Mile High musings: On Dillon, Bruschi, and more
FOXBOROUGH -- Looking at the emails that came into the Patriots' mailbag this week, here are a few of the hot topics:
What's up with Corey Dillon?
Will Tedy Bruschi play this week?
Why isn't tight end Daniel Graham playing more?
And, of course, there was plenty of discussion about the team's next playoff opponent, the Denver Broncos.
It seems as if no player sparks more debate than Dillon. Some fans want him gone. Others say to give him more time, he's running behind a young offensive line. Others want the media to get out of his way.
Dillon is coming off a 17-carry, 40-yard effort against the Jaguars. His running mate, Kevin Faulk, had 51 yards on six carries. Some say Dillon is slow to the hole and not running as hard as he has in the past. I don't see that. I thought he ran hard on Saturday night, despite the subpar results, and believe the team needs a combination of him and Faulk going forward.
As for Bruschi, I misfired on that one. Thought he would have played against the Jaguars. About an hour or so before kickoff, he was on the field, cutting aggressively, seemingly trying to convince trainer Jim Whalen and strength coach Mike Woicik he could play. He didn't look far off from being game-ready.
The status of Graham has also raised some questions among e-mailers. My understanding is that he has a nagging shoulder injury, but that if the game plan called for more multiple tight end sets on Saturday, he would have been more of a factor. The team wanted a third receiver on the field instead of a second tight end, and those third receivers (i.e. Andre Davis, Troy Brown) came up with some big plays.
A few other leftover nuggets:
My prediction: Patriots 24, Broncos 21.
Until next week ... let's open up the mailbag ...
What do the Pats have to do to beat Denver on Saturday? The last time they played in October they could not stop the run with Chad Brown and Monty Beisel in the middle and had major problems with Jake Plummer rolling out to the wide side of the field and hitting crossing patterns for big gainers with only single coverage on the receivers. What does Bill Belichick have to do to correct this?
Jim Curley, Seminole Fla.
A: My feeling is that it starts with stopping the run. The Broncos rank second in the NFL in rushing yards per game (158.7), and totaled 178 rushing yards against the Patriots on Oct. 16. The Patriots' run defense is much improved from that time. After that game, the Patriots ranked 25th in rushing yards allowed per game (125.3 yards allowed). By the end of the season, the Patriots were eighth (98.8). So I think it all comes down to stopping the run, and if the Patriots do that, they will make life easier on their secondary by creating more obvious passing situations.
I was concerned about Jacksonville, specifically their wideouts vs. our smaller secondary and our offensive line vs. their defensive front, which proved absolutely unfounded. When it comes to Denver, however, I like the matchup outside and on grass, but the fact that it is in Denver and they will be well-rested has me worried. Do you think that this is a matchup that is even, favors our guys, or definitely puts Denver in the driver's seat?
Lee Simmons, Pa.
A: I think the matchup favors Denver, which is 8-0 at home this season, is plus-20 in turnover differential, and is coming off a bye week. I do think the Patriots will play much better than they did earlier in the season, and in fact, I'm picking them in an upset.
Do you think we'll see Tedy Bruschi against Denver? Were any of the inactive players injured and do you think we'll ever see Bethel Johnson or Heath Evans or Dan Klecko in a Pats uniform again? Also, I only seem to read about Richard Seymour. But hasn't the emergence of Vince Wilfork plugging up the middle and the terrific play of Ty Warren and super-sub Jarvis Green actually been responsible for the recent D-line success, thus letting Colvn and Willie McGinest being let loose?
A: Since I said Bruschi would play (and play well) against the Jaguars, it might be wise to consider the source on this answer. I do think Bruschi will play against the Broncos. Bruschi was on the field before Saturday's game, being watched closely by trainer Jim Whalen and strength coach Mike Woicik. It made me believe he was close to being able to play, but they determined they might be better waiting another week if possible. Heath Evans (shoulder) and Bethel Johnson (knee) were both on last week's injury report, so their inactive status might have been due to injury, although I believe they would have been inactive regardless. Good point on the defensive line. Seymour is the biggest difference maker of the group, but Wilfork, Warren and Green are sometimes overlooked. I think Warren is one of the NFL's underrated players.
Couple of questions after the sweet victory against the Jaguars: 1) Are the Pats just trying to prove that it is possible to win games despite having to face second-and-long and third-and-long practically every single series? Or are we fans just expecting too much from the Pats that they pick up 4-5 yards on first down instead of their methodical 1 and 2 yards? 2) Kevin Faulk seems to be the better back right now, giving the Pats more options when he is in there instead of Corey Dillon, who does not appear to be running real hard on every play. Your thoughts on this?
Dave Cullen, E. Windsor , NJ
A: Not including a kneel-down by Matt Cassel to end the game, the Patriots' first-down offense looked like this: 13 rushes for 47 yards (3.6 avg.) and 3-of-9 passing for 12 yards, one TD and one sack. Take away a Kevin Faulk 19-yard run and the stats really show the Patriots struggled on first down. Of their 13 runs, eight went for two yards or less. Naturally, the Patriots would like more production in this area. On the running backs, I do think Dillon is running hard, although Faulk seems to bring more energy to the unit at this time. My thought would be to give Faulk a few more touches, but I wouldn't give him a Dillon-like load. A combination between Dillon and Faulk might be the best way to go.
Considering the fact that Kevin Faulk started the game, and ran for more yards than Corey Dillon, is it possible that the coaching staff has lost confidence in Dillon? Dillon is not the hard-charging back of last year, and injuries can only be counted so much. That scenario of injury just does not fly anymore and the offensive line was opening holes for Faulk. When this season is over is it time for the team leaders to consider going in a different direction? Possibly without Dillon?
Wayne A. Derby, Bethlehem, NH
A: I don't think the Patriots' coaching staff is losing faith in Dillon, and I also think Dillon ran hard at times on Saturday night. My assessment is that with a young offensive line, there haven't been consistent holes up front for Dillon to plow through. Because of this, a player like Faulk might be a better fit, because he can get to, and through, smaller openings a bit quicker. As for looking ahead, Dillon is due a $3 million bonus in 2006 and also has a base salary of $3 million. His salary cap hit is $4.35 million. The Patriots might consider restructuring that deal, but I believe Dillon will be back either way and an integral member of the team next season.
Is there any possible way you could tell the media that surrounds Dillon just to leave him alone? I think that he's been pressured for no reason by the media this season. He was injured, his dad passed away, so how about giving this guy a break. He comes in and runs for more yards then any previous Patriots player in history and it seems like people don't respect him.
Mitchell LaFortune, Saco, Maine
A: Dillon is an integral member of the Patriots, and as a member of the media covering the team, it helps to speak with him to have a better understanding of what is happening. The incident from last week in which Dillon lashed out at the media was sparked by a number of factors: Dillon didn't want to conduct a group interview, several questions were repeated, and Dillon's ire was previously raised when a one-on-one interview was interrupted by other reporters more than once. It was a bad combination all the way around. Things have settled down, Dillon answered questions after Saturday's game, and it seems as if all parties have moved on.
Noticed that all of the Globe writers picked the Pats to win against the Jaguars, but not cover the point spread. Were you surprised by the final score? Do you think the Pats will win at Mile High?
Bradley Fuller, Birdsboro, Pa.
A: I was surprised by the final score. Thought the Jaguars were a better team than they showed on Saturday night. Credit the Patriots, though, for making the Jaguars look bad with a pressure-packed defensive performance. Although the Patriots are underdogs in this game against the Broncos, I am picking them to win, 24-21.
It's well-known that the thin air in Denver affects pitchers by altering the aerodynamics of the baseball. Does it affect quarterbacks by changing the flight of the football? Are athletes affected by altitude as much as us civilians?
Karl Rethemeyer, Albany, NY
A: Although he wasn't asked directly about the aerodynamics of the football, quarterback Tom Brady spoke on altitude during his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI: "The breathing part for me is not a big deal, but then again, I probably run 1/100th of the time of everyone else on the field. I know for some of the other guys it's challenging. I think the biggest factor is the way you play. If you play good, you're never really tired. If you play bad, you're pretty tired."
Do the Patriots leave earlier for Denver than they would have left for any other city to get used to the thin air?
Robert Sheehan, San Diego
A: No, the Patriots will leave the day before the game, as they always do. The subject has come up with Bill Belichick in the past and he usually reflects to his one year coaching in Denver (1978) and tells a story on how the Broncos used to make a big deal out of it to make opponents think the air was more of a factor than it really was. This is what Belichick said during his weekly radio segment on sports radio WEEI: "I think that's the least of our problems. I think it's mainly psychological."
Earlier in the season, when the Pats were dropping every other game, the defense was pretty bad. Clearly it's gotten a lot better since around midseason, and a lot of people seem to attribute the turnaround to the return of Tedy Bruschi. Now, Bruschi didn't play on Saturday, and yet the defense turned in a dominating performance against the Jags. So I'm left wondering about Chad Brown and Monty Beisel. We all kind of wrote them off early in the year and said that Belichick and Pioli missed the boat on those particular free agent signings. But now they've been in the organization for a full season and had a chance to learn the defense, and the team did well with them in the lineup. So what are your current thoughts? Are they capable players who just needed time to learn the system, or was this game a fluke and they're as bad as we thought they were early in the year?
Craig Benson, Silver Spring, Md.
A: Based on one game, my opinion of Beisel or Brown hasn't changed. Beisel is still a young player (27 years old, fifth year in NFL) learning a new defense, so my thought has been that more time is needed to accurately assess his performance and long-term future with the team. Brown, 35, is a little different because of his 14 years in the league. My feeling with him is that he was brought here to play a situational role, but he was initially thrust into a starting role after Ted Johnson unexpectedly retired. Brown has mostly been a dime linebacker, with minimal opportunity to make a significant impact.
I've noticed that Daniel Graham is seeing very limited action but enough to assume he is healthy. Also vs. the Jaguars, Monty Beisel started but was replaced by Chad Brown in the second quarter. I realize that they were mostly in nickel or dime but we didn't see Monty at all even when they were in run defense after that. Any insight on these personnel decisions?
Bob Huberman, Manhattan Beach, Calif.
A: I am impressed with the detail on personnel that you pick up from watching the game. My understanding on Graham is that his shoulder has been nagging him and that has been holding him back a bit. Also, the Patriots featured more of a three-wide package against the Jaguars, and that personnel grouping is suited more for Benjamin Watson than Graham. You might have noticed that Monty Beisel's role early in the game was to play early downs, then come off the field on nickel and dime situations (with Chad Brown his replacement). The Patriots ended up going almost exclusively to those nickel and dime packages from the second quarter on, meaning Brown was on the field throughout the rest of the contest. I don't believe it was a reflection of Beisel's play, more of the personnel packages the Jaguars were running.
Why did Belichick leave Brady in so long on Saturday? Brady nearly got crushed in the end zone near the end of the game when it was clear the Pats were going to win. Also, why is Troy Brown still being used on defense? What about some of the younger WRs like Davis or Dwight? Troy is key on third downs on offense.
Arthur Jackson, Newton
A: Brady was replaced with 1:20 remaining and the Patriots holding a 28-3 lead. The play in which a Jaguars defender could have injured Brady came with 4:17 remaining, the Patriots leading 28-3, and with the ball at their own 3. I agree; it seems a bit risky to me to put Brady out there at that time. On Troy Brown playing defense, there are probably two answers: 1) He's the best option as the fourth cornerback; 2) He has more experience at it than someone like Davis or Dwight.
The one concern I had from the Jaguars game is that the Pats had trouble holding onto the football. They fumbled the ball four times, but got a little lucky in that they recovered all four. Had they not recovered them, it could have been a different game. They can't do that again this week.
Todd Broseghini, Tampa
A: Ball security is always a focus, but this might be a case where the stats are a bit misleading. Two of the fumbles were given to Tom Brady -- one on a snap he wasn't expecting, the other on a sack in which he recovered -- and a third was a punt return in which Tim Dwight was drifting out of bounds and it wasn't really a threat. I never really felt like the Jaguars had a chance at any of those. The big fumble was Benjamin Watson's, and he was bailed out by Andre' Davis. If the team had more fumbles like Watson's, I think you're right, they'd be in big trouble.
Mike, did the Pats experience any new injuries Saturday night? It appeared to me that they made it through the game relatively unscathed. As for playing Denver, I actually preferred the Colts because that game would be indoors and that is where Brady and the passing game is at its best. I am concerned that if the Pats travel to Denver and the weather is bad, they will lose a head-to-head running game battle. What are your thoughts?
Marty Cormier, Chatham, Ontario
A: The Patriots' first injury report of the week will be released on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, but there didn't appear to be anything too serious. One player to keep an eye on, because he's become a vital part of the secondary, is safety Artrell Hawkins. He's been on the injury report in recent weeks and was replaced in the second half. It was unknown if Hawkins was replaced due to injury, or because the team felt the outcome was in hand. As for the team's next matchup, stopping Denver's No. 2 rated rushing attack (158.7 yards per game) is the key. Since the Patriots' run defense has been strong of late, I think this is a better matchup for the team than facing the Colts.
Can you break down Scott Pioli's contract situation for us? I don't think anyone can argue that he's done a phenomenal job here. With his contract soon expiring, why haven't we locked him up for another few years?
Gino Gesmondi, Cohasset
A: Author David Halberstam, who wrote "The Education of a Coach" on Bill Belichick, indicated that Scott Pioli signed a contract extension that runs through 2008.
How long do you think Belichick will stick around? Seems in today's coaching carousel that coaches (sans Cowher) don't hang on too long. They either look for more challenge or change of scenery. Any thought if Belichick might fall prey to that?
Rich Cederman, Virginia Beach, Va.
A: Because coaches work such long hours and the job is filled with such pressure, you do see a lot of changes. If I had to take a guess, I'd say Belichick is probably thinking in a three-year window at this time, as in "Let me get to 2008 and see where I'm at." The reason for the 2008 benchmark is that I'm assuming he's somehow linked to Pioli, because one needs the other to make the operation successful. Not that Belichick would leave in 2008, just that things can change so fast in the NFL. I don't think Belichick is the type of guy that would need a new challenge to stoke his fire; in fact, the idea of having one tremendous run with the same team seems like it would mean more to him than jumping to another franchise and building up another winner.
The Patriots did a good job in stopping the run without Tedy Bruschi. Earlier in the season, we were all over Monty Beisel and Chad Brown for being inept at the inside linebacker spot and stopping the run. Now, I am thinking that maybe all those issues were due to the defensive line. Now that the defensive line is in their top-notch form, even with Biesel and Brown we can stop the run effectively. I would like to get your opinion.
Balaji Krishnamurthy, Katy, Texas
A: My feeling on run defense is that it's too simplistic to talk about the defensive line and linebackers as independent entities. While they are different positions, a successful run defense needs to have its front seven working in concert, the defensive line controlling the gaps up front and the linebackers polishing off the tackles. Bill Belichick sometimes talks about the front seven having the right "fits", which essentially means the defensive line and linebackers working together and filling all the gaps.
From a fan's point of view, it seems like an insult to send in a backup quarterback just to take a knee. Is there some other benefit to the player, such as financial compensation or improved stats? At very least it would seem to allow the player to write "played in 'X' amount of NFL games" on their resume.
Elizabeth Hinkelman, Westford
A: Not quite sure what the answer is here, but maybe it's more a reflection on the other player, as the coaches would want Tom Brady to have the chance to be cheered by the home crowd.
Do you think the Pittsburgh Steelers deliberately roll into opponents when they are on the ground? Should the league look into this? The injury that Carson Palmer sustained is too reminiscent of the hit on Tom Brady during the 2001 Super Bowl run. Is it any coincidence that the last quarterback to come in relief in a playoff game was Drew Bledsoe and that the game was against Pittsburgh? I would appreciate your thoughts on this issue.
Ted Santiago, Princeton, NJ
A: Because I have watched only one Steelers game this season, I'm not the most qualified person to answer this. So here is the take of Mike Bires of the Beaver County (Pa.) Times: "Cowher frowns on any type of shady activity by his players. Last year, when Pittsburgh was playing in Baltimore, tight end Todd Heap had strained his ankle on one play before halftime as the Ravens were trying to move down the field. If Heap would have hit the ground, they would have been assessed a penalty, so he lined up and they ran a play to the other side. Joey Porter just nudged [Heap] and knocked him to the ground, compounding his injury from the previous play. The Ravens cried foul and Cowher reamed into Porter, and then addressed the issue again the next Tuesday, saying it wasn't to be tolerated. Porter was so upset, he felt Cowher wasn't defending him, that he refused to talk to the media for almost a month. On this past Sunday, Cowher opened his press conference by congratulating the Bengals and saying how bad he felt for Carson Palmer."
The Jets are interested in Eric Mangini for their head coaching vacancy. How long is Eric signed for by the Patriots? Could the Patriots get compensation for him? Many of my Bronco friends are worried about this week's game, they foresee Jake Plummer crashing and burning. My personal feeling is if the Patriots stop the Broncos running game and put all of the pressure on Plummer, the Patriots should win.
Ben Peasley, Lakewood, Colo.
A: Mangini signed with the Patriots prior to this season and while I don't have the exact details, my guess is that it was a three-year contract. If the Jets hire Mangini, the Patriots wouldn't receive any compensation, because he would be making an upward career move, and the Patriots granted permission for Mangini to interview.
Now that Charlie Weis is officially on Notre Dame vacation, would you suspect that he has any sort of behind-the-scenes consulting role for the Patriots, in an effort to help them game plan specific or specialty plays?
Greg Raymond, Providence, RI
A: I think Weis will always leave time for anything Tom Brady wants to run by him -- they share a strong bond -- but Weis has his hands full with his own job at Notre Dame. Also, I'm sure he wouldn't want to step on the toes of Josh McDaniels, who I believe is handling the majority of the team's offensive coordinator duties at this time. So if Weis contributes anything, I think it would be on the periphery.
My question concerns Patriot punter, Josh Miller. I'm curious if he watches game film of upcoming opponents in their respective punt coverages in an attempt to gain an edge? Does he look at what kind of return the opponent is trying to set up or, is he mainly concerned with getting his punts off cleanly and in a timely manner?
Mike Burns, Turnersville, NJ
A: Here was Josh's response from the locker room last week: "Everyone in the playoffs is pretty good on offense and defense so then you try to figure out what could win the game, what could be a difference, and it could be field position. So you look at the returner you're going against, what his weaknesses are, if he doesn't like to catch the ball over one shoulder, things like that. Does he take more chances if you hit it really high? Does he fair catch a lot of them? And then you look at the rush. Who is always close to blocking the ball? Where does he line up? Then you might try to block against him or kick to the other side. So a lot of stuff goes into it."
Now that Bill Belichick is 11-1 in the postseason, I'd heard somewhere that Bill Parcells has never won a playoff game without Bill Belichick on his staff. What is Parcells' season and playoff record with and without Bill Belichick?
Bruce Stanforth, Amherst
A: Parcells' all-time coaching record is 163-123-1 in the regular season and 11-7 in the playoffs. His regular-season record with Belichick is 117-73 and his regular-season record without Belichick is 46-50. Parcells' all-time playoff record with Belichick is 11-5. Parcells' all-time playoff record without Belichick is 0-2.
I was watching the Patriots game the other day and said to my sons, Kevin Faulk is the Patriots' most underrated player. Do you agree?
Chuck Mantia, Saratoga, NY
A: He'd definitely rank right up there on my list, although I think Ty Warren might get my vote. Warren has started every game each of the last two seasons, quietly going about his job and playing solidly.
I don't know any of Willie McGinest's stats off hand, but do you think he is making a late career push for the Hall of Fame? Additionally, what Patriots do you foresee making the Hall of Fame from their recent dynastic run?
Chris, Redlands, Calif.
A: I'm not a great Hall of Fame guy, but to answer the question, my feeling is that McGinest will fall short of the Hall of Fame. He's played in 171 career regular-season games, with 700 tackles and 78 sacks, and has especially distinguished himself in the postseason (his 16 playoff sacks are a NFL record). I don't think that's enough for the Hall, though. I believe the only sure-fire Hall of Famer on the current Patriots roster is quarterback Tom Brady. Although there's only one kicker currently in the Hall, Adam Vinatieri should also draw some consideration.
How many team that are seeded fourth and still went on to win the Super Bowl? Thanks.
Cecilia Hsiung, Waltham
A: Since the playoff format changed in 1990, four No. 4 seeds have advanced to the Super Bowl, with two winning. The winners were the Broncos (1997) and Ravens (2000). The losers were the Titans (1999) and the Bills (1992).
I guess it's not likely, but I know Belichick has a huge amount of respect for Mike Martz, and while he is grooming a couple of young guys to be a fulltime offensive coordinator ... if Martz didn't get an offer as a head coach would we ever consider bringing him in as a coordinator (or even consultant) for a year or two? The idea of him working with Brady is exciting.
Jeff Messore, North Reading
A: It is an intriguing idea, but I think this is Josh McDaniels' ship to steer for the foreseeable future. As the season has progressed, and given the way some players speak in the locker room, it's become clearer to me that McDaniels is really performing most of the offensive coordinator duties. I think Belichick would view the addition of Martz as something that stunts McDaniels' development.
Who would receive an Oscar from Belichick for injury report follow-through to keep the media guys off guard this season? Did anyone act the part? Would it be Belichick himself for his stone face at press conferences?
George White, Whitman
A: When it comes to injuries and the Patriots, it's less about players and coaches acting and more about them buttoning their lip. For example, it wasn't as if Tedy Bruschi was limping through the locker room holding his calf, drawing attention to his injury.
While I hate to think about a Pats' offseason yet, I was wondering if you could provide a look at the Pats summer -- salary cap situation, unrestricted FAs, restricted FAs (and the likelihood of keeping them), as well as big money guys that may up for a restructuring or getting cut.
Bernie Porter, Raleigh, NC
A: The salary cap is projected to go up as much as $7 million, from the current $85.5 million to as high as around $92 million. The Patriots with the highest cap numbers for 2006 are: Tom Brady ($14.4 million), Willie McGinest ($8.3 million), Richard Seymour ($7.4 million), Rosevelt Colvin ($5.7 million), Matt Light ($5.3 million), Duane Starks ($5.1 million) and Corey Dillon ($4.3 million). Often times, players with high cap numbers are most likely to be restructured, and in this case, keep an eye on McGinest. His deal is very much like Troy Brown's from last year, meaning they'll probably need to hammer out a new one to bring him back. Some of the main unrestricted free agents are: kicker Adam Vinatieri; guard Stephen Neal; receivers David Givens, Troy Brown, Andre' Davis and Tim Dwight; tackle Tom Ashworth; tight end Christian Fauria; quarterback Doug Flutie; and linebackers Don Davis and Matt Chatham. I don't believe there are any restricted free agents for the Patriots this offseason, as many of the rookies from the 2003 draft signed longer contracts. There is a lot to digest here and this is the type of stuff we'll delve into when the season ends.
Mike, what additional picks do the Pats have in 2006 draft and what compensatory picks can we expect for David Patten and Joe Andruzzi.
Mike Friedrich, Chicago
A: The Patriots have additional picks in the third round (Ravens) and fourth round (Lions). They traded their own fifth-round pick to the Browns for Andre' Davis in the preseason, but acquired a fifth-rounder from the Raiders. As for compensatory picks, it's determined based on a complex formula that takes into account how those players contributed with their new teams. I'd guess that Andruzzi would yield a fourth- or fifth-rounder. And since Patten got hurt and didn't produce much, that might be a seventh-rounder, if anything.
Now that Herm Edwards has moved onto KC, is there an even greater possibility that Ty Law will be back with the Pats next year?
Neal Smookler, Boston
A: Given the Patriots have several contracts of their own to work out, not to mention some big ones that expire in 2006 (Deion Branch, Richard Seymour, Dan Koppen etc.) and could be worked on at this time, I don't see them entering the Ty Law bidding. Also, my understanding is that Ty Law didn't necessarily go to the Jets to play for Herman Edwards as much as because they were offering the best financial package at the time.
At this point (16 games done), it appears there's enough evidence to conclude that the Pats ended up doing fairly well in the draft this year. Mankins in the first round, Hobbs and Kaczur in the third round. That's three players that look like go-forward starters in the league (Hobbs?) ... and the Pats did not have a second round pick either. How do you rate the draft so far?
Jim Kelleher, Northford, Conn.
A: While things can change quickly, the early returns have been solid, especially considering the position in which the Patriots were drafting. Mankins was the 32nd player selected (last in the first round), while they traded down to the third round and got Hobbs (84th, 17th cornerback selected) and used a compensatory third-round pick to grab Kaczur (100th). The back half of the draft could also be a factor, as fourth-round safety James Sanders, fifth-round linebacker Ryan Claridge and seventh-round quarterback Matt Cassel will all be given chances to expand their roles next year. Another positive is that the Patriots added extra draft choices in the third and fourth rounds for 2006 with some wheeling and dealing in 2005.
Tom Brady and Brett Favre are the only Super-Bowl winning QBs who are still with the teams they led to the Super Bowl. Should the Patriots win the Super Bowl again this season and Favre retire, Brady would stand alone with that distinction. Not bad for a sixth-round draft pick in an age of alleged parity.
Joe Calapai, Brockton
A: Thanks Joe. I think there's a part of Brady that still carries a chip on his shoulder from being a sixth-round pick, and that helps contribute to his drive and competitiveness.
Do NFL talent scouts visit college football practices? Or does their scouting only consist of games, workouts, combine, and the Senior Bowl practices and games etc.?
Nick Drake, Worcester
A: Visiting college campuses is a big part of the job, as is speaking with college coaches about players. They want to get the complete picture of the player, both as a player and a person.
Do you think the Pats might go after a smaller very quick running back, to have a change of pace in the backfield, like 10-15 touches a game. I really like having one that changes the flow of the game.
Bob Sulik, Shenzhen, China
A: Seems like the Patriots have their player for that role in Kevin Faulk, who is coming off a solid effort in the AFC wild-card round playoff game against the Jaguars. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Faulk is one of the Patriots' most productive players on a per-play basis.
I am a big Pats fan, but personally, I am so sick of them complaining about getting disrespected. Every single year they complain about being disrespected and how nobody believes in them. They should just keep their mouth shut and play. Do you think they are right and are being disrespected or that they should be quiet and prove it on the field?
Ware Cady, Salem
A: Disrespect isn't the word I'd use. I think people around the NFL admire what the Patriots have accomplished, realizing it is rare in this day and age. At the same time, when the Patriots were 5-5 during the season, it seemed many were ready to call this a lost year. I'm not sure if that's disrespect, but that's the way I see it.
I often wondered about the first yard sticks. We are always shown the front end of the sticks, as we hold our breath to see if a first down was made. What about the back end? I realize there is nothing scientific about the placement, but how accurate is the initial spotting and who is responsible for setting it up? In your recollection, has a coach ever complained about the placement of the back end of the sticks?
Elliot Kramer, Montreal
A: The head linesman is in charge of mechanics of the chain crew. The sticks include a yardage clip which help ensure the accurate measurements, on both the front and back ends of the chain.
I've scanned many of the major NFL-related web sites and those in New York and Kansas City to get some balanced reaction to Herman Edwards jumping the Jets for the Chiefs. Why is Edwards getting such a free ride from everyone, even the NY scribes? He stood in front of his team and assured them he wasn't leaving.
Scott Fine, Framingham
A: I'm not familiar with the inner workings of Edwards' situation. While he seems like a solid individual from afar, and players seem to want to play for him, I haven't been particularly impressed with his Xs and Os and clock management as a coach.
Why did the Patriots sign five players to "futures" contracts? What is a "futures" contract? Among the players signed was a quarterback and a player who was previously released by the Pats. Why would anybody sign on if there chances of making the 53 man roster next year are probably very slim to none?
Steven H. Baron, Newhall, Calif.
A: A future contract is for when NFL rosters expand to 80 players next month. Once the offseason arrives, teams find they need more bodies to practice. For players, there are a lot of benefits to signing those contracts. There's always the chance you could catch someone's eye, and in the simplest form, it's a resume builder to say you went to training camp with the New England Patriots, or any team for that matter.
Is there any site I can download the playoff games after the fact? I have zero chance of seeing them live and it kills me to just have a read on the net. The regular season isn't too bad, but the playoffs
Corky Deckere, Vanuatu
A: We'll finish on that question, Corky, and see if any of the readers can lend a hand.