Dependent on Dillon?
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Their secondary not withstanding, one of the biggest problems seems to be lack of depth at the receiver position when early in the year it seemed to be one of the real strengths. When can they expect Branch back? Also, what's Dillon's status? Obviously, a stronger run game will help free up those wideouts.
Geoff, Portland, Ore.
A: Geoff, it's been hard to get info on Branch. My gut feeling, and not anything official, is he probably had a scope on his knee and he's coming back from it. I was told by someone on the team that he had a "10-week" injury. Let's see if when he gets up to 10 weeks, we may see him on the field. As of Wednesday he was still listed as "doubtful." Dillon has had both a foot and a thigh problem. The injury report only lists the thigh, but I suspect the foot is what's keeping him out.
Whether it is due to injuries or a case of not being ready to contribute, do you think the Patriots draft picks in 2004 have been a disappointment so far? Everyone made such a big deal about the number of picks they had this year but so far Wilfork is the only one contributing. Again, I realize that Watson, Scott and Sam are injured but do you think the Patriots are suffering since they expected major contributions right away from most of these players?
Bill, Portland, Maine
A: Even the top personnel guys in the league can't draft great players every year. I don't think they expected immediate returns from everyone, though they were hoping they'd get it from Wilfork because they had a need at nose tackle, and he's had some good games and some games where he's been pushed around. I still think Marquise Hill is going to be a good player, but he hasn't been able to crack the rotation yet, though if the line gets pushed around as it did last week vs. Pittsburgh, he may get some action.
As usual love the mailbag: I have two questions: First, and I feel kind of silly even criticizing a team that has won 21 games in a row, am I the only one that right now feels that a tailspin is near for this Patriots team? Although we have been winning up to the recent Steelers game I haven't had the same confident feel I had from the mid-point on last season. I've had this uneasy feeling that we were on the verge of being totally exposed as we were this past Sunday versus the Steelers. I just don't feel the same spark or intensity and maybe that's just attributed to the fact that it is extremely hard to maintain that level for such an extended period of time. I also don't feel the same "vibe" with Brady this season. Do you agree?
Ron, Cranbury, NJ
A: It's a very normal feeling. I've heard a lot of fans and media express the same thing. This is untested waters because no team in history has won 21 straight, so there has to be a letdown, doesn't there? You can't be that intense game-in and game out for that long without a burp. That burp came last week. Prior to that, I really believed they had a great chance to go undefeated. But I think we all need to calm down and let this injury situation play out. As for Brady, the guy is getting hit. Teams understand you have to blitz him and hit him and make him get rid of the ball faster than he wants to. Under those conditions, every QB in the league will make mistakes.
With Jim Miller hardly ever being activated for the games amid concerns for his ailing shoulder still, why did the Pats take a pass on Damon Huard when he became available recently?
A: Originally, I thought they wanted a QB who had some recent game experience, but after Vinny Testaverde and Neil O'Donnell turned them down, they were painted into a hole and Miller was left. Huard would have been happy to stay. I ran into him this summer, and he couldn't understand why they had no interest in him because he was a good guy on the team and he got along great with Brady and Rohan Davey.
What exactly is the nature of Ben Watson's injury. Did he under go surgery?
Scott, Exeter, NH
A: Watson had a torn ACL in his right knee. He had surgery.