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Ask PFW: Building momentum...toward the draft?

Hey guys, Sorry to jump the gun and talk about next year's draft, but no worries, I'm still excited about this year's team and I think we are still well equipped to make a run in the playoffs. However, I was wondering if you guys had had time to develop any thoughts about next year's draft class or are willing to make any tentative forecasts. With a questionable receiving corps, do you see the team drafting a player like Mario Manningham from Michigan (if, of course, he sticks around until the later part of the first round) or might they address the aging linebacker position? Keep up the good work.Jeff Maginnis

I know it's a long way off, but I'm already interested in what will happen in the 2007 draft. With two first-round picks, do you think the Patriots might be able to fill the void at WR by shifting picks around to trade for Calvin Johnson? How do you think they will address the defense. Thanks guys, you do a great job.
Brendan O'Connor

Chad Jackson has barely finished his second NFL touchdown dance and fans are already wondering about adding another top receiver talent? I doubt the Patriots would invest another high pick in a receiver, especially if you are talking about having to package two first rounders to get up in position to take Johnson. Johnson could be a top-10 pick or higher, so it would take both first rounders and more to get there. That's a lot. I wouldn't do it and I don't think Bill Belichick and Co. would either. I do think the idea of looking at the defense is a smart one. The team desperately needs to add young talent at linebacker and could certainly use a top-end cornerback as well. If the available talent suits those needs that is the direction I'd be going. But what do I know, I've been calling for this team to select a young playmaking linebacker for four years. They haven't, and all they do is keep winning.
Andy Hart

When the Patriots traded Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo, how many draft picks did they acquire? Who did the Patriots draft with those picks and are any of them still on the team? Thanks.
Sparky

New England traded Bledsoe to the Bills in exchange for a 2003 first-round pick (14th overall). On draft day 2003 the Patriots sent that pick and a sixth-round pick to the Bears to move up one slot to 13th overall and select Texas A&M defensive lineman Ty Warren. Warren has now played in 54 games with 42 starts in his three-plus seasons in New England and his on pace for a career-year in 2006.
Andy Hart

I love the alternate or 3rd "silver" game jerseys. I notice that each team seems to have a 3rd jersey. What are the league rules regarding wearing these? Is it once or twice a season? Do the Pats pick when they wear them? Big games? Special games? Maybe we ought to break out these beauties for the Colts and Bears?Dan Isenbarger

The Patriots will be wearing the silver, alternate jerseys for the team's Dec. 17 meeting with the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Teams can wear their third jersey up to twice each season, but must notify the league before the season the dates they plan on wearing them. This year 13 teams will wear their alternate jerseys, with the Bills, Bengals, Lions, Chargers, 49ers and Titans going the alternate route twice during the regular season.
Andy Hart

With Ty Warren leading the Patriots in tackles, do you think he is the most underrated player on the Patriots defense? And also, do you think he is one of the better players on the Patriots defense?
Jaime O.

I think Warren is having a breakout year. He's gone from being the reliable, hard-working, complementary player he's been over his first three seasons to a playmaker through the early stages of 2006. At this point he probably is the most underrated player on this defense. He's making plays on a consistent basis, as consistently as any other player on the New England defense through the first seven weeks. All that said, I do think he benefits greatly from playing opposite All-Pro Richard Seymour. Even Warren himself has admitted that in the past.
Andy Hart

I was reading PFW last week and there was a question on there asked by Andreas P. and it said "What games still to be played do you think the Patriots will have trouble with? I'm thinking Chicago toward the end of the season, but the Colts will be the usual Patriots domination" and Paul Perillo answered by saying,"You mean domination like last year – Colts 40, Patriots 21 – that kind of Patriots domination? Because last time I checked it was Indy coming to Foxborough doing the dominating." Now Paul, last time I checked the pats swept the season series in 2001, beat them in regular season and playoffs in 2003, did they same thing again in 2004, and lost to them for the first time to them in 5 years. Now I don't know what Paul wants to call it, maybe luck, maybe the weather was bad and the pats won, or I don't know but I would call that domination. They have beaten the colts six out of the seven last times they have played. Maybe Paul was saying that the pats never beat the colts as they did last year but I don't know. I am just tired of Paul being a smart by answering as he did last week. Maybe Paul should join Colts Football Weekly and tell at the colts fans how Indianapolis dominated the pats for the first time in six years. I love all the rest of you guys at PFW, keep up the good work!!!!!!!!*
Edgar Paz

I couldn't agree with you more you Pazmanian Devil you. We should ship Paul to CFW, that way I can get a promotion, a raise and an office. His boy Drew has been demoted, now it's time for this PFW backup to take over.
Andy Hart

Reading the emails can be very entertaining sometimes. Take for example, the emails blaming Brady for the Pats passing game woes. My favorite of the "genre" is from Toby, who wrote, in part, "The receivers look fine too, other than a few drops and not getting open enough." Yeah right, and Rex Grossman looked like an All-Pro last Monday night, except for the 4 INTS, 2 fumbles, and total lack of game presence and awareness. Geesh. Let that be a lesson to us all. Don't email PFW right after consuming 3 six packs of Bass Ale. Has it ever occurred to these developmentally "gifted" individuals that perhaps, just perhaps, when Brady appears to have overthrown his WR by 2 yards, that the WR cutoff his route 2 yards too soon? Or, that when Brady throws the ball 3 yards in front of the WR, that the WR failed to recognize the blitz or the check-off, and therefore failed to cutoff his route? Hello, McFly? Earth to Morons, Earth to Morons, come in Morons. Any intelligent life out there? Hello? I'm putting my money on the 2 time Super Bowl MVP and 3 time Super Bowl Champ, and his historical ability to read defenses, his experience in, and knowledge of, the offense, and his indisputable decision-making prowess. Is it any wonder that Troy Brown, at the tender age of 35, is still Brady's favorite receiver, and not Caldwell, Gabriel or Jackson (nice catch last game Chad. By the way Chad, if not in your hands, where exactly WOULD you like Tom to throw it to you)? Clearly, Brady knows that Brown is the only WR who consistently runs a 14-yard out, and not a 12-yard out, when he calls for the former in the huddle. Clearly Brady realizes that Brown is the only WR who he knows will see what he sees; that is, for example, recognize the blitz and cutoff his route accordingly. PFW, you have to help those of us who drink responsibly. PLEASE destroy those Brady emails as I fear that some God-fearing, Bible-toting Congressman from down South will use them as all the evidence he needs to prove the evils of alcohol abuse/binge drinking and bring back Prohibition. I'm begging you. We who are the silent majority need your help NOW!Tony

After last week's strong performance in Buffalo I think the criticisms of Brady will finally slow down. After all, he has improved his passer rating in each of the last four weeks, up to a season-high 112.4 against the Bills. Or maybe those who have been critical of Brady are right, we should just throw out five consistently good seasons and three Super Bowls and call him a bum after a slow start with an entirely new group of receivers. We've certainly gotten more of those emails, Tony, than ones like yours. This is a democracy after all, and the Brady stinks side of the argument has gotten more email votes here at Ask PFW. In fact, keep reading.
Andy Hart

Patriots Football Weekly, In regards to the current debate regarding Tom Brady I think it is fair to question his play through the first five weeks of the season. That is what the whole body language debate was about. My perception of the matter is his head is not quite into the game and he seems to be playing with the thought of who is not there and not who is there. As for your continued defense of Brady, citing past accomplishments and thus absolving him of blame in favor of assigning it to those on the receiving end I, as a fan, fear a Favre situation. Meaning he can do no wrong because of what he has done and I think that is wrong. Now, I'm not saying the situations are comparable, yet, but as the years pass and hopefully more championships come I hope the excuse makers don't continue to fall back on his past accomplishments. When other popular players have left the organization we are told it is a business and that is what we need to keep in mind here. Phrases such as "what have you done for me lately" apply here for we are focused on the present not the past. That is the philosophy of the organization is it not? That was the rallying cry in 2003 following the blowout by Buffalo in the first game. Maybe what is needed in this situation is for people to quit making excuses for Brady and for him to take his fair share of the blame for failures in the passing game, which he has done from time to time in his post game press conferences but it is something that the writers at Patriots Football Weekly refuse to recognize or admit. I do believe as the weeks pass the passing game will improve and all of this talk of Brady will cease. However, I like most fans of the team probably recognize at this point the team is lucky to be at 4-1 for they have only played one game, in my estimation, of quality football and that wasn't even a full game. In the end what it gets down to is fan frustration and although they have been winning the wins are coming with a feeling of yes they won but…
Damon Sklar

See, told you there were plenty of the Brady/Patriots doubters still out there. Have all the wins this year been pretty? No. Are they fortunate to be 5-1? Yes. But that's all that matters. Teams that win take advantage of the breaks they get. Teams that lose, don't. We all know the Patriots are always a better team in November and December than earlier in the season. Building from a 5-1 start is a pretty fortunate position to be in. But comparing Brady to a washed-up Favre? That's just ridiculous. Since you are Mr. "what have you done for me lately," maybe you should start looking at things that way. Brady has led the Patriots to a 5-1 start and is well on the way to his fifth playoff season in six years as starting quarterback. And I don't know too many teams (maybe the Broncos?) that would welcome a postseason matchup with New England. Will you still be unhappy when they are winning playoff games and maybe another Super Bowl? Will you still be left with "a feeling of yes they won but …"?
Andy Hart

Hey, what happened to Patrick Pass? I don't see his name on the roster. I thought he is a pretty good fullback.
CA

Pass has spent the first seven weeks of 2006 on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list with a hamstring injury. Under PUP rules he was eligible to begin practicing last week. Doing so would have initiated a three-week window in which the team would have had to decide whether put him on the active roster, place him on injured reserve for the season or cut him. It will be interesting to see if he is ready to begin practicing this week and what decision the team will make regarding his status moving forward.
Andy Hart

As a true Louisville Cardinals fan as well as an adopted Pats' fan (RIC '94) I would like to say I think the Pats' have a major interest in what we are doing here in the Ville', for example Deion Branch (sorry to bring him up). I would think that a power back along with Maroney would solidify the future of the Pats' running game after Dillon. What are your thoughts on the Pats' drafting Michael Bush as one of their late first rounders? I think he is exactly what they need, as well as other things. Just a hope and a thought. Root for us in the BCS! GO Cards Go Pats.Patrick Loughran

I'll answer this one much the way I answered the question about drafting Calvin Johnson. I don't believe the Patriots would use a first-round pick on a running back a year after taking Maroney with the 21st pick. I think there are greater needs on this team than taking another back. Plus, I think Maroney has good power and is the total package for a young, future franchise back. I don't think they need another young running back. If he stays healthy and pans out the way I think he will, he'll be carrying the load at a high level for the foreseeable future. He's legit and is well on his way to proving it.
Andy Hart

Thanks guys for your consistent insight and in-depth coverage. Now how about some insight as to where I might be able to watch the PATS/Vikings game in Scotland? My daughter, also a PATS fan, is treating me to a two-week tour of Scotland as a sixty-fifth birthday present. So if you know of any pub that televises PATS games, we'll design our travel itinerary around that locale. Many thanks. Regards.
Bob Robertson

Now we are really testing the reach of Ask PFW and Patriots Nation, but here goes. If anyone can help Bob out with a good place to watch the Oct. 30 Patriots/Vikings game in Scotland email in and help make his birthday even that much more special. Good luck with this one, Bob.
Andy Hart

This week's Sports Illustrated has a short interview about Rodney Harrison being voted the dirtiest NFL player. That's not where I'm going though. Underneath that little poll it says that the only QB to get a vote for dirtiest NFL player is Tom Brady. My question is.....HOW???? How in the world does Tom Brady get a dirtiest player vote? Are people upset that he makes good decisions? Takes a knee when winning at the end of the game? Kills the clock if necessary? I just don't get how a QB, let alone Brady, can actually be considered a dirty player.Nathan F.

I do believe the vote Brady got was a joke. I'm sure it's from somebody who knows him well and was just having a little fun. Jason Taylor, maybe? Another AFC East foe, as Brady himself suggested? I wouldn't worry about it or take it too seriously.
Andy Hart

Since you guys know all that is publicly known about The Pats and football at large, this should be an easy one. After Harrison won the infamous award for dirtiest player, I was wondering who has received the most fines from officials in the last 10 years, and who actually paid the most fines (because aren't some fines negated after the fact on review)? Thanks for your hard work.James Siegel

While I didn't verify this with the league, it is my understanding that Harrison is the most fined player in league history with more than $300,000 in fines paid over his 13 seasons. He even admitted that he generally assumes he'll have to set aside $30,000-40,000 each season for fines.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, I really like the pick up of Jabar Gaffney. Just wondering haw he did during his time with Huston. Also does the new sod being placed in Gillette mean good things for Gostkowski?A. Gold

Gaffney caught 171 passes for 2,009 yards with seven touchdowns in four seasons in Houston after the Texans selected him out of Florida with the 33rd selection in the 2002 draft. He played in all 16 games in each of his four seasons, starting 50 of the 64 contests. He set a career high with 55 receptions last season and had a career-best 632 yards in 2004. The system in Houston has similarities to the one Gaffney will be working in with the Patriots thanks to Chris Palmer's ties to both teams. So it will be interesting to see how quickly Gaffney can produce for New England and what he can bring to the offense. He was active and played in Sunday's win in Buffalo, but did not record a catch.
As for Gostkowski, improved footing will help any kicker. With the new turf in place when the Patriots return to face the Colts on Nov. 5, Gostkowski should find a stronger hold for his plant foot. Whether that directly translates to more field goals made for the rookie kicker or not, will only be proven over time. It certainly can't hurt.
Andy Hart

The Pats rushing attack the last two weeks proved to be very inconsistent. At times, it looks good and other times very weak. A couple of running play calls seemed dubious, even if the Bills D had called it correctly!! Miami's defense while good remains vulnerable to the run as does the Bills defense, yet both teams held the Pats to under 100-yds rushing. Since Daniel Graham missed both games, I am wondering if his absence is the biggest reason for these mediocre performances. What does the staff at PFW think and how does the Pats brain trust handle this in his FA season? Thanks for your response!!Erik Dowgos

The running game has certainly been inconsistent all season, so I don't think it's all about the Graham injury. But I do think he brings tremendous blocking ability to the team, both in the running and passing games. That is the strength of his game, although we all know that he has the athletic ability to make big plays in the passing game on occasion. Based on what I've heard and Graham's own comments I think he wants to go to free agency and see what happens. I don't expect him to re-sign during the year. I won't say that he's definitely out the door as soon as the season is over, but I think it's going to take a pretty big deal from New England to keep him from moving on.
And by the way, how the Dow goes is how my future retirement goes. (Now that one is as lame as any name joke I've ever made. I'm talking Night Court in its fifth season lame!)
Andy Hart

Can we put an end to this "what's wrong with Tom?" talk now? The two-time Super Bowl MVP leading a 5-1 team just posted a 112 passer rating. Brady's strength isn't just what he does, it's what he doesn't do. Am I the only one impressed with how good he is at keeping the ball safe? You guys were right to stand by Brady, and I hope you'll rub that in to the nay-sayers. I'll phrase that as a question to make this easier for - How much smarter are than everyone who else who doubted Brady?Will Bortolin

Will, you left a word out in the climax of your email. So I'm going to assume you meant it to say, "How much smarter are you than everyone else who doubted Brady?" The answer is easy – infinitely smarter. We know all here at Ask PFW. Of course I'm not sure the greatest example of our intelligence is supporting a guy with Brady's resume. More aptly, the criticism of Brady was pure idiocy. It's not like he forgot how to prepare, play and throw the football overnight. He's still da man.
Andy Hart

Now that the Patriots have officially signed Dan Koppen to an extension, what about the other 2 impending free agents, Daniel Graham and Asante Samuel? Both are talented and I hope the Pats retain both especially with Samuel playing well in a rather thin defensive backfield. Or do you think both are definitely long gone to hit pay dirt somewhere else?Bob Stuart

I don't think either player is definitely "long gone" but I do think it's going to be difficult to re-sign either or both. Graham is going to wait until he sees what is available on the free agent market. I think, and this is just my opinion, he might want to go to a place where he'd be a more featured part of the passing offense and not a would-be third tackle. We'll see after the season. As for Samuel, I think he'd be more open to re-signing here but it's going to take some real dough to get it done early. He's already tied his career-high with three interceptions and has 10 games to improve on that. He's a definite starting level NFL cornerback and could be developing into a No. 1, depending on who you believe. Those sorts of players get big money in free agency where the cornerback market is generally pretty thin. Samuel is a young, developing player and will be attractive. (Anthony Henry got a $10 million bonus a couple years ago from the Cowboys.) Are the Patriots willing to give him a two-digit signing bonus? I don't know, but I think that's what it's going to take.
Andy Hart

The Pats are coming up on another amazing milestone of not losing two games in a row. Which game will be the clincher? I see the upcoming back-to-back of being at Minnesota then home vs. the Colts as the last obstacle in achieving this record. Where do you put this record in relation to some of the other things the Patriots have accomplished? I think this one really speaks volumes on the amazing focus, determination and preparation of the core players as well as highlighting the excellent job the Belichick and Pioli have done with keeping this team stocked.Snibbets

The Patriots have gone 55 games without losing back-to-back contests. The 49ers hold the record streak at 60 games. New England can break that streak on Dec. 3 with a win over the Lions, assuming the team hasn't lost back-to-back games between now and then. While the record is impressive, showing the team's consistent winning ways and resiliency in bouncing back from defeat, I don't think it in any way compares to its record 21-game winning streak. That's an amazing number. It's very hard to win every week in the NFL and to accomplish it 21 straight times is a true feat.
Andy Hart

Yeah, I know the Pats won big....against the Bills they should. But I have some concerns still coming out of this game: 1) Why was the offensive line, the "strength" of the offense unable to protect Brady or open up much of a running game? 2) Why was the defensive line, the "strength" of the defense pushed back many times by the Bills OL? 3) Why was Brady still looking out of sync with his receivers for a good portion of the game? 4) Why do I ask these stupid questions when the Pats are 5-1 and leading their division?Ben Askew

1) If I had the answer to the line's inconsistencies, I'd be emailing it down to Dante Scarnecchia. The unit has struggled against speed-based fronts including the Bills (twice), Dolphins and Broncos. That seems to be the group's kryptonite.
2) I guess I must have missed it, but I haven't seen this defensive line get pushed around this year, including last Sunday in Buffalo. Has it given up plays? Yes. But it is still the most consistent part of the defense. If Seymour can't play this week it will be interesting to see what effect that has on the group over the course of a tough matchup with the Vikings.
3) Brady's still getting on the same page with those guys. Get off his back. The receivers are learning the system (Reche Caldwell admits it has taken longer than he expected) and Brady is still learning his new weapons. It's coming. It's getting better. But as Brady says, you can't work with guys for a couple months and look like you've been playing with them for years. It doesn't work that way.
4) Because you are a Patriots fan. That's what a Patriots fan does. This team has set pretty high standards for itself in recent years and we are always there to hold the team to them.
Andy Hart

Two questions: First, does a player placed on IR get his full salary? What if he was placed on IR before the season starts? Second, although its still along way off, what would it take for the Pats to get a Bye week in the playoffs? What record do you think they'll have to have?Kacper K.

A player on injured reserve is paid his full salary and that money counts toward the team's salary cap, regardless of when he's placed on IR. The only other option is that the player can reach an injury settlement with the team and is then released. I'm guessing it'll take 13-3 or so to earn an AFC bye. The Colts are currently undefeated and both Denver and New England have just a single loss through six games. Barring huge injuries, I think those three will be in the running for the bye and another team or two, like San Diego, could get hot and stay in the mix until late in the season.
Andy Hart

After another solid game by Asante Samuel, it's going to just raise the ante to re-sign him to a long term contract. Do you think Samuel has turned the corner and can be a #1 cornerback, or is he just a good #2? Is he worth a contract in the neighborhood of what Branch got from Seattle? I don't think so, but can the Pats let another guy leave? The secondary is not the strongest area right now. How do you think this will play out over the year and into the offseason?
Victor Daniels

I think the comparison to Branch is interesting. I am not sure if Samuel is a No. 1 cornerback. I think he's probably a good No. 2. But he's putting up numbers and is going to be looking for big money on the open market. He just might get it, but I don't think the Patriots will overpay for him or break from their value-based system. If he's willing to come back at their number they'll sign him. But I think he might find more lucrative offers on the open market, as Branch did. If he does go elsewhere, that will definitely leave a hole in the New England secondary where Samuel has been a pretty consistent contributor in recent years.
Andy Hart

Not to take anything away from the good day Maroney had returning kicks, but did Chad Jackson return any kicks in college? Has he practiced returning kicks this year at all or has he been too banged up? Do you see him doing so for the Pats at all this season?
Matt Breen

I have not seen Jackson return kicks at practice, although admittedly that was limited to his three practice sessions in training camp. Jackson did line up deep to receive a punt this past Sunday, something he did in camp, although the kick went out of bounds. Jackson returned 10 kicks in his three years at Florida with an 18.8-yard average. He returned nine punts over his final two seasons as a Gator for a 3.8-yard average. And why are we asking the week after Maroney almost took one to the house and earned AFC Special Teams Player of Week honors? I know the Patriots kick return game has been disappointing the last couple years, but maybe Maroney is the answer.
Andy Hart

Being a lifelong Pats fan (since 1960 in Fenway Park!), its tough to live so far away and get a good feel for exactly what is happening on the team. But... I thought it was very interesting (not necessarily good) to watch the after catch dynamics of Chad Jackson's 35 yd TD catch. 1st to arrive to congratulate Chad was Ben Watson. There's Chad doing his dance and turning away from the feild and team-mates (toward the crowd). I could only see Ben's back, but it sure looked like he was less than enthusiastic about Chad's actions. It seems to me Ben would have hugged & climbed all over another team-mate for congratualtions on a TD. In this case it looked to me like Ben was physically backing away once he saw Chad's (TO-like) dance. I though I saw Bren's hands go to his hips and shake his head as though wanting to stay clear of the display..... but maybe I'm reading too much. What do you guys think? Am I reading too much into this? Will Chad's team-mates work on Chad to make sure that someday he fully understands the "Patriot way" to immerse oneself into the team concept (and come to appreciate a "team hug" type celebration more than an " individual dance" move)? I'll send you guys later some stories of the Patriots over the years (ones that probably occurred before you were born). Thanks.Bryce M.
Cave Creek, AZ

Sorry to disagree Bryce, but I found nothing wrong with Jackson's post-score dance other than the fact that it was a little lame and not very entertaining. I don't think Watson had a problem with it either. And for the record I don't think there is anything in the "Patriot way" that bans dancing. Corey Dillon does it when he scores and even got penalized when teammates joined the show in Cincinnati earlier this year. No one dance more than Deion Branch when he scored. Sometimes his hip gyrations were down right suggestive. They would have never been allowed on the air in the days of Elvis. (The original, not the flying version on New England's helmets.) So I just think you need to relax a little and enjoy the fact that the rookie was in the end zone after a big play. Football is a game. It's about fun and getting excited. I'd love your stories, though. I'm a relatively young guy. Paul's the only guy on this staff who remembers when leather helmets still ruled the equipment room.
Andy Hart

Hypothetically, if the Patriots were to go 10-6 this season with all 6 losses being in the AFC East, and the Jets were to go 6-10, with all 6 victories being against AFC East opponents, would the Patriots sill win the division? (Assuming that the Dolphins and Bills are so bad, they don't count as teams)
Jacqueline Kennedy

The team with the best overall record at the end of the season wins its division. Record within the division is only used as a tiebreaker when teams have the same overall record.
Andy Hart

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