On Thursday, there were 263 questions asked during the weekly Patriots chat on Boston.com. A total of 60 were answered (22.8 percentage).
With this in mind, I dipped into the "backstage" portion of the chat and plucked out some more questions to answer here...
From Phil: It's hard to imagine Jerod Mayo being better than last year but what kind of jump from year one to year two can we expect?
I agree that the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year, who played a team-high 90 percent of the defensive snaps, is going to have a hard time topping his remarkable rookie year. One thought I had is his work in pass coverage. Every player can improve in certain areas, and with another year of exposure to the pro passing game, it seems to me that Mayo can lock in on that area and make more of a mark there.
From Darryl: Which players would you say represent "the heart and soul" of the team now? It's clear that Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison were emotional leaders in the past. Who fills that role in 2009?
I'd start with the obvious (Tom Brady) and then say it trickles down from there to other veterans. When your quarterback is a great leader, I think it helps your team absorb some of the other losses (Harrison, Vrabel). That's one of the things I think Josh McDaniels is/was dealing with in Denver: His two best players (Cutler, Marshall) weren't his two best leaders, and that's a tough mix. The Patriots are fortunate in that regard.
From Guest: Mike, regarding your locks for the DL, specifically Wright and Smith, what makes them locks over one of the rookies (Pryor/Richard) who would be cheaper? Wright is a top backup, but he's not stellar, and I feel like Smith hardly ever sees the field as it is.
I feel like Wright is safe after signing a four-year contract this offseason. His versatility to play nose and end should solidify his spot, especially with some of the uncertainty with Wilfork. Smith is less of a lock, but I put him on with the thinking that it often takes young defensive lineman a year to physically get to the level they need to be to be effective in the scheme. Also, with Ty Warren and Jarvis Green returning from injuries, Smith provides imprortant insurance.
From Jimmy: Do you think Tom Brady will take less money when his contract talks come up? I remember him saying he'd rather take less to get better players on the team since he wants to win. Is this a possibility or will he want top-tier money?
My sense on Brady is that he'll want to be compensated fairly. I don't think he's necessarily a break-the-bank type of guy; I see him as someone who will advise his agent to get him the best deal possible, but also to ensure that it allows the team to put the necessary talent around him. I don't see it being a major issue. My feeling on contract situations generally are the same: It takes two to tango, and I see both sides committed to making it happen.
From 56tippet1: Take the need for OLB out of the equation: Do you feel the Pats "D" has what it takes to make a run at another SB?
I'd have some reservations about the depth at inside linebacker, without knowing how Gary Guyton has progressed from Year 1 to Year 2. Otherwise, I see a deep defensive line and a much-improved cornerback crop. I see potential for the safeties to be a bit better as well. So overall, my answer would be yes.
From Kyle: With our need for another solid OLB, do you see Boss Bailey as a potential fit? I know he has injury problems - but it certainly appears as though he has the talent. Don't know what system he played, but I think he's athletic and big enough to make it fit regardless. Think McDaniels hooked us up a bit with that one?
In the Patriots' 3-4 scheme, I don't think Bailey has the physical stature (6-3, 232) to play outside linebacker. Patriots OLB Pierre Woods, for example, is up to 258 pounds right now. So I think Bailey would be more of an inside linebacker in the Patriots' system. From what I've seen from him, I think he'd fit best in a 4-3 scheme, so I'd say he's not a good match for New England.
From supwithyou: With no football stuff happening over a month, what can we expect from Reiss's Pieces for next few weeks? Also, why don't you link your articles/columns in Reiss's Pieces?
We're going to try to keep things lively here for a good stretch of the time between now and training camp. There will be a stretch where I won't be posting to take some time off, although that's not solidified yet. It's a good idea about linking the articles. Thank you for the suggestion.