As good as it gets?
With spygate in the rearview mirror and the Pats rolling, fans have a lot to smile about
FOXBOROUGH -- Business is a bit slower this week. The Patriots are rolling, there are few issues surrounding the team, and fans haven't exactly filled up the mailbag. This is different from last week, following the NFL's investigation of the team's videotaping procedures, when the intensity and volume of emails was at an all-time high.
I'd sum up Patriots fans as a satisfied lot at this time.
This week's line of questioning starts with a player who has captivated many through three impressive games, receiver Randy Moss.
So what's the consensus on Moss? Is he giving it everything on every play? He played the most offensive snaps this week and had a good game (not over the top, but good). Also if he continues this production do you see him in a Pats uniform next year (assuming the Patriots win the Super Bowl and assuming they don't)?
Matt Gebo, Worcester
A: The consensus on Moss is that he's been better than advertised. I have recorded that he's been on the field for 144 of 195 snaps (73.8 percent), which is more than any other receiver through the first three games. To me, that is one aspect that has been remarkable about Moss. He misses most of training camp, expresses concern about potentially slowing the tempo of the offense down, and then comes out and is a workhorse? It just doesn't match with the expectations going in. As for looking ahead, this was a question posed last week as well. I believe it needs more time to sort itself. I'm sure there is more on the mind of Moss than simply breaking the bank at this point of his career, and I believe he's privately wondered what he might have done over the course of his career had he been with a quarterback like Tom Brady in this type of offense from the get-go. But since Moss hasn't spoken to the media since the season opener, I don't know what his mindset is at this point.
I have been having this debate amongst my co-workers. Does Randy Moss, if he continues to produce similar to what he has with the Patriots so far, have a chance at some of the seemingly unbreakable records set by Jerry Rice? Of course, I'm not expecting Moss to have 2,000 yards and 16 TDs this year, but 1,300 yards and 12 TDs seems very realistic.
Jeremy Rudd, Hillsborough, NC
A: Rice totaled an NFL-record 1,549 receptions and 22,895 receiving yards. His 1,848 yards in the 1985 season is an NFL record, as are his 76 games with 100 or more yards receiving. In addition, his 197 career touchdowns are a record, and he also owns the single-season record for touchdowns, with 22 in the 1987 season. Rice also had a touchdown catch in 13 straight games in 1986-87, also an NFL record. So can Moss approach any of those marks? I doubt it, but the single-season records for yards and touchdown catches could be in range, as he has 403 yards and five touchdowns already. In terms of career totals, Moss has 698 receptions and 11,103 receiving yards. He has totaled 49 career games with 100 or more yards. I don't think he'll top Rice in those categories.
Was the hit from Vince Wilfork on J.P. Losman intentional? I didn't see a good replay angle, but it seemed more like Wilfork fell into the QB unintentionally.
Tracy, Newport, RI
A: I watched it again and I thought Wilfork was correctly penalized for roughing the passer. It was a low hit, which is prohibited. As for whether it was intentional, I don't believe Wilfork is a dirty player and intended to injure Losman. But I do believe he lost his focus/concentration on the play; you just can't dive at a quarterback low like that. Wilfork conducted an interview on sports radio WEEI as part of Patriots Monday programming and said he needed to see a tape of the play before commenting further, but added: "I can't argue the fact. I did hit him low. I'm pretty sure the NFL will have something coming, a Fed-Ex in my locker this week. But I'm moving forward and so is this team. Hopefully they'll see something and want to overturn it. I'm pretty sure that won't happen because it is a quarterback I hit. Whatever the NFL wants to issue, they'll issue and I'll fight it, but it really doesn't bother me."
How much longer before Bill Belichick pulls the trigger on Chris "Shank" Hanson? This guy is going to kill us sooner rather than later with his "massive" 30-yard punts. He can't be the best available punter.
Chris Pittman, Worcester
A: Belichick put his support behind Hanson when asked about the punting situation in Monday's press conference. "I like what we're seeing from Chris," Belichick said. "Chris did what we asked him to do [Sunday]. Could his punts have gone a little bit further? Maybe they could have, but he did what we asked him to do. Therefore, I'm happy with that. Could it be better? It could be better." Asked a follow-up question, Belichick said that Hanson was instructed to punt the ball out of bounds, not allowing Roscoe Parrish the chance for a return.
Chris Hanson has been terrible in my opinion. Did Danny Baugher stick with any other team? Is the reason he is not the punter his run in with the law?
Steven Picariello, Boynton Beach, Fla.
A: Baugher has not landed with another club. He had a tryout with the Bears last week. I think the reason he is not the punter is more performance-based than his run-in with the law, which came after he was released. However, that run-in with the law could potentially cost him the chance to come back.
What are we going to do about a punter? This guy reminds me of Ken Walter. Who are the best available punters out on the market?
Gary Winer, Stoughton
A: Paul Ernster, who punted for the Broncos last year, is one of the top players available. Micah Knorr, Glenn Pakulak, Brian Monroe and Mitch Berger are a few of the other punters who teams have taken a look at in recent weeks.
It seems to me that when Junior Seau is on the field the defense plays better. It also seems that he is usually replacing Tedy Bruschi when he comes in. Do you have stats that indicate if I am correct? I'm a Bruschi fan but I think Seau is playing better and I think the rest of defense's intensity is raised when he is on the field. If this is all true, shouldn't Seau get the start over Bruschi?
Jeff Champa, Bolingbrook, Ill.
A: I was specifically interested in the Seau/Bruschi situation in Sunday's game, and charted when each player was in the game. Bruschi got the start and would come off the field -- replaced by Seau -- in nickel and dime situations. On a few series, Seau would rotate in for Bruschi on early downs in the base 3-4 defense. In Sunday's game, Seau ended up playing 32 snaps, while Bruschi played 22. But Bruschi played 18 first-half snaps, to Seau's 10. The Patriots went to more nickel and dime packages in the second half, which seemed to up Seau's snap total. So while I thought Seau played better than Bruschi in the game, I don't think he was specifically in the game because Bruschi wasn't performing at a high enough level. As for who starts, I don't think it necessarily matters because as Sunday proved when it came to Seau and Bruschi, the starter ended up playing less snaps than the reserve.
In the first quarter, there was a play blown dead, a false start on Randy Moss. However there was also an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Bills. What exactly happened? The TV announcers never explained it nor showed a replay. Thanks much.
Glenn Williams, Brighton
A: The sequence to which I believe you are referring came on the Patriots' second drive. The team had the ball on the Bills' 47 and Moss was penalized for a false start, for moving early while lined up on the outside, to the right of Tom Brady. Yet after the play, Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins and Bills linebacker Angelo Crowell both exchanged blows. Mankins was fortunate to not get called for a penalty, as Crowell got penalized instead (I thought it should have been offsetting unnecessary roughness penalties). In the end, the unnecessary roughness penalty on Crowell overruled the false start by Moss.
What is the status of Stephen Neal? He's been out the last two weeks but I haven't seen/heard what the injury is and the timetable for his return. Any chance you have some inside info?
A: Neal has been listed on the Patriots' injury report the last two weeks, as his shoulder is not 100 percent. Neal was questionable (50-50) for Sunday's game, and my hunch is that he's still a week or two away from a return. His replacement, Russ Hochstein, played a nice game Sunday. On Laurence Maroney's longest run of the day, a 19-yarder in the second quarter, Hochstein pulled from his right guard position and helped open a nice hole.
Patriots are last in red-zone defense. Something to keep an eye on, agree?
David Roberts, Ludlow
A: Bill Belichick thinks so. Here is what he said in his Monday press conference: "It's been a focus. We have to do a better job down there. We have to coach it better. We have to play it better. We're going to have to stop somebody sometime. We haven't stopped anybody yet. It starts with me; coach them a little better then maybe we'll play better. If we play better, maybe we'll stop somebody. We need to do that. You can't let them in the end zone every time they cross the 20-yard line. It's ridiculous."
Your mailbag was the first place I saw a full reading of the rule that the Patriots broke. It seems clear now that no videotaping at all is allowed; however, before this incident it seems one could make the case it was allowed as long as it wasn't used to your advantage during the game. Is that what Belichick is implying when he talks about his interpretation of the rules?
Paul Carroll, Springfield, Mo.
A: Belichick has not stated this publicly or privately, but my own interpretation of the situation is that this is exactly what Belichick was saying. I believe he told Commissioner Roger Goodell that he never used the videotapes during a game, but as part of his offseason preparations.
Why did the NFL destroy the evidence?
A: Good question, and unfortunately I don't have the answer. One theory is that the last piece of evidence the NFL had ended up in the hands of Fox Sports, and perhaps Patriots officials made an agreement with the NFL that the team would turn over all materials, but only if they were destroyed, for fear they would land in the wrong hands.
I'm curious as to your thoughts of how the loss of a first-round pick may impact how the Patriots construct the team next year (assuming they make the playoffs). Not all the consequences are negative in my opinion. The slotted first-round money they would have had to spend on the draft pick could be used to extend some existing contracts or sign a guy like Wilfork or Ben Watson with the extra $$$ not paid to the pick. There will be a bit more money in free agency potentially as a result of one less pick. I also think it may affect their pursuit of Asante Samuel this offseason as with one less pick. They may be more aggressive in keeping Samuel than before, since the ability to replace him with a draft pick may now be diminished. I probably hold the minority opinion here, but I'd rather lose one pick late in the first round, rather than lose both the 2nd and 3rd round picks. The 2nd and 3rd rounders represent better salary cap value and the Pats can maneuver better within the draft with the extra picks as opposed to having 2 first rounders and then nothing until the 4th round.
Kevin Forbes, Natick
A: I wrestled with my answer on this one for a while, Kevin. I don't believe the team's loss of a first-round choice (assuming they make the playoffs) will have a significant impact on how the team approaches free agency, and specifically Samuel. I feel as if the sides have made their positions clear -- Samuel is looking for a top-dollar deal, and the Patriots aren't going there. The odds of finding Samuel's replacement in the first round naturally diminish with one fewer pick, but when I consider that Samuel was a fourth-rounder, Ellis Hobbs was a third-rounder, and Randall Gay was a rookie free agent, it reminds me that the solution doesn't always have to come in the first round. I like the point of the monetary value of the second- and third-round picks over the first-rounder, but I still feel the value of a first-rounder in the 16-32 range is probably the best in the draft because the contract length is five years. Any deal in the second round and later is a maximum of four years.
Donte' Stallworth has caught only a few balls and has not been a focal point of the offense. Has Stallworth raised any concerns with the coaching staff or with QB Tom Brady about having more balls thrown his way?
David Ostrander, Lawrenceville, Ga.
A: I don't believe Stallworth has raised any concerns with the coaching staff or Brady. Stallworth has been on the field for 79 of the team's 195 snaps through the first three games, and has totaled four catches for 66 yards. I attribute part of the lack of production to the fact defenses have not been rolling their coverage to Randy Moss's side as much as anticipated, thus making Moss the better choice for quarterback to throw to. I think Stallworth's production will increase as defenses start to devote more resources to limiting Moss.
I've been a long-time Georgia fan and was pleasantly surprised to read the Patriots had signed David Greene to the practice squad. I felt coming out of college he would be a good fit for the Pats. He had four solid years in the SEC. Frankly, he reminded me of a left-armed version of Tom Brady when Brady was initially drafted. Can you please tell me how the Patriots happened to obtain him, what they see in him and how he might fit into their future plans, particularly given the number of young quarterbacks already on their roster? Much thanks. I look forward to reading your column on a regular basis.
Ed Baker, Powder Springs, Ga.
A: Greene was available as a free agent after being released by the Seahawks, and the Patriots brought him in for a workout Sept. 11. Greene had also worked out for the Titans, Bills and Cowboys. From the Patriots' perspective, they had some positive reports on Greene coming out of Georgia and figure it is a chance to work with him, without taking up a spot on the 53-man roster. Seems like a low-risk, high-reward setup, one that I would endorse for any team. I believe developing quarterbacks is good business, as it is the most important position on the field. Teams that develop quarterbacks not only provide themselves good security, but also could receive value down the road from another club (i.e. Green Bay and Matt Hasselbeck). Now the Patriots have four of them -- Tom Brady, Matt Cassel, Matt Gutierrez and Greene.
With the Pats wearing the silver uniforms this Sunday, I had heard some time ago that they would bring back the throwback reds in their place once and for all. Is this true, and if so when will it happen? I love the flying Elvis, but would love to see Pat the Patriot once a year.
Marc R., Taunton
A: Plans are already in the works for the Patriots' celebration of their 50th anniversary in 2009. As part of that celebration, it is my understanding that the team will don its throwback jerseys and Pat Patriot helmets in at least one game. Based on the feeling I get from the public, I think fans would prefer to see the throwback uniform over the team's silver. I would put myself in that category as well.
Just wanted to ask you two things: What's the latest on Troy Brown and Richard Seymour? Do you think they make it back after Week 6? If they do come back, will anyone have to be cut from the team to make room for them?
Patrick Flanagan, Milton, Vt.
A: I haven't heard an update on either player, but saw Seymour walk through the locker room yesterday. He declined comment. It looks to me like he's been working out hard, so from afar, it doesn't appear as if there are any setbacks with his injured knee. If Seymour and Brown do come back, two players would have to be cut to make room for them. The thing I'd say on this one is that so much can change from week to week, it's unlikely the current roster will be intact at the point that Seymour and Brown might be ready to return. But players like linebackers Chad Brown and Corey Mays would be on the bubble to make room for others.
I am constantly reading about how the "coaches credit" defensive players with so many tackles. For example, "the coaches have credited Mike Vrabel with 11 tackles and 1 sack." I thought the NFL had an official scorer (a la baseball) at each game to determine these stats. Is there truly a difference between the coaches' stats and the NFL's stats?
Ernie Badway, Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
A: There is a difference between the official scorekeepers and coaches tabulations. I think the official scorekeepers at Gillette Stadium do a terrific job. But what happens is that following every game, the Patriots' coaches review the tape and make note of all the tackles, and the team distributes a stats pack to the media members covering the team. The coaches have the benefit of reviewing, rewinding, fast-forwarding the tape, as they are not making the evaluation in real-time like the scorekeepers.
You may have already answered this question, but why doesn't Tom Brady's uniform have T. Brady on the back when there is another Brady (Kyle) on the team?
Sean Cunningham, Mansfield
A: In the past, players had their first initial added to their jersey when a player with the same last name was on the team, mainly so fans could tell the difference between the players. But NFL owners recently voted that the first initial did not need to be on the jersey, and the case of Brady and Brady is a good one. I don't think any fan will look at mammoth tight end Kyle Brady and confuse him for Tom Brady.
How do you pronounce Adalius Thomas's name -- A-day-lus or A-day-lee-us?
A: It's A-day-lus.
I have noticed that a few players from other teams have a 'C' on their jerseys. Is that a symbol that they are captains? If so, why don't the Patriots or every other team have them as well?
A: Not all teams are having their captains wear the "C" patch, although we saw it from the Bills on Sunday, and from the Saints and Titans in the Monday night game this week. I also noticed the Colts as a team with captains wearing the "C". The Patriots have decided not to go in that direction. I think the team feels it has recognized captains in the past, and feels no need to have the captains with the "C".
I noticed that all the quarterbacks have a green dot on the back of their helmets. What does that mean?
Mighty Joe Young, Venice, Fla.
A: The green dot indicates that the player has the coach-to-quarterback communication device in his helmet. Only one player is allowed to have that coach-to-quarterback communication device on the field, and there was an instance last season when a team put two quarterbacks on the field (one as a receiver). So the green dot is there to help the referees regulate that only one player on the field has that communication device.