Mattapoisett, owned and operated by his good friend, Mark Goddu and his wife.
Randy Vataha, Game Plan Inc.: This former Patriots receiver loves Houston's in Fanuil Hall according to son Collin, educated at Williams, who has joined the Game Plan Inc. firm as an associate. According to Collin, who gave us permission to use his father's favorite restaurant in print, Randy loves the baby back ("fall off the bone") ribs.
Alan Nero, sports agent: Alan is a former URI wrestling coach turned super-agent listing Randy Johnson and a host of baseball and football clients at his Chicago-based firm. Nero enjoys Pat Orlando's in Johnston, R.I., especially the house special veal chop covered with a chopped Italian salad.
Hi, Nick. It's wonderful to have you back. After reading SI's cover story on The Tuna, I couldn't help but be amused by Jerry Jones' surprise at the depth of Parcell's interest in everything. Didn't Jones know about Bob Kraft and the "I couldn't buy the groceries" complaint from Parcells?
-- Jim Feeney, Westport Point
A: That is surprising. I'm sure Jerry did his homework on Bill and I know that he spoke to Bob Kraft about him.
Finally, the Pats rescue us from yet another year of futility by the Red Sox! Glad to have your mailbag back online, Nick, now we have some real sports to talk about. I'm excited about the Ted Washington acquisition, Nick. This guy's the real deal as far as nosetackles go. Here's hoping he stays healthy the whole year to be a main stay on this year's defense. He'll give Colvin and Seymour plenty of chances to make big plays. My question for you is about David Givens. Is he the real deal or am I getting too happy about the pre-season show he is putting on? I knew he was a pretty good special teamer last year and he's showing it again this year, but I'm very impressed with his receiving abilities. Is he that good or is he doing it against the other team's second stringers? It would be a nice "little" receiving corps for the Pats if he plays as well in the regular season.
-- Name Eileen MacLeod, Weymouth
A: Agree on TW although I still hold reservations about whether he'll hold up at his age. Givens has come a long way. He dropped a couple of balls last year in key spots, but he worked on his hands in the off season (taking about 200 practice catches per day). He's their biggest receiver so that helps. He did miss the final two pre-season games with a leg injury, which might set him back.
I have to say I am very excited about the Ted Washington deal. I see a guy who has been to four of the last six Pro Bowls, and missed last year due to injury. It seems to me that he should have a (no pun intended) huge impact on the front seven in the run defense. Is there anything you can tell me about him that would either justify my excitement or (hopefully not) anything that will bring me back down to earth?
-- Noe Lopes, Boston
A: Only Ted's age and the fact he's returning from a serious injury (broken leg).
Will Ted Washington be the answer to the Pats run defense problems?
-- Jolyon Yates, Melrose
A: He could be a big part of the puzzle. He gets double-teamed which is the best possible scenario. That means Richard Seymour might have single coverage some of the time. That can only be good.
Hi, Nick, love the column! Call me an overly optimistic season ticket holder but I think this promises to be a great season for the Pats, especially considering all of the upgrades on defense. Have the Pats modified the hard line approach they are taking with pulling people's season tickets over seemingly minor infractions? Secondly, I am heading out to Buffalo for the opener, any restaurant suggestions? Thanks.
-- Lou, Boston
A: Lou, the Patriots policy remains the same. If you violate their behavior code your tickets will be revoked. So far challenges against them in court have gone in their favor. There are still a couple of cases out there and we'll see how they go.
I hear a lot about Big Bill's (Parcells) inability to be a sucessful head coach without little Bill (Belichick) as a defensive coordinator. What is Parcells' NFL record without Belichick?
-- Jay Caron, King George VA
A: Parcells is the 13th winningest coach with 149-106-1 (.584) record. His record with Belichick as his defensive coordinator was 65-30 from 1985-90 with the New York Giants. Belichick was not the defensive coordinator in the one season he spent with Parcells in New England or the three years with the Jets. In both of those situations, Belichick was the assistant head coach and in charge of the secondary. Al Groh was the defensive coordinator.
Huge Pats fan! A few pointed questions for you, Mr. Cafardo: 1. Should we expect Washington to be a major contributor or did the Pats take a flyer on a guy near the end of his run? 2. Will Samuel start opening day, and is he as good or better than he has looked in games so far? 3. Will Kenyatta Jones be the starting right tackle; will he ever return to action? 4. Who are some known names that you expect to get cut? Klemm? Womack? Jones? Centers? Lyle? Ward? Patten?
-- Andrew Hughes, Washington D.C.
A: Washington should be a major contributor for 20-25 plays. You have to manage his playing time to get the most out of him. It appears Samuel is the guy, but that is not official. Kenyatta was placed on physically unable to perform list which means they've lost him for at least six weeks and perhaps more. Adrian Klemm appears to be the starter in the interim barring a free-agent signing. As far as cuts, I'd say Ward is on the bubble but he had a very good finale. I think you have to keep Lyle (although he got hurt in the finale) because he can play nose tackle. Patten will likely start. Centers could be on the bubble because Pass has had a good camp, but the Patriots will probably keep five backs and Centers is among them.
I find myself in Redskins country -- how painful -- but logistically it is good for scouting purposes. I love how NE addressed the need at NT after looking at their roster and realizing the need. Now I think another link that Pats need to address for this years is RB and here in Washington I believe any of the 4 RBs currently vying for an opportunity -- Trung Canidate (who they would not trade), Ladell Betts, Kenny Watson, Chad Morton (not a starter), and even Rock Cartwright -- could help. Although Washington's offensive line is developing, these backs (Betts, Watson, or Cartwright) are running impressively and could help the Pats, I believe. What is your take on this situation? Washington has a glut, keeping in mind they let Stephen Davis go (ah Spurrier, what a joker), is there any talk up there on Washington's RBs, particularly since they played two weeks back? Thanks for your answer.
-- Toby Elwin, Arlington, Va.
A: No, haven't heard mention of Washington's running backs. I'm sure the Patriots want to get Chad Morton for his return capabilities, but I doubt the Redskins would let him go.
When do you answer the questions? In Friday's mail? All I see are the old questions. Do you mean on TV; if so when and where?
-- Bob Trott, Weymouth
A: Bob, the answers are usually posted by Friday afternoon on Boston.com.
Hey, Nick, I know there were some concerns about Rodney Harrison's ability to defend the pass. How has he looked in preseason? With so many new people in the secondary, how long will it take for that unit to jell? Thanks!
-- Brian, Portsmouth, N.H.
A: He's looked OK, Brian. He seems to be playing more the up safety and Milloy more the deep safety. At least that's the way it was in pre-season, so he hasn't had as many coverage situations as Milloy.
Nick, Thanks for responding to my question about QB interchangeablity last week. My example of replacing Brady if he was having a bad day was a bad one. Even though that is the most common reason for replacing a QB, what I was thinking was that since they change personnel on almost every play, and they like "trick" or "gimmick" plays, why not bring in Huard or Davey on a second-and-two, for example, and throw a bomb. Just the change in personnel would have the "D" off-guard for a while, although once they were successful and other teams had it on film, they would have to try variations. Didn't they do that with Bishop in a couple of games, a couple of years back? I would think that since the Belichick/Weis/Crennel coalition likes the "mental" game as much as the "physical" game, the interchangeabily of players should be exploited. Plus you shouldn't have to worry about the problem of a backup QB not being ready to play as happened in Buffalo a few years ago. Everybody would be ready at all times, knowing the chances of their "number being called" is higher. A couple of observations to questions in your last mailbag: Drew Bledsoe will continue to help the Patriots, while a Buffalo Bill. He's good for at least one win each, against Miami and the Jets, and the Patriots should be able to dominate the Bills for two wins, despite the Bills' "upgrades" (Spikes, etc.). I think the lack of access to Crennel and Weis is more of a result of their workload, not secrecy. The way some press people want to blow an unguarded word or expression out of proportion, it's easier to not say anything, than to spend time trying to correct misinterpreted statements. Who wants to waste time explaining why a coach called a player "she." I think Belichick correctly controls media access. The fewer the distractions, the better. The "beauty" of football is the game, not the media "circus" that performs around it.
-- Ed Sherman, Easthampton
A:Good points, Ed. I think if you had a quarterback who was appreciably different in style from Brady, I'd say go for it, but Huard is very similar and Davey isn't really as mobile as people think. If they had a Michael Bishop who could really play, do it, but a defense isn't going to change for Huard. As for Bledsoe, proponents of the Bledsoe deal to a divisional rival defend the move as you have. I still say the Patriots added five wins to the Bills' win total last season. Your theory works as long as the Patriots beat the Bills twice a season and as long as they finish ahead of them in the standings. There was only a one-game difference last season, and if not for a miracle win over Miami, the Patriots and Bills would have tied at 8-8.
So let me get this straight, Nick. It was only OK to talk about the Bledsoe vs. Brady situation for the first year? And even then the debate was "getting old"? If I'm not mistaken, Drew was the Patriot's "savior" in that his acquisition resurrected interest in this team. I totally accept that as a fair assessment of his past value to this franchise. Due to that fact, The debate is,and will always be, a legitimate one. For you to attempt to dismiss my continued discussion of this issue, which is nothing more than a new twist on a "QB contoversy", by saying in the last mailbag that "I guess we have to rehash this again" just shows your fear (as a Bledsoe supporter and hater of the trade) that you in fact were,and are wrong! You tried to project that fear onto me by saying in that same mailbag reply "aren't you a little worried about the Bills?" No, Nick, I'm not. I'm actually loving the rivalry between these two teams even more. Which is exactly why my discussing the Drew vs. Tom angle is not only not "rehashing", as you dismissively put it, but instead an aggressive display of confidence on my part that the Patriots DID THE RIGHT THING! Brady vs Bledsoe? No contest. I'll take Tom any day of the week!
-- Paul DeSalvo, Derry, N.H.
A:Paul, it was manyny months ago that I wrote that Brady is the better choice for the Patriots than Bledsoe. Where have you been? Maybe I'm old fashioned but I agree with the old school philosophy that many GMs in all sports subscribe to, you don't trade a star player, particularly an All Pro quarterback within the division. I don't think anything good will come of that in the long run. I also agree that the rivalry is a lot of fun, but if things continue like last year where you beat Bledsoe twice but don't make the playoffs, what good is that? That becomes like the Red Sox-Yankees legacy --- beat the Yankees in the season series, but the Yankes win the championship!
In the Eagles game I didn't appreciate Ty Law's tackling James Thrash, Eagles WR, by his knees when Thrash appeared to be off the ground and had his hands well above his head. Thrash was unable to cushion or even re-direct his fall - he could easily have been severely or permanently injured. The Eagles defenders notably didn't play like that. Shouldn't the NFL ban tackling the knees of a receiver when their feet are off the ground and their hands are above their head?
-- Chris Baker, Harpswell ME
A: I understand your concern Chris, but I think that's just a bang-bang, instinctive play by the cornerback. I don't know how you can ask players to make those split decisions on how to tackle someone. I think there are too many rules as is.
Hi, Nick. I'm a Patriots fan in Yorkshire in the U.K. This is not so much a question as a thought. I read in a U.K. magazine that Bill Parcells has a .428 winning percentage without Belicheck as his right-hand man. How much credit do you think Belichick deserves for his time with the Giants and Jets given that he won a superbowl with the Patriots without Parcells?
-- Ian Smirthwaite, United Kingdom
A: It's a factor, but for anyone to suggest that Parcells wouldn't have been a great coach without Belichick isn't giving The Tuna enough credit. Parcells taught these guys how to be good coaches. For my money, Parcells is one of the greatest ever.
Nick, Reading about the Eagles' new digs, I noticed that they have escalators leading up to each specific seating level. Not only had I thought that Gillette was originally supposed to have similar escalators, I thought they were supposed to be installed and fully operational by this season. Is this a plan, or did I just imagine it? We folks up in the 300 seats have a looong walk up those infernal ramps before and after each game. Thanks in advance and keep the great answers coming!
-- Mark Cordeiro, Coventry, RI
A: I know it was reported that the escalators were going to be installed down the road and perhaps some people thought that meant the very next season. From what I hear, it's still on a to-do list, but I'm not sure how far up the food chain it is.
More of a comment than a question, as a Patriots fan living one hundred miles upwind from Chicago, I periodically tune into the Windy City's sports media for ammusement. The overwhelming consensus on the Chicago airwaves is that the Bears have committed unforgivable errors by essentially handing the Patriots two core defensive players while gaining nothing in return.
-- J. Londondison WI
A: I never understood the complete lack of interest in re-signing Colvin. I don't see where they have any better replacement for an excellent player who is only 25 years old. I understand Washington more because of his age and his injury problems last year. Getting a fourth rounder is a good deal for both teams.
Is Brady going to be as good as he was in 2001 and is he still living off of a Super bowl year?
-- Chris Devereaux, Bangor, ME
A: I thought he was better last year - 28 TD passes. I think we need to stop swelling on Brady. He's one of the best QBs in the league. He's not a guy you even think twice about because he'll always do a solid, efficient job unless he's not being protected.
Hey, Nick, love the mailbag! My question is, (if) Ted Washington should get injured do you think the pats would substitute another guy or go to a different scheme? Also, last year the pats used a weird defense against the Bills. Why didn't they use that against other teams?
-- Darwin Seaman, Spring Hill, Florida
A: They have the option to return to the 4-3, if that's what you mean. If Washington goes down they would go back to the quicker, smaller, faster approach at nose tackle they were trying to achieve with Jarvis Green. The defense they used against the Bills was used twice against the Bears. It worked one time, but the second time the Bears made a 16-yard run. Basically what happens is Bruschi acts as the lone down lineman and the rest of the guys are linebackers, safeties and corners.
I know it's not fair to Chalie and Romeo that they aren't allowed to speak to the media but don't you think that might be better for the future of the team? We know that Romeo Crennel may be the best defensive coordinator in the NFL but do we really want other NFL owners and fans to know that as well? I don't want to see if Mangini will do as good a job. If the Pats have the top ranked defense in the league this year and ESPN talks about the great Belichick defense, I'll have a little smerk on my face because I know that Daniel Snyder won't be calling Romeo up right after the Super Bowl. You may want to interview him and many fans would love to hear what he thinks but I rather the Pats continue to be a great team for years to come. One day Crennel will be a head coach. Hopefully that day will be many years from now when he takes over for Belichick in New England.
-- Shawn Bordoff, Vancouver B.C.
A: Good theory Shawn. And really I get a lot of readers who don't care what Romeo or Charlie have to say. As reporters we try to do the most thorough job we can to inform our readers of what's happening with the team. Romeo and Charlie are two very smart, eloquent coaches who can really explain their defense and offense. I know I often hear readers and fans say 'Why on earth did Weis call that play?' And it would be nice to get an answer. I understand why Belichick does it. As a coach if you can control everything, that's the goal. It doesn't mean I have to accept it or conform to it. In fact, it's my duty to fight that type of access.
Hi, Nick. Great mailbag! Ted Washington was the missing piece to make this a truly dominant defense. I just hope he can play more than half the snaps. I have to comment on this from the 8/15 mailbag - Anyone who thinks Tippett doesn't belong in the HOF didn't watch him play, along with 100 sacks he forced offenses to game plan around him! Did they keep stats on how many hurries he had or how many times he had tackles behind the LOS or forced the RB to go the other way? Do you think it hurts his chances that he played in the same era as LT? Will Warren be as good as Seymore? Could the Pat's trade Huard if Davey continues to impress? - we always read how quarterback starved the league is, and, look what happened to Pennington. Could the Pat's keep 4 QB's until someone comes off the pup list? - maybe other teams will have QB injuries. Could the Pat's get a 2nd or 3rd round pick? I hope you have time to answer this. Thanks, Nick!
-- Boris Becker, Portland, ME
A: Good questions and comments Boris. Tippett was a great player. He could chase down running backs and pressure quarterbacks and cover. I think it hurt him quite a bit that he played in the LT era, because nobody could measure up though Andre came real close. Warren looks like he's going to be a very good player, but I can't imagine him being as good as Seymour. In this league, you can't afford to trade Huard. What if Brady goes down? Huard is also a free-agent after this year. I think what happens with backups is every couple of years or so you need to have a backup who has played a few games.
Hi, Nick! Ted Washington is the perfect fit at NT for this season and maybe next. With all the high draft picks in 04, is there anybody on the radar in the Ted Washington mold?
-- James Lamper, La Quinta CA
A: To be honest, if you saw a nose tackle that looked like Washington in the draft, you wouldn't touch him. Washington is anywhere between 375-400 pounds. Teams would consider that too much of a risk.
Nick, Enjoy your column. Keep up the good work. I had a question about the Patriots' running game. Over the past four seasons (just regular season games), when NE has more rushes than passes (or the same #) in a game, they are 17-3 (including 11 straight wins). When they have more pass attempts than rushes, they are 16-28. Is it safe to say, then, that what NE needs isn't necessarily a great running game, but just a balanced attack that focuses more on running than passing? I think NE has one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, but they definitely need to runthe ball more to control the clock.
-- Adam Nelsontthews, NC
A: Balance is what Charlie Weis is striving for. You have to be able to control the clock. Now the Patriots feel they can do it with a shorter passing game. But what you've outlined is what they're looking for.
If the patriots sign Big Cat Williams from the Bears all we need is a running game. Go Get Terrell Davis. Is there anyone else that could, help our running game. we need a break away threat, do you want a ring , Barry Sanders? Join the patriots, we are headed back to the big dance........
-- Rayford C. Robinson, Jackson, MS
A: Doesn't look as though Big Cat will be signed. Davis can't even start working out until November and Barry Sanders is all done. I checked on that recently. So if they're heading back to the dance, they'll have to get there with what they have.
Nick, What has gotten into Borges lately? Did the Pats management threaten to shut him out? Did the Globe editors tell him to lighten up? I always look forward to his articles as a chance to give me a sober dose of reality to balance the giddiness I get after a Pats victory (and after reading the rest of you guys wax poetic about how great everything is with the team- "Hooray for Everything!")(although I will say that none of you football guys are as bad as Hohler is in that respect). After the Giants game, Borges reminded everyone that we STILL can't stop the run, or run the ball. Which was glaringly obvious, but yet for whatever reason he was the only one from the Globe who pointed it out. About two days later, he wrote an article to the effect that "it isn't all that bad" that was sounded almost like a retraction of his previous article. Since then, he has had nothing but positive things to write about the Pats. What happened?!? Yeah, the Pats look good, but there HAS to be some cause for concern with the team, right? They aren't perfect. Why isn't he pointing it out anymore? It bothers me. I have told anyone who will listen (and many agree) that the Globe has gotten too "rah-rah" lately with its sports coverage. Borges was the last voice of "reality" who balanced the coverage to an extent. If we've lost that, as his recent articles make me fear) I may as well read the Providence Journal (the Herald, as always, is trash). Please pass this sentiment on to Ron. Thanks, Nick!
-- Matt Smith, Whitefield, ME
A: Well, I can't speak for Ron, but I can speak for our football coverage in general. I think we have great football coverage because when things are going well we can be very positive, and when things aren't going well or if there's an issue that requires a critical story, we're certainly not afraid to write that. Since Ted Washington arrived it's hard to put a spin on it that the Patriots have trouble stopping the run, because the addition of Washington has likely improved that. We react to what's happening. When you go 4-0 in the preseason and appear to have improved the biggest concern - your run-stopping - it's hard to put a negative twist on that one.
Hi, Nick. I know why the Patriots missed the playoffs last year. Payton Manning does to because he must have been pushing for a divisonal change after the beatings he has taken from New England over his first five or six years. I really think the Patriots had the Colts number. I would mark the calender every years twice with a victory epecially when Payton Manning visited Foxboro and even before that Jeff George. Your thoughts on this topic thanks.
-- Eric J. Moss, Warwick, RI
A: Yes, I agree. I think the Patriots defensed Manning much like they did Bledsoe. The Patriots do play Indy this year, but I think the Colts have a much better team. They have a very good running game, an excellent offensive line and a very fast defense.
Nick, Thanks for a great weekly series. As a long term Pats fan (since 1972) and former season ticket holder now living in SC, I crave any and all information I can get my hands on. It is very frustrating that all the pre-season games are not shown nationally (NFL ticket only carries regular season) and the Pats are rarely on Internet Radio. In reading the play by play I am concerned with Brady's completion percentage - Washington 9-18 Eagles 14/24 can you help me out with what the problem might be? Is Brady inconsistant or are the receivers droppng the ball or both? The scoring has been good, but incompletions can kill a drive and ball control. Thanks and keep up the good work!
-- Harry Patterson, Beaufort, SC
A: He completed just under 61 percent of his passes in the preseason, threw six TDs and no INTs. Not bad. It was only preseason, too. I think he's trying to work through an offensive line that has had some instability, especially on the right side because of injuries. Brady has said he feels the offense has been inconsistent, but they have scored a lot of points.
Nick: Thank you so much for the mailbag. I look forward to reading it every week. As for the Pats, I understand letting JR go, he's been injured and other than his three catches in the Superbowl he hasn't really contributed to the Patriots on the field. But now that he is gone and Womack is gone do you think they will pursue a featured back or will they wait till next year and address RB in the draft? Thanks...
-- Peter Fleming, Durham, NC
A: They have no choice but to wait until next year. They're going with Smith and Faulk and hope Cloud comes back strong after serving his suspension. They may scroll the waiver wire to see if there's a back who was cut. But I get the feeling they'll draft someone. I wouldn't rule out Maurice Clarett.
Do you know when Michael holley's book on last season's Patriot's is coming out? This will be a must read for any serious Pat's fan considering how liitle info we get from Belichik. Thanks!
-- Jerry Cohen, Ny, Ny
A: I know he's working on it, but I don't know the ETA.
Hi, Nick. First of all, I want to thank you for finally admitting to all Patriots fans that we kept the right QB. Now you didn't necessarily come out and say "I was wrong about Brady", that would hurt the pride and ego a little, but you came forth and started writing positive articles about Brady which was the way you decided to handle your error. I like the approach, you're a smart man, now that is something that we will hardly see from Mr. Borges, because ole Ronnie has too much pride to do that. Sunday's globe column was interesting. I did a quick scan of the Pro Football piece, hoping to see something positive about Brady and the wonderful pre-season he's having and I saw nothing, nada, zilch.....Ah Ronnie, you're a sly one, but you have to follow Nick's approach, you will win back your old fans, that you lost by the way. You don't have to say "I was wrong" I know that's hard and the pride would take a hit. Work it like Nick, and gradually ease yourself back in with some good positive Brady pieces. So my question, Nick, is this and it's really for both you and Ron and it's simple. Nick Carfado and Ron Borges, would you rather have Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe right now as a starting QB for your football team?
-- Ron, Billerica
A: Really old topic. I wondered if this was a question that came from the archive two years ago, but I guess its recent. Like I've said for two years now, Brady was the right guy for this team.
Pats' Mailbag is the best single part of America's best sports section. Thanks, Nick! Doodling with the 53-man roster. Is there a website that gives each player's standing under the salary cap? Suppose coach really wanted to keep all 6 WRs, and 6 RBs including Mike Cloud and Patrick Pass. Given the strength of the LB corps, do you think Warren and Klecko allow the team to part with any 2 of these DLs - Lyle, Hamilton, and/or Pleasant? Which ONE would you keep?
-- Jack Hilberg, Laconia, NH
A: Jack, to my knowledge there are no websites that give official individual cap numbers. There are some internet sites that have estimates or close proximities. I do have the numbers at my disposal, however. As for the roster, I get the feeling one of those older D-linemen may go. I would keep Hamilton because he can still stop the run. Pleasant is like having a D-line coach and Lyle might be the odd man out. While he does protect you at nose tackle, Jarvis Green might be first off behind Washington.
In view of Dan Klecko's size, the variety of positions that he has so far played in the pre-season, and the Patriots defensive scheme, is there any scope in him being employed in a similar way to the Broncos used Karl Mecklenburg in the mid - 80s?
-- Paul Gillott, Southport, England
A: I like that analogy Paul. Could be. Belichick has said he likes Klecko inside more than outside. I get the feeling Klecko will be worked in slowlyybe even being one of the inactive players for the first few weeks of the season.
How in the world does a small, unaccomplished, unproven, league-reject like Frank Moreau (3 teams in 3 years) end up beating out Super Bowl go-to guy J.R. Redmond for a roster spot? Yes, I know Redmond has been injured - but not catastrophically. This makes no sense from a talent perspective.
-- Derek Larsson, Ashland
A: It just came down to JR not showing he can stay healthy for any length of time. The Patriots had reached their limit on patience, and you have to admit they were very patient. Moreau was only kept around because he was an NFL Europe exception. He was released on Thursday.
Hi, Nick. I have a question about the last season's finale against Miami. All Miami had to do was run the ball (which they had done well all game long) and the game would have been over. Do you think that was the single worst bit of coaching in the history of the game? What was the story? I'm not into conspiracy theories....but if the Patriots had made the playoffs it would have looked like something fishy (no pun intended) was going on.
-- Mike Libby, Medford
A: Believe me, Dave Wannstedt heard about it the entire offseason. It was actually O-coordinator Norv Turner who made the calls. I will say this, the Patriots defense was stopping Ricky Williams pretty well in the final quarter of that game.
Why are our teams doing everything "by committee." The Sox introduced us to closer by committee. That didn't work so they went out and traded for Kim. The Celts have been utilizing an awful center by committee since the Chief left only they have been negiligent to refer to it as such. In the case of the Celtics, there is no money to sign a decent center. So it's somewhat of a decent excuse. Although trading for Vin Baker doesn't say much. Now the Pats are giving us RUNNING BACK BY COMMITTEE? It's my understanding that right now they want to wait until next year and use of the first rounders on a solid RB. Are they exploring opportunities for serviceable backs like Duce Staley? With a plethora of draftt picks next year why not trade one or two to the Eagles, take Duce of their hands, and then draft a top RB next year?
-- Eric LaBatte, Baltimore, MD
A:The Staley scenario has been brought up. I think they'd rather get a kid out of college next year and make him their back. Staley is looking for big money. You'd have to take on $2.2 million right off the bat on the salary cap. I'm not so sure it will be RB by committee in the end. I think it's going to be Smith fulltime because in the end, he's their best chance for a running game.
Hi, Nick. Before the third preseason game there was a fair amount of speculation that the Pats would only keep 5 WRs and the odd man out might be David Patten. Then Patten goes out and has a tremendous game against Philly, promptly ending speculation that Patten is on the bubble. Do you think that Brady sensed that Patten was on the bubble and made a special effort to get the ball to him? More than likely it was just a matter of Patten getting open and making plays but the timing was interesting. Personally I think there is so much talent at this position that they will probably keep 6 WRs. This offense is so dependent on these quick receivers that they need the extra guy as insurance against injuries. Also is anyone else a little sad to see some of these guys who were so instrumental in the Superbowl win (JR, Otis) getting cut? I understand that it's a business and I am glad that the team puts performance before nostalgia. It's necessary but unfortunate.
-- Ed Ronan, Framingham
A: Might be six WRs, but I'm still thinking five. It could be that Dedric Ward is let go at the end. There was a lot of wild speculation about Patten basd on about two weeks of training camp when he was a little nicked up and Bethel Johnson looked like Bob Hayes. But Patten is a playmaker. He makes big plays down field. Could it be that Brady called his number? Sure. It could also be that Charlie weis called his number. As for Otis and JR, there's no sentimental stuff here. You can either do the job or you're gone.
Nick, I really enjoy your weekly write in column of the Patriot Nation. Living in Southeastern Pennsylvania all I hear is how "tough" the Eagles are. I don't agree. The Patriots would have been in the last four Super Bowls if they played in the NFC East. Hell, Holy Cross could run the table against the Cowboys, Skins and Giants. The Eagles are over rated and you will see that when they go 0-4 against the best division in football, the AFC East.
-- Brad Fuller, Birdsboro, PA
A: I can't agree with you on that one. The Eagles are a premiere team and they'll show it when it counts. How could you say they weren't tough last season? They lost to tampa Bay in the NFC Championship game. There's no "over rated" in that.
Nick, who, in your opinion, rank #1-10 as the ten most valuable players on the 2003 Patriots (and for each one, briefly why?) Thanks!!
-- Benson Horne, Columbus, Ohio
A: 1. Brady: leader of the offense. 2. Adam Vinatieri: Best kicker in the game; 3. Richard Seymour: maybe the best overall lineman in the AFC; 4. Ty Law: Still one of the best five corners in the game; 5. Damien Woody: their best offensive lineman; 6. Troy Brown: playmaker, great falloff when he's not in there; 7. Rosevelt Colvin: a difference-maker. 8. Ted Washington: he can stop the run. 9. Matt Light: what would the Pats do if they lost him to an injury? 10. Lawyer Milloy: still a lot of leadership there.
I gotta say this -- what's up with the so-called "Lighthouse" @ the big razor? To me - It doesn't even look like a lighthouse. What do you think?
-- Wayne Tuttle, Holbrook
A: It was supposed to shoot a laser beam or something, but apparently it's just going to sit there.
Who is going to return kick offs for the Pats this year?
-- Jim Kerr, Tampa, Fl
A: I'd like to see Bethel Johnson. If not, Faulk and/or Patrick Pass.
In the 3 pre-season games, a number of opposing players have been taken off the field in carts. Is this just coincidence or are the Pats playing more physically this year? Can this come back to haunt them in the regular season when they paly the same clubs?
-- Scott Cooley, Centerport, NY
A: They do take the preseason seriously. I think teams respect them for it. I don't think you'll see payback for that. The Eagles, for instance are a much better team than they showed in the third preseason game. I would guess McNabb, Vincent, Dawkins and now Staley, will turn it up a notch.
Do you know how the Ted Washington trade was initiatied? Meaning, did the Bears send out feelers to the NFL, or did the Pat's contact the Bear's first?
-- Eric Joniec, Barrington, NH
A: I get the feeling the Patriots always knew they might be able to get him from the Bears. Belichick and Bears GM Jerry Angelo are good friends and are always talking. I'm sure the topic came up long before the trade happened.
Hi, Nick. I'm a Dolphins fan living here in New England -- insert your December slide joke here -- and I follow the AFC East very closely. Right now I would rank Miami and New England evenly at the top of the division, but with Pennington out I think the Jets are a .500 team this year and I'm not sold on Buffalo's defense yet. Of course they're improved, but could they have gotten any worse? They're a 9-7 team this year. New England's running game and Miami's passing game are the 2 weaknesses for thsoe clubs? Which do you think is more significant?
Chris Roney, Grafton
A: I'll always pick a deficient running game as being a harder obstacle to overcome. In the Dolphins' case they have the best running back in the game, and that improves their chances of being able to keep the defense on its toes so they complete a pass. The Patriots have to be extremely efficient in the passing game without the threat of a run.
Nick, Have you heard anything about the Pats wanting to take a look at RB James Jackson from the Browns? In 3 preseason games he has carried the ball 25 times for 134 yards and a 5.36 average per carry. Right now he is buried beneath William Green and Jamel White on the depth chart and the team just drafted Lee Suggs, so I can't see where Jackson would fit in on that team. Its obvious he has talent or his college coach, Butch Davis, would never have invested a high third round pick in him. Granted, Davis quickly turned around and drafted Green the next year, so maybe there is an issue, but sometimes players just need a fresh start. Perhaps Jackson just chafed under the expectations of his college coach? I think the Pats would have to trade for him, I don't see him slipping past Parcells on the waiver wire with that dreadful RB situation in Dallas. Thanks for the response and your thoughts.
-- Joe Kilinski, Gaithersburg, MD
A: I think Belichick is always looking for a good deal. But if he feels he can obtain a good back in the draft and he's as sold on Antowain Smith as I think he is, I would be surprised to see that.
Hi, Nick. Whatever happened to Jamal Anderson -- his potential return to the NFL and the Patriots interest in him? I couldn't help from thinking about him amidst all this running game uncertainty and cafuffle.
-- Hiram Pines, Toronto, Ontario
A: I guess he never got into good enough shape.
Now that Ted Washington has arrived my first question is maybe a little moot, but it seems to me that the Patriot's defense with all its schemes and looks is aimed at confusing the QB and that it is hard to confuse a QB that simply takes three steps back and hands the ball to a RB. Isn't stopping the run vital for the defense to be successful? Why is Troy Brown still fielding punts? Shouldn't they let somebody else take this beating? I know the saying about putting the ball in the hands of your playmakers but I think somebody else needs to take over for him.
-- Paul Bachman, Boston
A: Any team that gets rid of the ball quickly will render a pass rush meaningless. I'm sure that's what teams will try to do against the Patriots. They'll use spread formations, and either try to run out of them or throw the quick slants so you take Colvin out of the game. Brown is fielding punts because he wants to. He feels he can still make big plays as the punt returner, and I would have to agree.
It was reported that Bills GM Tom Donohoe was at one of the Pats' pre-season games to do some "scouting." Is it routine for a GM to scout an upcoming opponent, and if so, is the GM's input used by the coaches when they draw up their game plan?
-- Andrew Teed, Los Angeles, CA
A: Tom was there with a Bills scout. I'm sure there are things he'll suggest to his coaches, and if I were them I'd listen. He's a powerful, highly intelligent and very skilled in the football business. I think GMs do get out there occasionally when there's a break from their team. You see some of them at Monday Night games for instance.
Hey, Nick, I saw that at a recent charity event, 15 minutes of playing catch with Tom Brady went for $34,000! Wow, my question is, does the winner have to stand 5 yards away so Tom can do the little dumps and quick outs, which is basically all he does? Obviosuly if the winner stands more than 20 yards away he will have a long day of coming in for the ball. Just a thought, great column!
-- Mike, Chicago, IL
A: I'd like to have the that kind of money to donate to charity. Tom is a very engaging, fun guy and I think the two people who were able to bid on that will have a blast.
Nick, What about Patrick Pass? He looked good at times in the pre-season games. Was it simply the quality of the defense that the other team put on the field? What does he look like in practice? After one game somebody asked Belichick about Pass but he never really answered the fellow. He sort of brushed it aside and moved onto something else. Is he just a fringe player or having a good camp? Or both? What's the story?
-- Derry Ledoux, Cohasset.
A: Derry, I think they believe he's insurance if both halfbacks go down or both fullbacks go down. You're right, he's had some nice games against scrubs, but he has had some successful kickoff returns. He's worth keeping around.
Nick: Any chance the Pats keep 6 wideouts and maybe only 2 TE's ? Maybe Vrabel can fill in as the 3rd TE like he did last year. Thanks.
-- Mike Friedrich, Chicago, IL
A: Possibility. I know Fred Baxter is an ex-Jet and the coaching staff is familiar with him. But it might be hard to keep three of you're going to keep six receivers.
Nick: What the hell is going on with Bill Romanowski. If I were the coach, I would make him pee in the cup every day. He destroyed his teammatercus Williams', face with an open orbital bone fracture that will keep him out for 4-6 weeks. I think Bill has gone over the edge.
-- Bob Trott, Weymouth MA
A: Hard to argue with that one. I think Bill feels he's gone over the edge. I guess that's what has kept him in the league so long. Something snaps when he's on the football field.
Love the mailbag! I know some "star" baseball players don't always stay at the team hotel on the road. Does the same happen in the NFL or more specifically with the Patriots? I just don't see that flying in the NFL, but I may be wrong.
-- E.J. Carrier, Algonquin, IL
A: All of the Patriots stay at the same hotel. The reason for that is that teams have meetings at the hotel on Saturday afternoon and night, both home and on the road. Saturday night is a big team time. They usually have a team dinner after their meetings and then they have a curfew of around 11 p.m. or 12 for a 1 p.m. game.
Hey, Nick, love the mailbag. Best thing around since the Boston Sports Guy left. 2 very random questions. 1) How do you think BC does this year. Also, I hope they go independant rather than stay a part of a BE that adds Cicninatti and Louisville. 2) How come the NFL only offers its complete game package on Direct TV (Satelite)? People like me who live in heavy urban areas (big apartment buildings) arent usually able to get it. Why don't they offer it to Digital Cable as well? THey are missing out on a large market share. Thanks again and good luck this season.
-- James McKernan, NYC
A: I like a Tom O'Brien coached team. They should take Wake Forest. Think they're ready to go independent? Don't know if they're Notre Dame. On TV questions, I don't answer them because to be very honest, I have no idea. I would ask that you write to your favorite TV columnist.
First off, Nick, you are great and we are very proud of The Patriots demand for good behavior or character. Nothing is more important to sports, Boston, and the NFL. Now the question: Tell us about the rookie treatment to welcome them to the team ie: carry gear for vets? stand on chairs/barrells and sing? How do they get welcomed by the vets? Plebe year/Rookie year camp etc?? Traditions etc Thanks Gabe.. a US Naval Academy plebe in 1955 and proud of it still..
-- Bill Gabrielsenrlboro, Vermont
A: Gabe, the NFL does not allow hazing. But some of the things I've seen this year for instance include the vets giving the rookies the silent treatmentking the D-linemen Shave their heads, carrying shoulder pads and singing their fight song.
Nick, Why is Antwoin Smith the most ridiculed player since Tony Eason?? I believe the O-line is the major part of the running game problems, and once the O-line jells then we will see a different Antwoin.
-- Sean McLaughlin, Hazleton, PA
A: He's been an easy target because he's failed the very over-rated running test. I think people associate that with Smith not being in shape and not trying. I'm not sure that's fair but that's the perception out there.
Nick, I would like to know your take on covering your first football season and a first in the Patriots history without one of the greatest football writers we will ever read, in Will Mcdounough. I think the Patriots, who I did see leave a press pass for him, should do a little ceremony for him before the home opener. Will was the best and I know as a Pats and football fan he will be missed by me.
-- Sean McLaughlin, Hazleton, PA
A: There's certainly a void. Will didn't have much to do with the daily coverage of the team, but he was always there to throw something off and he'd always have an opinion or some information for you. He's missed. The Patriots do leave a press pass for him which is a great touch. I'd like to see something done in his honor, but that's up to the team. I think about him a lot.
Nick, I'm going to go out on a limb, but I think the Pats will lose to Buffalo Week 1. I think Belichick needs a little more time to prepare for Drew, and Drew has shown in the past 1995 home opener against Cleveland and 1999 against the Jets that he can excell against the defense. Both were openers, and Drew played like he the all pro he still is. Now this is not a Drew suck up, but he is still a talented football player, but I'm also glad we have a guy like Tom Brady. OK, Nick, I better stop before the Brady/Bledsoe bashing starts up agian, but your thoughts will be great.
-- Sean McLaughlin, Hazleton, PA
A: I'm interested to see what Bledsoe's approach to this is. I know he'd like to feel he's doing less out there because the Bills' defense should be better. He's expected to shorten his passing game a tad and also hand off more to Travis Henry. He's still one of the purest passers in the league. He's still fun to watch when he's on. A few of us were remarking how well he threw the ball when we'd watch him in training camp; the zip he had on the ball. You don't see too many guys with that type of cannon. But he doesn't move well, and if the Patriots' pass rush is even better than last year, Bledsoe will have problems getting the ball off unless he has an effective running game.
Nick, First off great job, but I was wondering if Andy Katzenmoyer was ever coming back to football? I remeber you saying you wouldn't be shocked if he attempted a comeback, Thanks
-- Ty Tomkiel, El Cajon, Ca
A: I have a friend who E-mails him constantly. When the topic of comeback comes up, Andy changes the subject.