PHOENIX -- Tuesday is highlighted by Media Day at Super Bowl XLII, when both teams are at University of Phoenix Stadium and all players and coaches are available during a one-hour session.
From this perspective, Media Day is always a nice time to chat up some of the assistant coaches. Along those lines, I thought I'd start off Tuesday's mini-mailbag by listing the team's coaching staff:
Bill Belichick - head coach
Dante Scarnecchia - assistant head coach/offensive line
Dean Pees - defensive coordinator
Josh McDaniels - offensive coordinator
Brad Seely - special teams
Nick Caserio - wide receivers
Joel Collier - secondary
Don Davis - assistant strength and conditioning
Ivan Fears - running backs
Pepper Johnson - defensive line
Pete Mangurian - tight ends
Harold Nash - assistant strength and conditioning
Matt Patricia - linebackers
Mike Woicik - strength and conditioning
Kevin Bickers - coaching assistant
Josh Boyer -- coaching assistant
Bill O'Brien - coaching assistant
The Patriots have one of the NFL's smallest coaching staffs, but there is no disputing its quality. In a league where there will be 30 percent turnover at the offensive/defensive coordinator positions in 2008, the team appears to be ahead of the game stability-wise.
Now, on to the questions.
Mike, at the start of the season, I remember seeing a very interesting stat that the Patriots have only lost a handful of games in which Rodney Harrison has played in his Patriots career. When he's been out of action, our record has not been so stellar. Do I remember correctly, and how does that stat look now?
Antti, Helsinki, Finland
The numbers are very impressive, Antti. Since Rodney Harrison joined the Patriots as a free agent in 2003, the Patriots are 58-7 with him in the lineup. The team is 19-9 without him in the lineup. Harrison went wire to wire in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. He played in just three games in 2005, and 10 games in 2006. After missing the first four games this season, he's been a constant in the lineup.
Not reading much about my favorite Pat, Laurence Maroney. He scored 2 TDs and a 2-point conversion in the last Giant game. I think he's possible Super Bowl MVP, running around, between and over Giants for 100-plus yards. and 2 more TD's. His time has finally come! Reminds me that Denver's SB's were not about Elway and this SB will not be about Brady! Your thoughts? Thanks from central PA fan.
Jo, Dillsburg, Pa.
In the end, I think Maroney's role/production will come down to how the Giants' defense decides to defend the Patriots' spread offense. If the Giants go with a lighter nickel/dime (5 DBs/6 DBs) package, the Patriots have shown they are content to run the ball and overpower teams that are "lighter in the box". That would be Maroney's time to shine. When I analyze this matchup, I do see the Patriots with a decided advantage in the passing game - assuming protection holds up - so my first instinct is that the team will work hard to capitalize on that matchup. If that fails, then I see them turning more to Maroney.
This is slightly off the Super Bowl topic, but who would you pick in the multi-purpose/3rd Down back? Kevin Faulk or Dave Meggett, and why? They were both underrated talents that made play after play for their respective teams.
JM, Bloomfield, Conn.
Insightful question, JM, and had me going back to find Meggett's stats. I think it depends on how much you want to factor in Meggett's punt return work, which I'd rate as better than Faulk (7 TDs for Meggett, 0 for Faulk). Both grade out extremely well in pass protection, so I think it's a wash there. In terms of catching the ball, I'd take Faulk because of his sure hands and ability to make the clutch catch time and time again. Running wise, I might give a slight edge to Meggett, but it's closer to even. Meggett was probably a bit more durable, but that's tough to factor in this season, as Faulk has been immense in playing 44 percent of the offensive snaps. Entering this season, I probably would have taken Meggett. But after watching Faulk this year, it's hard for me to go against him. So I'll take Faulk.
Hey Mike, what an exciting week. I have a feeling that the Patriots are going to play a much better game this time. Not to take anything away from the Giants, but the Patriots were clearly playing for records and not strategy. Brady played a poor first half, forcing balls to un-open receivers and the running game was non-existent. I think BB will have this team hyper-focused and ready to dominate. What do you think?
I would tend to agree when I heard Rodney Harrison talk yesterday the same thought crossed my mind. Harrison talked about how disappointed he was in the team's defensive effort that night, and he guaranteed a better performance. The number that stands out to me is the red zone - the Giants were 4 of 4 against the Patriots' defense inside the 20. It's hard not to look at that and think it will be a key in this football game, starting with how the Patriots match up with Plaxico Burress.
Mike, what do you think the chances are that Troy Brown will be on the active roster come Sunday? This might possibly be his last game ever, and it would be great to see him get some action. Thanks.
George, Wayne, Neb.
This was a point that was raised on television Monday night, and the more I think about it, the more I feel that Troy Brown should be active for this game. It's not for sentimental reasons, but instead for the value he provides in a variety of areas - receiver, defensive back, special teams, experience in the big game. Given the way the roster is structured, it might be tough to carve out a spot for him, but my hunch is that he will be active.
When Brady was MIA what exactly was he doing? I just want to be assuaged that he wasn't doing anything, that he was going over film and plays etc., doing the mental work not the physical.
Here is Brady's response to your question: "I think it was a good week in terms of the mental preparation and getting ready to play. It is nice because I feel very energized down here." Brady also spent plenty of time in the training room last week, as I heard him talk about that on his weekly WEEI interview Monday morning.
Not a very important question, but one I was wondering about. Is it typical for the teams to arrive at the Super Bowl site one day apart the way they did? I don't recall this from previous years. If it is league mandated, who decides which team arrives when? If it is the team choice, any idea why the selection of Sunday (Pats), Monday (Giants)?
The only mandate from the league is that a team must arrive by a certain time. I remember it from last year with the Colts, who also arrived on Monday. The Bears came in Sunday night last year. In this year's Super Bowl, I think the Patriots liked the idea of getting settled in their surroundings and having their first practice Monday in Arizona. The Giants took the approach that they could get more done at home.
Sorry to ask a non-SB question, but with Brandon Meriweather expected to compete at safety next year and with the probably retirement of Tedy Bruschi (and possibly Junior Seau), is there any chance we see more 3-3-5 formations with Rodney Harrison essentially playing inside linebacker? He seems to play better closer to the line anyways and would provide the speed and cover skills that our current linebackers lack. His smarts and knowledge of the system would make the transition easier, and I would think Coach Belichick would love the versatility this formation would provide. Your thoughts?
Carl Goodrich, Syracuse, NY
I think this would strictly depend on how the Patriots match up against a specific opponent, Carl. It's the type of alignment I would expect to see against a team like the Colts that essentially runs a 3-receiver offense and forces defenses to make a decision on whether to play a base defense or bring in an extra defensive back. I think it's a great point and that you've hit on something that reflects the value Harrison brings to a team. His versatility gives the Patriots options. I don't see the Patriots going to this type of alignment as part of a base defense - it would compromise them too much against the run - but I would imagine it will be part of the plan.
Hey Mike, earlier in the season, the Pats used to roll Randy Moss out rather than have him start straight up at the line of scrimmage like they're doing now. Why the change in game plan for Moss, and do you think that the Pats will go back to their "old ways" in SB42? It seems like it would make sense to do so since it will be harder for the G-men to defend and/or jam him at the line of scrimmage. Thanks.
I do think we'll see Moss put in motion a few times, or at least bunched up on a side with other receivers. I've sensed that one of the hot topics entering the game is if the Patriots will work hard to get Moss involved early. I would think they will do just that.
Why don't more teams defer the coin toss and take the ball to start the second half? My theory is that at the start of the game there is no momentum. Run your defense out and let them shut down the opposition's offense. Then at the end of the first half if you drive for a last second score you have momentum and the ball or if your opposition scores at the end of the half you at least get the ball and your defense off the field to start the second half and can take away some of their momentum. See last year's AFC championship game as a prime example. Colts scored 10 points between those two possessions. What are your thoughts?
Geoff, New England
This question was briefly posted in Monday's mailbag and reappears today because I made a mistake on the answer. Thanks to Chris, from Abington, Mass., for pointing it out in an e-mail. There is no deferring the opening kickoff in the NFL. So when a team wins the toss it either decides on the ball or the direction it wants to defend. For what it's worth, the Patriots were 7-9 on opening tosses in the regular season and are 0-2 in the playoffs.
Hi Mike: Who do you think the Patriots will add to their 53 man roster given they have one opening?
Special teams will be key in this game and we know Bill Belichick has already called New York's David Tyree one of the best special teamers in the game. The Patriots have Willie Andrews, Kelley Washington and Brandon Meriweather as top gunners on punt coverage, and they might look to protect themselves in that area with someone like Gemara Williams off the practice squad. But in the end, whoever is activated, it would be hard for me to imagine that player would be on the 45-man game-day roster.