As the Patriots transition from the disappointing end to the 2007 season into their 2008 team-building period, our mailbag bridges those two worlds.
Some questions are looking back on the Super Bowl. Others are looking ahead.
On to the questions ...
What is the news on the free agents? I figure Moss will be back, but what about the others? Being that we do not have a lot of cap space, I assume that we are going to try and renegotiate Stallworth and Washington to free up some space. What about Colvin, he has a big cap this next year too. Also I assume that Asante will move on, which way do you see us going with that? I really wanted to see the rookie last year, Mike Richardson, play against some competition. How about LB, do you think Oscar Lua will be something there, another guy I wanted to see play last year. Finally the draft, I keep hearing that if we stay put this is our guy Vernon Gholston, DE Ohio State, what do you think? It really seems like we need a playmaker/intimidator on defense, a Ray Lewis type of player.
Mike O'Brien, Pflugerville, Texas
A: If I had to sum up the Patriots' free-agent situation, I'd say Samuel will test the market (increasing the likelihood he leaves) while Moss will agree to an extension, or at least get the franchise tag as the sides work to finalize an extension. Things are quiet on the Colvin front, so unless something changes in the coming weeks, I think the team will work with his $7.6 million cap charge. I have not heard much in regards to Stallworth or Washington - my assumption is that the team will tell both of them that they'd like them to return but with different contracts. I'd expect Stallworth to look elsewhere and Washington to remain with the club. On the younger players like Richardson and Lua, the 2008 training camp will tell us the answers we need to know. Right now, it's just speculation if they will make a difference, although both showed flashes of promise. As for the draft, I envision the Patriots trying to move down from No. 7 and pick a cornerback.
Hi Mike, don't you think a good defensive end is the most valuable asset in the entire defense? The reason why I say this is that when I look back at 2 games (The Colts in week 9 and the Giants in the SB), one thing stands out to me: the two DEs rushing off the edge. Light and Kazcur have no answers at all. The pocket collapsed in like 3 seconds. And we all know what happened on those games. If not for the defensive collapse for the Colts, we might not have a perfect regular season. I guess this change my view on Asante situation as well. Why invest the money on an elite corner if your DE can stop the run AND stop the pass. Besides, the rules on the pass (thanks to Bill Polian) benefits so much on the WR. The CBs can't even touch the WRs. It's funny to me that the way to stop the best offense in the NFL history is just a simple 4-3, rush 4, drop 7. The key is just the DEs getting off quick. Can our defense do that, because the 3-4 hasn't seemed to work that well after Romeo left? And will our offense be able to stop the speedy DE off the edge next season?
Jeffrey Yau, Seattle
A: Interesting thoughts here, Jeffrey, and it hits on what most coaches speak about often - if you can get to the quarterback with the standard four rushers, it makes the entire defense function much more effectively. The Colts and Giants are indeed two of the best teams at accomplishing this. I think I'd sum it up by saying it takes special players to utilize that style effectively, and you always have to worry about what happens if those players get hurt (e.g. Colts in the AFC Divisional Playoff round without Dwight Freeney). This might sound like coachspeak, but in the end it comes down to what type of personality you want your team to have. The Colts are one of the smallest, athletic defenses in the league. The Patriots are one of the biggest, most physical defenses in the league. I see the benefits in both systems, but if I had to choose, I'd take the big and physical approach.
What draft picks do the Patriots own besides the 7th overall pick in the 1st round? I know the other 1st rounder is forfeited (unfairly in my opinion).
Jameson Chiariello, Millis
A: The Patriots have single picks in each round (1-7) as well as Oakland's third-round selection, which is a good one, high in the round.
Hey Mike - I have been pondering this question for two months now, so I will ask you. In the past couple months, let's say the last few games of the regular season, as well as the playoffs and SB, did you see a change in Tom Brady's demeanor? I did not see any passion, did not see him celebrating as much with his team mates after a score, no head butting, just no excitement. I go back to the statement he made during an interview when he made the comment that "there has to be more". Usually you hear people say that when they are bored or disatisfied with their current situation, which kind of worries me if TB is getting to that stage in life. Your thoughts?
A: I hear what you are saying, Steve, as I didn't see the same emotion in the final two games. But I feel strongly that it has nothing to do with Brady losing his passion for the game. I truly believe it was because he was really hurting physically.
I am certainly not going to say the Pats made the wrong move since the Broncos basically overpaid for Daniel Graham, but in retrospect, is it safe to say that if he was still on the roster, we likely would have had a parade last week? I can't imagine the Giants putting such consistent heat on Brady if Graham was in there as a blocker.
A: I had a similar thought, Vincent, but it was tempered by my belief that the protection problems came all across the board. It wasn't just the tackles who struggled. The guards and centers also were consistently beaten in one-on-one match-ups. So while I think Graham would have helped, I'm not certain his presence alone would have made the difference.
While watching the Super Bowl, I noticed quite a bit that the clock was not running when it should have been. I remember seeing Tom Coughlin yelling about it once. Now I have seen some things talking about the clock not running after the Giants got the first down on fourth and one. I watched NFL Replay and noticed with 8:14 to play it wasn't running on the snap hard to tell what was happening in the end. I know it doesn't much matter but has anyone checked all the discrepancies?
Len Goldstone, New London, Conn.
A: One reporter did, Clark Judge of CBSsportsline, and his report indicates that there was one time the clock did not start when it should have. There were a few other times that the clock seemed to be off, earlier in the game, and that was disappointing given the magnitude of the game. All that being said, from my standpoint, the game was not decided by a clock error. The Giants won fair and square.
Hi Mike, I've been astonished at the level of anti-Pats vitriol out there. It seems a bit more than just anti-Boston championship envy or knock-the-Top-Dog feeling, and Spygate is clearly to blame. The Pats are booed at the Pro Bowl, and at the NYC parade Gov. Spitzer made a disparaging remark comparing Belichick to a bad CIA spy. Now, Boston's had 5 recent title parades, and I can't recall Menino or Romney ever using the opportunity to insult Mike Martz, Andy Reid, John Fox, Clint Hurdle, or Tony LaRussa. Belichick's "us against the world" outlook has become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Do you get the sense that money-wise Bob Kraft and his savvy marketers realize the beating their brand is taking, and do they have any idea of how to right things? Belichick might not mind being hated, but I'm not alone among Pats fans who don't want to be considered mere enablers for a rude, rules-averse coach.
Thomas Mullen, Washington, DC
A: A couple of thoughts here, Thomas. First, I think when Robert Kraft assesses the value of his brand, he can point to record TV ratings this season and off-the-charts merchandise sales. I also think he can attribute much of it to jealousy, and the idea that in today's society people seem to enjoy the process of building people up only to enjoy the process of seeing them torn down. As for Belichick, I personally think calling him a "rude, rules-averse coach" is too harsh. The Patriots and Belichick paid a harsh penalty for Spygate, and while I don't condone the actions, I'm also of the belief this would have about 1/50th of the importance/attention if we were talking about the St. Louis Rams or another lower-tier team. So I think some of it comes down to jealousy as well.
Hey Mike, still dealing with the loss but trying to move on. What are the chances of the pats going after Dan Morgan? He is a game changer when healthy (although its rare he is healthy). Would you be for that signing if it was an incentive-laden deal based on playing time and health??
A: Quite a few questions on Morgan came in over the last few days after Morgan was cut. Having been in Carolina for a preseason game in 2007, and talking to some media folks covering the team, they painted a bleak picture on Morgan's history with concussions. I don't see the Patriots assuming that risk with Morgan, even as part of an incentive-laden deal based on playing time and health.
Mike, since the NFL Network has been running Super Bowl XLII over and over, I got a good chance to review the offensive plays. It seems to me that the Patriots used less chip blocking to slow down the Giants rush than the last time they faced. Also, they didn't use the three tight end set in the running game that helped free Lawrence Maroney for big yards against the Chargers in the playoffs. Both of these schemes depend on the tight ends. Unless I missed an injury that limited the play of a tight end, it seems the play calling plays forced Brady to hang in the pocket without much extra protection, which led to Brady getting smacked around. Any info on why Josh McDaniels didn't go with what worked the first time the Pats met Giants this year?
Vince Chase, Winchester, N.H.
A: Let me start by saying I have not watched the Super Bowl again. I saw it in person and usually I go back a day or so after and watch the TV version of the game to see if I can pick anything up, but haven't done so yet. I don't remember seeing a lot of chip blocks in the game, although I'm not sure that would have made much of a difference given the way the Giants overwhelmed the Patriots across the entire line of scrimmage. As for the three tight ends, there was only three plays in which the Patriots lined up with them, using linebacker Mike Vrabel as the third option. I feel fairly certain that the lack of the three-TE package was related to personnel. The Patriots did not have their third "pure" tight end, Stephen Spach, active for the game. An offensive linemen like Ryan O'Callaghan could have slid in there, but perhaps with Stephen Neal (knee) knocked out of the game, the team didn't want to risk losing another lineman. I looked back on the season finale against the Giants and the Patriots did not use any three-TE packages in that game.
I understand that a lot of it has to do with how much talent is on the Patriots team but I don't think Belichick or Pioli had a banner draft in 2007. Of the 9 players selected (8 on the second day ) only Brandon Meriweather was on the final roster. Again, I understand the team was loaded with talent but they have to produce better results in the upcoming draft. This team needs to get younger and you can't tell me they can't find 2 or 3 players that can make this team and contribute.
Drew Daniels, Charlotte, N.C.
A: If one chooses to look at the draft solely through the rookies picked, I can see the point, Drew. But I count Wes Welker (acquired for second-round and seventh-round picks) and Randy Moss (fourth-round pick) in my analysis, because those players were brought in using draft picks. The draft itself was considered a bit weak talent-wise. So I'm not as harsh on the Belichick/Pioli tandem.