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Patriots Replay Fri May 29 | 12:00 AM - 11:58 PM

Ask PFW: Cassel ain't so bad after all!

Are the Patriots still planning to eventually sign a veteran QB to their roster for obvious "QB insurance" reasons? It truly would be a shame if the Patriots instead decide to wait until after they possibly end up being routed by one of the stronger NFL teams that they play before they do decide to sign a veteran QB to help them out.John Moore

What the Patriots need is a quarterback who is an experienced veteran that still posses a great arm and who knows the system and knows it well! Why hasn't the coach given retired quarterback Drew Bledsoe the call?
Donald Harbarger

PFW: At this point, who's out there that could significantly help the Patriots against one of the so-called stronger teams in the NFL? Do you think Vinny Testaverde gives the Patriots a better chance of beating, say, the Indianapolis Colts or San Diego Chargers than Matt Gutierrez or Kevin O'Connell? I'm not so sure Testaverde or any other available veteran is better at this point than the two backups already on the roster. At least Gutierrez and O'Connell know the system. Testaverde was here last year, but he's 44. How much can he help now? Don't bother mentioning Drew Bledsoe. That ship sailed away years ago. He wouldn't come back and the Patriots wouldn't bring him back. As for Chris Simms and Tim Rattay, there's a reason they remained free agents for so long – or, as is the case with Rattay, are still unemployed. The Patriots invested a lot in O'Connell as a third-round pick. Let him get his feet wet as a backup. To be honest, if the Patriots are using their third quarterback at some point this season, chances are 2008 is a wash, so you might as well let the kid play and get some valuable on-the-job training. If you're a Patriots' fan, just cross your fingers and pray it doesn't get to that point.
Michael Parente

The Pats without Brady may look OK, but they barely won struggles with teams that just aren't very good (even with Favre, the Jets barely beat Miami). Cassel only made one throw down the field, which was underthrown, and other than that only ran quick, short passes. Short-yardage plays and field goals aren't going to work against contending teams like the Colts and Chargers, especially with a solid but aged defense that might not hold up in the later games of the season. How do you see the rest of the Pats season going?Sam Frankel

PFW: Cassel did fine against the Jets. He took what the defense gave him, made the right reads and didn't force the ball downfield into double coverage. The Jets geared their defense toward taking Randy Moss out of the game. Would you rather see Cassel try to force it to Moss and make careless mistakes, or be smart and dump it off to one of his running backs or tight ends? The latter is clearly the better choice. Cassel may hold onto the ball too long at times, but he's no fool, either. He's not a gunslinger looking to pad his own statistics and crack the weekly highlight reels. He seems to have no problem with an efficient, quiet performance like the one he pieced together against the Jets. Also, there's no indication the dink-and-dunk offense can't win against the Colts or Chargers. In fact, it'd be smarter for the Patriots to run a time-consuming, ball-control offense against teams with high-powered weapons of their own. The more you chew the clock, the less time Peyton Manning or LaDainian Tomlinson have time to attack your defense. As far as the rest of the season is concerned, if Cassel limits his mistakes and the defense continues to make stops in the red zone, I see no reason why this team can't win a relatively underwhelming AFC East division.
MP

Matt Cassel has been with the team now for four years, and I'm curious about something that keeps coming up in various media forums, which is the Pats using a reduced playbook with him. I understand that he's no Tom Brady, but surely over four years he's learned the whole playbook, kept up with changes, etc. So my question is: why would people think that the playbook would need to be reduced for him?Andrew Miskavage

PWF: Reducing the playbook for Matt Cassel has nothing to do with his intelligence – or lack thereof. In fact, I haven't seen anything that would suggest Cassel doesn't know the plays after four years. The reason you'd take out certain plays is because he's simply not the same quarterback as Tom Brady. Certain quarterbacks are comfortable with certain plays. As a coach, it's your responsibility to put your quarterback in the best position to be successful. You can't ask him to do something he's uncomfortable – or incapable of – doing. In my opinion, Cassel has a great arm, but isn't nearly as accurate as Brady, so I'd be hesitant to throw deep as much as I would if Brady were in the lineup. That's not to say I never air it out. In fact, they've done it a few times already with Cassel. You take what the defense gives you. If they stack the box or try to blitz, loft it over the top of the oncoming rush and utilize the screen pass. If they give you 1-on-1 matchups in the secondary, try to exploit them. Cassel knows all the plays. He's probably just not as comfortable – or capable – of executing them as well as Brady has throughout the years.
MP

I know that Mr. Brady is on the injured list and is out for the year. Godspeed toward a speedy and successful recovery. My question is this. During many NFL games you see injured players on the sidelines with their teams. Is it permissible for Tom to be on the sidelines and acting as an advisor and not just a spectator? Can he give advice to Matt Cassel and others based on his past experiences? I'm guessing that every NFL team, coach and player would be livid if this happened. I have all the confidence in the world in Mr. Cassel and his exemplary supporting staff. And I'm positive that Mr. Brady would be the first to say that there is no 'I' in team. Thanks for everything and keep up the great work.Peter Bryant

PFW: Of course Brady can be on the sidelines. Whether he's physically capable of standing around and holding a clipboard once he has surgery remains to be seen. It may not be in his best interest to do so and I wouldn't be surprised if Bill Belichick and the coaching staff tells him – or orders him – to stay home and rest rather than put unnecessary stress on his surgically-repaired knee. I'm sure Brady would love to do everything within his power to help Matt Cassel along the way, whether that be from the sidelines or in the locker room during the week leading up to games, but the fact remains this is Cassel's team now. Perhaps it's best for him to go it alone. Brady's influence certainly can't hurt, but it's harder for Cassel to grow on his own if he has a Hall of Famer constantly in his ear. Let the kid learn for himself and run the offense the best way he sees fit. Brady needs the time to heal.
MP

Are we going to have to worry about a problem with [Randy] Moss? Granted he was well-behaved last season, but that was with Brady as QB. It was evident on the one long bomb Cassel attempted to throw to Moss in the game, when Moss had to stop and wait for the ball to come to him, that Cassel cant sling it to Moss' liking. With Brady in there I think we can assume he would have put it all the way into the end zone so Moss would have just ran under it. How long before Moss grows restless? Of course, I'm hoping that wont be the case!
Neal Campbell

PFW: I understand your concern based on Moss' history, but – as Belichick often says – that was in the past. Like you said, he was well-behaved last season and by all accounts he's taking his role as a team captain seriously this season. Moss understands Cassel needs his support. Now that he's been voted a captain, this is no longer an option for Moss; it's a requirement. So far, he's been fine. He was upbeat after Sunday's victory over the Jets despite catching only two passes for 22 yards. There was no finger-pointing or complaining about the lack of catches. He's on board as a team player and wants to win. Besides, he had a chance to catch that deep pass from Cassel, but the ball deflected off his chest. He'd be hard-pressed to blame his quarterback, even if the ball was underthrown. For now, the Patriots are winning, so everything is fine. If you want to check back in after a few losses, be my guest. I doubt Moss will fly off the handle.
MP

In the game where Brady got injured, the score was 0-0 when he left. Does Brady get credit for a win because he was the actual starter or does Cassel get it because he lead us to the win after the loss of Brady?
Brian Sprague

PFW: This isn't baseball. Quarterbacks don't have win-loss records. Deciding who technically won that game is subjective. Obviously, since Cassel led every scoring drive against the Chiefs, I'd say he's responsible for that victory.
MP

I just want to know want the update with Tom Brady. Is he getting better or what? I must also congratulate the New England Patriots team. What if they do go undefeated with Cassel as the leader? Will that mean that Brady won't start?Paul Alexis

PFW: Brady hasn't had surgery yet, so there is nothing to report. He's been hanging around the stadium taking care of odds and ends, but his MCL needs to heal and the swelling in the knee needs to go down before they can operate on the ACL. If Cassel wins the Super Bowl, that means big money for him during the offseason since he's a free agent at the end of the year – big money somewhere else. The Patriots aren't topping seven digits for a backup. Brady is still the franchise quarterback for next season and beyond barring another unforeseen circumstance.
MP

Why was Terrence Wheatley inactive this past game? He's supposed to help our secondary in a big way this year! (Thank God Deltha has played good so far.)Alex Quezada

PFW: I'm as curious as you are, Alex. We all assumed Wheatley was the incumbent starter at left cornerback when the Patriots released Fernando Bryant in training camp, yet Lewis Sanders got the nod in Week 1. Not surprisingly, Deltha O'Neal has now assumed that role after a strong performance against the Chiefs and another week under his belt where he learned the system and studied the playbook. Wheatley participated sparingly on special teams in Week 1, yet it appears his stock has dropped pretty quickly since then since he was inactive against the Jets. Is he not playing well in practice? Your guess is as good as mine. In my opinion, I think Belichick values what the veterans such as O'Neal and Sanders bring to the table. Keep in mind Wheatley never started during the preseason despite having a strong camp, so this technically isn't a demotion. I am, however, surprised he wasn't active at all last weekend.
MP

Hi guys, great job with the weekly updates! Anyway, being in Asia, the channels here broadcast only one game a week as we are more "soccer" crazy here. So I can only depend on updates from only sources such as yours. Anyway, just wondering, how have our rookies been performing as a whole? I know Jerod Mayo is having a great time, leading all rookies in solo tackles up to this point, but how about the others? I can't watch the game here so I don't even know how they have done, or even if they have taken snaps or not. Thanks guys.
Shawn Woo

PFW: Hi, Shawn. Thanks for checking in! Mayo, as you already know, has been a full-time fixture on defense and has played well to this point. Cornerback Terrence Wheatley has surprisingly been relegated to special teams' duties and wasn't even on the 45-man roster against the Jets. Fellow corner Jonathan Wilhite made his first appearance of the season last weekend and finished with a tackle. Outside linebacker Shawn Crable has been inactive in both weeks while interior linebacker Gary Guyton has played sparingly on various defensive packages. Quarterback Kevin O'Connell is on the active roster, but has not played. Safety/specialist Matthew Slater has been active on coverage units, though it's worth noting he did not return kickoffs against the Jets after muffing his first and only opportunity in the season opener. So far, the only rookie who's made an impact has been Mayo, who is playing on every snap.
MP

Anybody know what Adalius Thomas said to Brett Favre after he tossed him to the ground like a rag doll in Sunday's game? Was he welcoming Brett to the AFC East or just asking for an autograph?
Ed Ayres

PFW: No idea, Ed, but I'm guessing he wasn't asking Favre if he could borrow his copy of the new Lil' Wayne album.
MP

Now I know he didn't play until the second half when the defense was worn down a little, but LaMont Jordan looked great running the ball. I hate being down on any Patriots player, but [Laurence] Maroney just doesn't seem to get it. He gets the ball and dances around at the line every time. That doesn't work in the NFL. Watch just about any other running back (including Jordan) and they hit the hole fast and furious. Dancing at the line kills all of your momentum and makes you an easy target. Watch Adrian Peterson. That's a lot of the reason for his success. He gets the ball and explodes through the hole. Maroney never does. What is wrong with him? Why doesn't he get it? If Maroney continues to play like that, do you see the Patriots using Jordan more?
Wesley Nickle

PFW: As always, Wesley, Belichick will do what's in the best interest of his football team and if that means more LaMont Jordan, then so be it. I agree it's frustrating at times watching Maroney hesitate behind the line of scrimmage before hitting the hole and you have to wonder how much leeway the Patriots will give him before the readjust the depth chart at running back. Be careful what you wish for, though. We've only seen Jordan in small doses and, like you said, in situations where he's the most well-rested player on the field. Jordan will be 30 in November. I'm not sure he can still carry the load for an entire season, but I do think he's more than serviceable as a change-of-pace back to help deliver the knockout blow against a worn-down opponent. Why not keep him where he's most successful? The Patriots also have Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris to pick up the slack if Maroney were to miss time for any reason. This is why they kept five running backs. The jury is still out on whether they have a true, every-down workhorse. For now, though, the committee approach is working fine.
MP

Given the complexity of Patriots offensive playbook, do you think the Patriots coaching staff would look favorably on adopting the A-11 offense?Dennis Casey

PFW: Hell no. The A-11 offense is a high-school gimmick with – hopefully – no place in the NFL. I am disappointed you would even bring this up. In the A-11 offense, all players on the field have the potential to be eligible receivers, though not at the same time. Aside from the inconvenience of having to issue new jersey numbers to those who'd be eligible at any given time, this offense does not suit the best interest of any NFL team. Who benefits from having a 320-pound tackle as an eligible receiver? Not the fans, not the team and certainly not the NFL. I hope this fad dies off around the same time as the UFC.
MP

Hello! Remember sprinter turned Cowboy WR Bob Hayes in the 1960s? Maybe the Pat's should checkout Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, a 9.69 sprinter in the Olympics.Jack Mooney

PFW: These gimmicks usually don't work. Bolt is incredibly fast, but does he know how to run a route? I've seen him run in a straight line, but I've never seen him run five yards, stop on a dime and cut to the outside. How about his hands? Can he catch? If speed were everything, Bethel Johnson would still be here. Thankfully, it's not.
MP

Hello! I'm entering my second NFL season as a subscriber to PFW and, believe it or not, I just logged onto PFWonline.com today for the first time. I must say, what an awesome website! If I had known that you offered all the back issues online I would have logged on long ago! I was reading Paul Perillo's article titled "Make way for Patriots new No. 2" in your September 11, 2001 issue (you all know who that would be...and it's not Damon Huard!) Anyhow, after I send this email off I'm about to go find some articles from the game at the Jets from Sept. 23, 2001 and see what PFW's thoughts of the Bledsoe injury and of this Brady guy starting in his place were! So, if there are any other PFW subscribers out there who, like me, have never gotten around to checking out PFWonline.com, I suggest you check it out. I was truly content with receiving my issue of PFW in my mailbox every Tuesday morning so I could read it cover-to-cover, but now I'm even more impressed! Thanks to everyone there at PFW for a great product!Jeff Smith

PFW: Although you technically didn't ask a question, who am I to ignore such gratuitous praise? Keep 'em coming!
MP

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