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Replay: Best of Patriots Radio Thu Mar 23 - 03:30 PM | Tue Mar 28 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Alive and kicking

One week after a disappointing loss to the Broncos had people questioning Tom Brady’s body language and just how good the Patriots could be this season, a single win has turned things around.

Do you all really think Chad Johnson is a funny guy? If he made the comments he made in England he wouldn't last 5 minutes. Opponents would be doing their best to get him stretchered off the field! The Patriots seemed to play with a little bit of extra intensity as well so maybe they didn't find him as funny as you all made him out to be pre-game. He should keep his mouth shut and let his performances do the talking.Ray Towey

While I agree with your final assessment – performance is far more important that trash talking – Johnson generally does perform. The guy has caught more than 90 passes for more than 1,200 yards in each of the last three seasons. That's pretty good. But I do find him entertaining and it would seem New England's players and even Bill Belichick agree with me. They laughed off his comments, fired back with some humorous jabs of their own and took it all in good fun. And they certainly laughed last with Sunday's performance in Cincinnati. I like Johnson's antics. I like his performances, even though he didn't step up against New England. We all need to remember, football is still a game and should be fun. Guys like Johnson bring a little bit of fun to the game each and every week.
Andy Hart

Was Seau hurt early in the game against Cincinnati, or was he not in the game simply because the Pats went to a lot of 4 man front?Preston Holmes III

I don't believe that Seau got hurt. New England used a lot of sub defenses against the Bengals with five and six defensive backs on the field for much of the game. That left a front that included, many times, four defensive linemen and just two linebackers playing up on two feet – Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel. I think Seau is fine and would expect you'd seem him more this week in the team's more traditional 3-4 base defense against Miami. I have actually been pleasantly surprised with how Seau has played in his early week's playing inside linebacker in New England. If he can stay healthy as his 17th year progresses, I think he will certainly help this team out over the course of the long season.
Andy Hart

As impressive as the DL was in the game, I didn't see Vince Wilfork make many plays or make his presence felt. Has he been an underachiever in your opinion so far?Duane Kotz

While I agree that Wilfork was a bit of ghost against the Bengals, I don't think he's been an underachiever. In fact, I think at times this season he's been the most dominant defensive lineman in New England and that says a lot with him playing between Ty Warren and Richard Seymour. Over the course of the second half of last season and the early stages of 2006 I believe Wilfork has made a dramatic leap at the difficult nose tackle position. He's shown the ability to destroy opposing centers and fight his way through double teams. As a nose tackle he'll never put up huge numbers or get a lot of press, but I think Wilfork might be a rising star in the middle of the trenches for the New England defense.
Andy Hart

Well, I consider myself reprimanded for my doubt in the Patriots. Great second half show by the front lines of the Patriots. It's been a while since I've seen holes that big opened up for Dillon, Maroney & co., and the D-line just asserted their will on the Bengals in the second half. Here's a question for you guys. Do you think that we will be able to get the new receivers into the flow for the second half of the season? Do you think that's enough time for Doug Gabriel to become familiar enough with the system to earn a starting spot? One last question. Is it just me, or does Reche Caldwell seem to be one of those guys that gives you just enough to give him another chance, and then lets you down in the game? I know he had a great preseason and all, but the guy just doesn't impress me. I believe that Gabriel will have his spot by the second half of the season. Do you have an opinion on this, or am I just off target? Thanks for the time!
Steve Nadeau

I think the receiver situation is getting better each and every day. The more practice and game time that they have to work with Tom Brady the better things will be. Gabriel has made strong improvements over the last week and a half and I don't see much reason to believe that won't continue. Brady thinks they have things going in the right direction with the passing game and that's good enough for me. As for Caldwell, I think he is what he is. He's a productive pro. He's probably best suited as a team's third or fourth option and he could very well end up in that roll in New England by the end of the season. If he can stay healthy, something that was a problem a bit in San Diego, he's on pace for his usual season, probably catching 30-something balls as a contributor but not key part of the offense. If things work out, I think Gabriel and rookie Chad Jackson could earn starting slots at wideout by the end of the year. I think they have the most talent in the group and once they are healthy and familiar with the system should have a much better chance of making plays.
Andy Hart

First of all let me start by saying hello and thanking everyone at PFW for helping us fans with questions that are on our minds, you do a great job! Now, let me say that I was completely and utterly wrong as far as saying the Patriots were going to stink this year. I know it's only one game, but against the Bengals things seemed to come together as far as the wide receiving area goes as well as the defense to a certain extent. The whole "Branch Fiasco" really angered me and I guess blinded me to this organizations ability to fill in areas of need with quality players. Now, for my question, am I wrong (again) for assuming that the Patriots are back on track and ready to be a great offense?
Dana Rodriques

Boy, somebody is a little bit reactionary! One week they stink and the next they are "great"? While the dominating win in Cincy was impressive, I don't think it's enough to say the offense is ready to be great. The passing game was OK against the Bengals, but it was the ground game that once again carried the bulk of the load. Maroney and Dillon were both very impressive and the line did a good job making room to run. If anything, I'm willing to say that the Patriots are going to be able to run the ball successfully most weeks against most opponents. But the passing game has done nothing but prove it can be a complementary partner to the rushing attack. In the three games the Patriots have run well this season, they've won. One week they couldn't run and the passing game couldn't step up – the result was a loss to the Broncos. As I said earlier, I think the passing game is going in the right direction and gets better every day. But it still isn't where it needs to be.
Andy Hart

I have two quick questions I was hoping you guys could answer for me: What is the most points the Pats ever scored in a game? And what is the biggest point difference (final score) the Pats ever had?
Kacper K.

The Patriots beat the New York Jets 56-3 on Sept. 9, 1979. The performance established a franchise record for both points scored in a game and margin of victory.
Andy Hart

Where can I find info about NFL salary cap? Such as: how much is each team limited to spending on salaries each year? Will it go up next year and if so, how much? Where does each team stand on salary cap? Thank you for your time.John Mendes

Under the new CBA the salary cap for 2006 jumped up to approximately $102 million. While it is based on some complex calculations of league revenues, it is expected to increase to approximately $109 million next spring for the 2007 season. As for each team's salary cap status, it's not generally considered public information. Outlets such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated often collect information and put together estimates as to where the 32 teams stand in relation to the cap, but the league doesn't officially release or make such information available. Currently the Patriots are reportedly approximately $10 million under the cap.
Andy Hart

David Wisell

While your facts are a little off, you are referencing the 1981 season finale that matched the 2-13 Patriots against the 1-14 Colts in Baltimore. The Colts won that game 23-21, beating New England for the second time that year after having defeated the Patriots 29-28 in the season opener in Foxborough. So by virtue of the tiebreaker the 2-14 Patriots secured the first selection in the 1982 draft, a pick the team used on Texas defensive end Ken Sims. The 2-14 Colts took Mississippi St. linebacker Johnie Cooks with the second overall pick.
Andy Hart

Hey Guys... Really enjoy reading Ask PFW each week and your thoughtful insights about the Patriots! What are your thoughts about Steve Gostkowski? I assume that since a 4th rounder was used to draft him that the Patriots will stick with him for field goals a while. But Bill Belichick must be thinking twice about FGs with his current erratic kicking. Any chance that once Vinatieri becomes healthy for the Colts and Gramatica becomes available that the Pats sign him and use Gostkowski for kickoffs exclusively?

Why is everyone picking on Gostkowski for missing a 48 yd field goal (hardly a gimme) and not talking about his kickoffs? When have we ever had so many touchbacks in a game? The Bengals started at their 20 which we haven't seen much of over the years, usually the 30.Dave Lacasse

Gostkowski did have a great game kicking off against the Bengals, including four touchbacks. He now has six touchbacks on the season, tying for second in the NFL. By comparison Adam Vinatieri finished 10th in the NFL with 10 touchbacks in his final season in New England a year ago. But the solid kickoffs don't completely make up for the rookie's struggles on field goals. He had kicks blocked in consecutive weeks and after missing badly wide right on Sunday's 48-yard attempt has now missed kicks in three straight weeks. He's just a rookie and these things have to be expected to some degree with rookie kickers, but it's still not good. And it can't continue into the later part of the season when games and points mean all that much more. When asked in the preseason about carrying two kickers Belichick, as always, said he'd do what was best for his team and isn't philosophically opposed to anything. I just don't think it would be the right move right now, even if Gramatica comes available. Gostkowski needs to kick through the struggles, build his confidence and learn on the fly. That's what many struggling young kickers have done before him, including Vinatieri, and that's what I think is best at this point. I'm not giving up on him yet on field goals and I don't think the Patriots should either.
Andy Hart

Hi Guys, The Patriot's no huddle offense seemed very effective against Denver at the beginning of the forth quarter. The effects on the Denver defense were quite obvious and by the end of the quarter, the whole defensive line was hardly moving. So my question is, why don't the Patriots use no huddle more often, especially earlier in the game just to tire out and confuse the defense?
Len LaPadula

The Patriots generally do have success in the no huddle, but you can't expect them to use it all the time for a couple of reasons. First, New England is a team that more than ever in 2006 likes to utilize a lot of personnel groups. With three very good running backs, a deep group of tight ends and a receiving corps that still developing top to bottom, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels sends in new personnel on just about every play. You can't do that when you are running the no huddle. While you limit the defense by keeping them from substituting players, you do the same thing to yourself. Second, the New England passing game is still a work in progress as Brady gets to know all his new weapons and receivers. More importantly, those new weapons and receivers are still learning the system. In the no huddle the quarterback and receivers have to be on the same page and both need to have a solid understanding what's going on. Until these receivers get more acclimated to the system and develop their relationships with Brady, I think that aspect also limits the no huddle. The no huddle does tire out a defense and can be very successful in spurts, I just don't think it's something you will see the Patriots doing early or much more often. I think it limits this offense right now more than it wears down the defense.
Andy Hart

How about the Patriots trade a 1st round draft pick to the Raiders and we acquire Jerry Porter, reuniting Porter and Doug Gabriel who have great chemistry already?Dougy Dough

Do they have a great chemistry? While we are at it, why did the Raiders trade a guy who was projected to start for just a fifth-round pick? I never really understood the move, but it looks like it could really work out for Gabriel here in New England. I know Porter is a name that people throw around, but he's never really put up huge numbers. In fact, his career highs of 76 catches (2005) and 998 yards (2004) compare to those of Deion Branch. New England shipped Branch, who fit the system and worked great with Brady, to Seattle for a first-round pick. (I know, Porter never had a quarterback like Brady to work with.) Why would you turn around and swap that pick for a guy with the same sort of numbers? Yes, Porter is bigger (6-2, 220) and probably a little more of a threat to stretch the field but at this point does the team really want to add yet another new face to the receiver mix, another guy who would need to learn the system and build a working relationship with Brady? I don't think so, not at this point. And by the way, good thing your name is Dougy Dough and not Doughy Doug, that would be embarrassing.
Andy Hart

I know Tom has problems with the loss of his wide receivers this year. I can't say just keep a stiff upper lip, but I do want to make these points. First, no one has said much about the loss of three high level coaches in the last two seasons. Also, what about when Tom came into the games after Bledsoe's terrible hit? He didn't have the experience with those recievers. Why shouldn't we expect him to make the transition to these new receivers? I remember for the longest time all the "OTHER" football experts (I really mean the ESPN, NFL, CBS etc.) all saying that the receivers for the Pats were second rate at best. Now that the two are gone, you would think we lost Harrison and Chad Johnson. From the real experts (those at ASK PFW), which ones did we really lose? Thanks for the great work. Nick Motzny

More than the actual players in question and how good you might think Branch and David Givens are, I think the biggest issue is the actual change process. Brady had a comfort level with guys he'd worked with for four seasons. There is something to be said for that. Now he has guys like Jackson and Gabriel that he's barely practiced with never mind played with. Even back in 2001 when Brady came in he had a go-to, Pro Bowl receiver in Troy Brown and other guys he'd worked with all offseason. That's different than working with a rookie who missed basically all of training camp and the preseason and a guy added in a trade after camp broke. Hey, maybe Gabriel and Jackson will be better than Branch and Givens? But that doesn't help right now. For now, all that matters is that Brady has had to learn a new group of receivers on the fly and that's not easy.
Andy Hart

Do you see any end in sight to teams picking up on the Broncos "blueprint" to defense the Pats? That is, what is to prevent any team from putting everyone in the box and just daring Brady and the so-called NFL receivers to beat them. If the Pats can't show any ability to throw the ball consistently won't this be a long season?
Dan Isenbarger

Teams can try to mimic what the Broncos did, but unless they have the talent to make it work it might not matter. The speedy, athletic Broncos linebackers were, in my opinion, the key to that defense. They shut down the New England running game with sure tackling and making plays. Not every team has that type of talent and speed at linebacker. Plus, the passing game seems to be getting better each week. That means guys like Gabriel and Jackson become greater threats to get down the field and make plays. That will put more pressure on the secondary. And the way the Patriots are running the ball, aside from the hiccup against Denver, it doesn't look like too many teams are going to be able to stop them regardless of the "blueprint" they try to enact.
Andy Hart

Wow. Can you believe all this attention the Patriots are getting? I think some of the Red Sox Nation is bringing its negativity to the Patriots. The Patriots obviously have issues but they have the track record of turning things around to make the season competitive and shoot for a playoff spot. I wish everyone would leave the offense alone a little bit, it's in transition. They will get better as the season goes on. I am a little disappointed in the defense though. They haven't had a lot of turnover. They have a lot of core veterans especially in the front seven. Where is that toughness? Where are all the turnovers? What about the ability to get off the field on 3rd down? I think the defense needs to step it up while the offense is down. What do you think?
Charlie B.

This email came in before Sunday's big win. Chuck, I couldn't have agreed with you more. In fact, check out the latest issue of Patriots Football Weekly on newsstands now where I devoted this week's commentary to the very subject of the defense needing to step up and make plays if this team is going anywhere in 2006. Of course, that went to print before the effort put forth against the Bengals that included four sacks and two forced fumbles for turnovers. Those strip sacks by Jarvis Green and Ty Warren helped set up scores that put the game away. That's what the Patriots have done where they are at their best. The more often they can do that, and start getting some interceptions as well, the better this team will be. It's getting better by the week and that's all you can ask for as the group builds toward what should be another chance at winter work and postseason success.
Andy Hart

I asked the Sports Guy from ESPN the same question. I'm a diehard Patriots fan, but at this point, some of my loyalties lie to our former players (Law, Vinatieri, Bledsoe, McGinnest, etc.) Now per se the Colts are trailing the Patriots by 2, and Vinatieri is about to kick the game winning field goal. I would without question want Vinatieri to nail the kick, and send our beloved Patriots home losers, am I wrong? Can you give me some thoughts on the matter? Thanks, you guys are awesome.Shawn Frazier

No one can tell you who to root for or that your feelings are wrong. Although I expect after I post this email some of our readers will send in some comments in regards to your thoughts and hypothetical situation. Don't blame us for what they say, though. The way things work in modern sports can make things tough on fans. Do you root for the team only? Or the players themselves? I can't answer that. I can say that when I really root for a player, that supercedes the jersey he wears on his back. Sounds like you feel the same way about Vinatieri. I can't argue with that. Of course I don't have a problem with fans who might boo Vinatieri when he returns to Gillette Stadium on Nov. 5. As Ric Flair would say, "You're either with us or you're against us. Woooooooooo!" (Yes, I think I have used that quote before, but it's a good one.)
Andy Hart

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