'Is the party finally over?'
Boston Globe Patriots writer Mike Reiss checks in every Tuesday with his take on the Pats. Ask your question now, and come back next week to see if it was answered.
Now that the glow from the fabulous win in Pittsburgh and the general feeling that the Pats will ALWAYS find a way has worn off I'm left wondering, as I'm sure many of us are this morning after the tremendous beating the Pats received Sunday, "Is the party finally over"? I can't help but think and somewhat believe that they will not be able to overcome "just too many losses" to personnel. I think what we saw yesterday is it is not just the system. The Pats have/had some extremely talented players AND coaches that are no longer with us or are sidelined with injuries. Smoke and mirrors only go so far in trying to patch a bleeding defense. Yes, we still have a great front 4 and of course Tom Brady, but it just may not be enough this go around. I'm not totally cashing in the chips but I'm now "officially" worried.
Ron Bell, Cranbury
Fair enough, Ron. I'm sure there are many fans of the team who feel the same way. And there's no doubt, it was never just the system. You need top-notch players and the Patriots have lost a handful of them. I'm willing to give the team the benefit of the doubt right now. I predicted 11-5 at the start of the season and I'm not ready to go away from that just yet.
I know that Harrison is a loss but do you think his loss is more important as him being on the field making plays or directing the other players where to be? In the loss to San Diego it looked like the secondary was in position to make the plays but they looked very confused and out of place ... almost like they did not know where to be. What is your take? Plus, is it me or can Monty Beisel not tackle?
Kyle Mcfarland, South Glens Falls, NY
Cornerback Asante Samuel acknowledged the communication in the secondary wasn't up to par, so Harrison's loss was very much a factor in that regard. Chargers receiver Keenan McCardell felt the same way, saying "The chemistry wasn't there as much as it's been with Rodney." So Harrison was missed both in his actual play, and his leadership and communication. As for Beisel, he can tackle, but he didn't make enough of them against the Chargers. He's a stand-up type of guy and is the first to admit that he missed too many tackles and over-ran some plays.
Since Bill Belichick has handed over the defensive coordinator position in 2001, I've noticed that the coaching staff makes sure to have a player or two blocking the coach or coordinator signaling in the defensive plays from the sideline on a consistent basis. Is this a way to block opposing players/coaches on the field from picking up any consistencies, or is there another reason I'm missing?
Glen Schwartz, Newton
As you might have noticed, Glen, that player standing next to defensive coordinator Eric Mangini this season is often Don Davis. So here is Davis's take: "We've always done it as a way to block signals. There are a lot of teams that are known to watch signals, especially when you play them a lot. So it's just a way to block the signal caller."
I know a whole lot more goes into winning games than emotion such as game plan, preparation, and coaching etc. But it seems as if the Patriots are playing reactionary football. Playing off of emotion. So far coming back the next week with stronger more intense winning games after a loss. What is your take on this analysis? Aside from my small observation I just want to say Get Well Rodney and have a healthy recovery.
Laura Badgett, Boston
Solid analysis Laura. They certainly didn't play reactionary football against the Steelers, but did against the Chargers. Here is linebacker Monty Beisel's take from the locker room on Monday: "A lot of the times, I think we were playing too soft. I know myself, I think I was playing too soft, because you look at LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) and his ability to bounce in and bounce out. You play a guy like that, and Antonio Gates, you play a little softer than normal, not as attacking. I noticed in watching some of the tape, we weren't setting the edge of the line of scrimmage and we weren't in their defensive backfield making plays like we have been in the past. We were allowing them to get a surge. When you do that, they're going to get 3-4 yards by just falling forward."
Beisel and Brown both seem out of place in the middle of the 3-4 alignment. Part of the reason was on view on Sunday when Beisel was frequently overwhelmed physically, and both he and Brown often over-pursued the play and left the cutback available to the runner. Given these deficiencies, why persist with the 3-4, when the strength of the defense is the front four [Seymour, Warren, Wilfork, and Green], and a 4-3 alignment seems to fit the personnel more naturally?
Gerry Stewart, Boston
I think you make some excellent points, Gerry. My feeling is that the strength of this defense is now its line, and the Patriots should play a 4-3 to get one more lineman on the field. The 4-3 is more of a penetrating defense, and if the Patriots are to be successful, I think they'll need to disrupt opposing quarterbacks.
Mike, my question is about the linebacking corps. A lot was written about how much the Patriots would miss Bruschi and Johnson this season. I know it's only been four games, but how do you think Monty Beisel and Chad Brown have filled in thus far? Also, I'm surprised Bobby Taylor hasn't caught on with another team. Was he hurt? I remember him as a pretty good cornerback with the Eagles and I don't think he's all that old, is he?
Ben Siegel, New York, NY
Beisel has shown flashes of excellent play, specifically against the Steelers. Like many of his teammates, his effort against the Chargers wasn't his best. I think the Patriots need to re-evaluate Chad Brown's role and let him rush the passer a bit more, which is his strength. He's been locked into a middle linebacker role in the 3-4 alignment, which is more of a read-and-react position. I think he's been OK in that role.
Has Belichick lost a step? He trades a fifth rounder only to cut Andre Davis.
Rob Curley, Grand Haven, Mich.
Maybe he thought that since the Patriots had two fifth-round picks in 2006, he could take a gamble. Also, where else on the roster do you cut from? The Patriots are pretty banged up and there aren't a lot of places on the roster to trim from. It wouldn't surprise me if Davis returns at some point when healthy. Sometimes you can cut a player who is hurt, knowing you have a good chance of bringing him back because the player can't work out for another team.
We traded for guys like David Terrell and Andre Davis and they did not get on the field for our Patriots. Are the Patriots obligated to giving up draft picks for them. It seems some players do not have the attitude of getting off injury list. Is that a correct assumption?
Reginald Mendes, Woonsocket, RI
Terrell was a free agent, so the Patriots don't have to give up a draft choice. Davis cost them a fifth-round selection. I can see where you would make the assumption about players not working hard enough to get off the injury list -- because Terrell and Davis were both hurt -- but I'm not sure if that's the case with both of them.
Tedy Bruschi has made it clear that he is not playing this year no matter what. Yet the last I saw he still remains on the PUP list. Why haven't they moved him to injured reserve? I know they wanted to pay him his whole salary so all I could think is that has something to do with it. But couldn't they put him on IR now and still pay him his whole salary, he'll have to go on IR eventually anyway. Do you have any explanation for this?
I believe Tedy Bruschi will be paid this year whether he's on the PUP list or injured reserve, per an agreement worked out with the team, so I don't think it's a financial issue. My feeling is that he's on the PUP because there is a small chance he could attempt to return. Last week, he was asked about playing this season and said, "No comment." That could mean a lot of things -- that he's considering it, or perhaps he simply didn't want to answer the question.
I honestly believe that Tedy Bruschi will make a push to come back with the team by mid-season. What are your thoughts about this possibility?
Jesus Rodriguez, Jacksonville, Fla.
Based on observation in the locker room, Bruschi appears to be working out aggressively. In the end, I don't think he will return due to health concerns.
I don't understand the Patriots' inability to run block and pass block/pick up the blitz. If they were beaten consistently on the left side, I'd say it was rookies needing to learn, but that doesn't appear to be the case. In your opinion, why are so many blitzes effective this year more than last?
Frank Novio, Mansfield
I'd say the performance against the blitz has been a mixed bag. For example, Bill Belichick felt the team fared OK against the blitz vs. Carolina, while the team seemed to not be as sharp against the Chargers. The blitzes have led to the Patriots' offense losing its rhythm, which is an across-the-board problem that includes each position -- the line, quarterbacks, running backs and receivers.
When is the Patriots home crowd going to make some noise at Foxborough? The place seems like the least intimidating place for a road team to play. The Pats defense will need the 12th man the rest of the season.
Jason Souza, Texas
In defense of the fans, there wasn't much to cheer about in the second half on Sunday. At the same time, there were some boos, which seemed a bit over-the-top given all the team has accomplished over the last two years.
You mentioned that Nick Kazur is 26, which is obviously very old for a rookie. Do you know why it took him so long to get to the pros?
Max Varvak, Canton
Kaczur, a native of Brantford, Ontario, played in the Canadian Junior Football League in 1999 and worked construction for two years before entering college at Toledo.
Help me settle a bet. Do players still work out during the season, or do they cut back on the weightlifting.
Johnny Utah, Quincy
Players lift throughout the year, although the program might be tailored a bit different than what they'd do in the offseason. Lifting during the season keeps them in peak physical condition.
So tell me, these first round tight ends on the Patriots roster, are they there just to help in the pass-protection or does the New England braintrust (including Tom Brady) feel that they have such a good thing going with the wide receivers at this point that they don't have to look for Benjamin Watson or Daniel Graham? And I was so looking forward to some Mark Bavaro-like posts to the big guys! Thank you.
Dave Cullen, Hightstown, NJ
Watson has five catches and Graham two. They have been kept in to block a lot, but I would have thought the Patriots would utilize this weapon more, too.
Last week you printed a letter from someone asking about Stanley Morgan's credentials for the Pro and Patriots Hall of Fames. This reminded me that I was upset that Ted Johnson's number 52 was given out so soon. Surely, a case could be made to retire his jersey. What Patriots have had their numbers retired, and is there a way for fans to lobby for such recognition for their favorite ex-Pats?
Jason Rubin, Melrose
The retired numbers are Gino Cappelletti's No. 20; Mike Haynes' No. 40; Steve Nelson's No. 57; John Hannah's No. 73; Bruce Armstrong's No. 78; Jim Lee Hunt's No. 79 and Bob Dee's No. 89. As for lobbying the team, I'd start by visiting their Web site and letting your thoughts be known there.
The starting defensive line and its reserves are a powerful force and exciting to follow. I can't recall a more competitive Patriots D-line. They remind me of the Steel Curtain and the Vikings powerful D-lines of the past (I realize you weren't born by then but perhaps you have seen old footage). How would you compare the Pats, with Seymour leading the way, with the powerful D-lines of the past? Thanks for an interesting column!
Prior to Sunday's loss to the Chargers, I was thinking this could be the best defensive line in today's NFL. But after watching the defensive front get pushed around and really dominated against what I think is an average offensive line, that thought is on hold for now. If they respond well and dominate again like they did against the Steelers, let's revisit this question.
Can you ask your readers for good places to watch Patriots/Red Sox games in Northwest Houston, specifically in Cypress, Texas? Also, does anyone know if the Rib Tickler (restaurant owned by Ted Johnson Sr.) in Tomball shows Pats games?
We've noticed the back-slap/head-bob snap count the Patriots are using, especially during noisy away games. I guess this is designed to cut down on the pre-snap penalties. But it also seems to offer blitzers a one-second head start. What is the rule about the center moving prior to the snap? Can he occasionally bob his head and not snap the ball for two seconds, to induce an offsides or mix up the defense? Is this head-bob before the snap common? Or a bad habit that the Patriots should change?
Steve Haggett, Winchester
Here is some text taken directly from the NFL rulebook on NFL.com: "No player of the offensive team may charge or move abruptly, after assuming set position, in such manner as to lead the defense to believe the snap has started. In turn, no player on the defensive team within one yard of the line of scrimmage may make an abrupt movement in an attempt to cause the offense to false start." Sounds like the answer to your question is left to the interpretation of the referee -- whether a multiple head bob would be an abrupt movement. The Patriots sometimes use the head bob when executing their silent count.
We all know how reticent the Pats are in discussing the condition of their injured players. But I suspect that many of the details of these injuries are open secrets among yourself and others on the Patriots beat -- and probably by the opposing coaches as well. The only ones left in the dark are the fans. So why won't you share them with us, Mike? Why not tell us that Tyrone Poole is thought to have a torn hamstring which will probably sideline him for six weeks, if that's what people are buzzing. I find it incredible, for example, that Bethel Johnson can be sidelined for 3 months with a foot or ankle problem and there's no coverage of what happened. Obviously, he must have suffered a fracture. It was a good three months. How did it happen? Aren't you even a teensy bit curious?
Maris Joy, Southfield, Mich.
Interesting question that surprised me a bit. When it comes to injury information, I am not aware of any "open secrets" among reporters on the Patriots beat. I can only speak for myself, but what I know to be true is reported. Sometimes there might be partial information that isn't strong enough to confirm, so the extent of those injuries aren't reported. A good example is Matt Light. We confirmed he had a broken fibula, so we reported it. As far as I know, we were never able to confirm Bethel Johnson's injury. I heard some things about Bethel -- who I saw with a medical boot on his left foot at a charity event this offseason -- but didn't feel the sources were strong enough for me to report it.
Do you think the Patriots are starting to show some wear and tear because of the number of games they've played over the last four years? Do you think that's contributing to the injuries we are seeing? Including exhibition games I think they've played 89 games since 2001.
Larry Pohner, Chicago
That could certainly be a factor, but I'm not sure how much it had to do with Rodney Harrison getting rolled into by Cedrick Wilson, Matt Light breaking his fibula, or Randall Gay rolling his ankle while running with Steve Smith. Those seem like football injuries that could happen to anyone, regardless of how many games they've played.
I know trades in the NFL are rare, but with so many holes currently at critical positions on this Pats roster, is there any chance we might fill one of them with a trade? Go to a team with little chance this year and offer some draft picks for a starter that might not fit into a rebuilding team's future? Is the cap the obstacle?
Brian Beaudry, Wellington, Fla.
Interesting thought, and timely with the trading deadline Oct. 18 at 4 p.m. EDT. As you mentioned, trades are very rare -- mainly because it takes times to integrate players into a system. In the Patriots' case, they don't have an abundance of salary cap space either, so I'd say a trade is unlikely.
Since the Pats D has been taking hits left and right, do you think that they may take a look at Jamie Winborn now that he's getting basically dumped in San Francisco? I know that the linebacker position is pretty set but if they can an upgrade on the cheap, would they do it?
Britt Schramm, Reston, Va.
Two questions came into the mailbag on Winborn this week. The 5-foot-11, 242-pound linebacker comes with a salary in the $1.3 million range -- a prorated figure of a $1.75 million salary -- so salary cap space is a concern. I don't know much about Winborn as a player, but I'd be surprised if it happens.
Now that he is on injured reserve, do you think the NFL will stop fining Rodney Harrison for all his big hits? Every week it seems that he got fined for hits that nobody thought was worth a penalty (except for ripping a helmet off in Carolina). Now that he is out of the race, who do you think will be the most fined player in the NFL this year?
Bryant Hopkins, Framingham
It depends on if Rodney wants to be a guest columnist on Boston.com, and maybe critique the referee's performance each week. That's the only way he might lead the league in fines this year.
What's the plan for the left side of the O-line. Kaczur starting at left scares me because of his lack of experience and he's charged with protecting Brady's blindside. Is he ready for primetime or does the team give him tons of help with tight ends and running backs on his side. Looking ahead, (the Colts') Freeney is probably licking his chops to go against Kaczur if Nick lines up there.
Rocket Ron, Albany, NY
Kaczur played left tackle against the Chargers and I thought he held up OK. The Patriots passed 36 times and Brady was sacked once, and pressured other times. Kaczur's worst play was the first play, and he gradually got better. I don't think Kaczur was anywhere close to the reason the Patriots lost the game. I think he's been one of the most pleasant surprises this season and believe he's the Patriots' best option at left tackle at this time.
I recently moved to Redlands, Calif. Are there any Pats fans out here that can tell me a good place to go to catch the games?
Chris Whitmore, Redlands, Calif.
A glass 1/2 full look regarding Guss Scott and Nick Kaczur filling in for Light and Harrison. We lose some leadership, toughness and hitting at safety with Harrison gone, but are we getting a quicker/better athlete in Scott (the Pats were high on him last year)? Also, the Pats seemed to be positioning Kaczur to take the right tackle spot as he was working in more and more and supposedly "earned the time" according to Belichick. I'm wondering if we'll be fine with him too as long as he gets some tight end help on the speed rushers and blitzes while he's getting acclimated? I'm thinking it won't be a glaring issue or drop in play. Thoughts?
Jim Kelleher, Northford, Conn.
I think Kaczur will hang in there, but I have some questions about Scott after his performance in the Chargers' game. I know it's only one game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see rookie James Sanders in there ahead of Scott, should Sanders' right ankle be deemed fit for action. I thought Patriots coaches were very high on Sanders in the preseason.
Kevin Faulk is out for the foreseeable future. Do you think we will lose a game before the bye week? Also did you get grief from Patriots Nation for picking the Steelers over the Patriots.
Bradley Fuller, Birdsboro, Pa.
Considering I've been wrong the last two weeks, take my prediction for what it's worth. Yes, the Patriots will lose one of the next two games. And no, I didn't get any grief for picking the Steelers. People have obviously noticed that I'm not too good picking games.
A question about the Colts: Would it be possible that the conservative run-first offense that the Colts are currently using (at least this is what it seems from reading about their first three games) is a strategic decision based on not exposing their pass offense to scrutiny early in the season? Theoretically, this would allow them to open up their offense in the second half of the season and other teams (including a game planning team like the Patriots) would not have the film to study and thus to game plan against the passing attack? The other side benefit is that Edgerrin James gets more yards, a higher profile, and you might wind up being able to trade him for more value (if this fits into his contract schedule)? Or, I am just spending way too much time thinking about football?
Tom Ross, Washington, DC
From what I understand, teams are dropping a lot of defensive backs into coverage against the Colts and making them work their way down the field. I don't think there's anything more to it, other than the Colts not forcing the passing game when it's not there.
Do the Patriots have another back who is as good a receiver as Kevin Faulk is? You have to look beyond his two fumbles against the Steelers. Faulk is/was an integral player in the Brady "two minute drill" because of his good hands and his ability to be able to read the zone coverage and find the open area.
Bob Cloutier, Monroe, Conn.
I don't think the Patriots have another running back who is as good a pass-catcher as Faulk. His injury is a tougher blow to the Patriots than some might realize. He was a major presence on third down and in the two-minute offense.
I am not one who is quick to question Belichick, but why has Dan Klecko remained on the roster for all this time? He has no true position. He has been ineffective at linebacker and fullback and has been replaced as back-up nose tackle by Wright. He also has had trouble staying on the field. With roster spots so valuable, wouldn't it have been beneficial to have kept Kory Chapman or Kyle Eckel [at running back] instead?
Lindsay Hammer, Hingham
You make a convincing argument. The Patriots are a bit thin on the defensive line and that might be why Klecko has retained his spot.