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Ask PFW: Conquering Roman

It's that time. PFW handles your questions regarding Miller, Kittner, Roman Conquest and more ...

Here we go. I'm back after a short hiatus to recharge the batteries. Boy, I guess Roman Conquest set some people off this week with his/her harsh criticism of our fan forum in last week's Ask PFW. We've learned that we can't please everybody but we won't quit trying. So with that in mind and with the crowds lining up at Gillette Stadium to get a glimpse of the defending champions in training camp, here is your latest edition of Ask PFW. Also, don't forget to subscribe to Patriots Football Weekly now as training camp kicks off. Don't miss another issue. You also will get the 224-page photo-filled Official 2004 Patriots yearbook for free with your paid subscription. This year's includes a full Super Bowl commemorative section with photos from every game, the parade, the ring ceremony and the White House. So visit or call 1-800-494-PATS now so you can get next week's training camp preview issue of PFW. Thanks.

Every time I read an article about the Patriots offseason the author talks about Traylor and Wilfork being an upgrade for Ted Washington. Granted that the Patriots won without Washington, how much did he really play last year? What are Wilfork's REAL chances of stepping into the NFL and making a difference his rookie season? Is Big Ted really so easy to replace?
Boston, Mass.

That's a great starting question for this week's forum. I don't think anyone can say at this point that the Wilfork-Traylor acquisitions represent an upgrade over Ted Washington. Washington, while certainly aging by football standards, remains one of the premier nose tackles in football and might be one of the best to ever play that position in a 3-4 defense. So to say that two guys that have never played the spot in the 3-4 represent an upgrade over a terrific nose tackle like Ted is a stretch when neither has even lined up in a Patriots uniform. They are different players than Washington, whose size and lateral quickness made him a dominant-type run stuffer who disrupted rushing attacks and freed up other defenders to pursue. Both Wilfork and Traylor are big, but go at least 30-40 pounds lighter than Washington. They both have reputations as solid run defenders, probably not in Washington's category though, but both are probably more athletic than big Ted and will be more of a factor when asked to get up the field to disrupt plays. I think the Patriots would be happy if this was a wash with Wilfork maybe developing into a near-Washington-type of player with better pass rush skills somewhere down the line.

Why don't the Patriots worry about signing Matt Light longer term? We need him to protect Tom Brady. What is taking them so long for that?
Huntington, N.Y.

Joe, I think the Patriots would love to get Matt Light locked up long term, but the two sides have to agree on the price. I don't think there has been much in the way of negotiating yet because it has not reached the top of the priority list for a couple of reasons. First, Matt is under contract for 2004 and his situation can be dealt with any time between now and next March before he hits the open market. Second, the front office has to take care of reducing some cap hits to get all the draft picks signed, and signing Light to a new contract extension now would probably give him a higher 2004 cap number than he has now. His cap number is less than $1 million for 2004 and a new deal will include a hefty signing bonus prorated over the life of the pact. So let's say for argument's sake, Matt gets an $8 million signing bonus over 5 years and his year one salary is the minimum for his experience or $455,000. His camp number for 2004 would be $2 million, or more than double what it is this year. Because of that, he is not a high priority right now even though the team would surely like to lock him up.

Are LSU season tickets going to be included in our Patriots ticket package this season? It seems like BB has turned LSU into a rather successful farm team. I guess the boys from the Bayou don't mind the New England winters that much after all. In addition to LSU, what other college teams have been this good to the Patriots? Also, which team's alums are the most vocal/cocky in the Patriot's locker room during the college football season?
Ben Posey
Boston, Mass.

That's a fair question. But obviously when you are selecting players, you want as much information as possible about the player and Bill Belichick's relationship with Nick Saban and the trust in his word carries some weight up here. It might be more telling when the Patriots pass on a highly rated LSU player. But there isn't that much college talk that goes on when the media is in the locker room. You catch some stuff when somebody's alma mater is in the National Championship picture. You heard from Willie McGinest and Kevin Faulk a little bit last year. Mike Vrabel was vocal about Ohio State the year before that. The guys from Florida schools are sometimes more apt to yap. But overall, you don't hear too much.

Who's the best golfer on the Patriots?
Parry Headrick
San Francisco, Calif.

I will apologize in advance to all those who didn't get their question answered in favor of this one. There are plenty of hard-core football questions and I think this lighthearted stuff has its place so please get over it and keep your whine to yourself. That said, Tom Brady is excellent and so is Adam Vinatieri. I think Troy Brown is decent and Rosevelt Colvin talks a terrific game, but his team came in last in the Patriots Charitable Foundation Tournament. Ted Johnson is pretty good and I don't know beyond that.

I wanted Shane Matthews but I had completely forgotten about Jim Miller. I, for one, like the signing. He's a great locker room guy and his teammates love him, or at least they did when he was with the Bears. I think he brings good veteran experience to the QB spot. Someone who will not only be a good mentor for the younger QBs but also someone who should benefit Brady in the classroom and from the sidelines. Obviously that's the role he was brought in for, seeing as how coming in this late he won't have enough time to fully learn the system to be able to really compete for the backup spot. And for the role he fills I think it's a great pickup. And for me to say anything positive about a Spartan QB you know there's gotta be something good about the guy.So what are your thoughts on the signing? Or do you not have any? Or do you just not care?

Loves Park, Ill.

Jenifer, you Wolverine lover, how dare you suggest we may not care. Of course we care. I think the signing makes sense. He won't play during training camp because of his shoulder surgery, but there is plenty of tape on him since he's made 27 starts. He will sit and learn the system during August while the Patriots evaluate Davey, Kingsbury and Kittner. If Davey is not ready to be the backup, Miller is there waiting as a guy with experience. If he is, but the other two just aren't good enough, you have a similar situation to the one you had last year with Miller replacing Damon Huard. I don't see how the signing could hurt especially given that there is o financial risk. If two of the three guys fighting for roster spots appear ready to play if needed, then the Pats could release Miller without any financial ramifications.

With the Pat's successful history of having all of their draft picks signed and on the field for Day One of Training Camp, should we be concerned that currently only three or four are signed and onboard?My guess is that one or two veterans will either take more "cap-friendly" deals or be let go.... should we panic yet? Love your column!

The Coach
Merrimack, N.H.

Don't panic. The deals will get done. Now that two of the first three picks are signed, the rest should fall into place. Wilfork signed for six years and the Pats will want Watson to do the same with Hill signed for five years. I wouldn't worry too much. If anyone is late coming in, it will probably be a couple of days or so while some final details get worked out.

My son is going away to play college football and before he goes I would like to bring him to see the Patriots practice and maybe even meet some of the players. How may I get the practice schedule and do I purchase tickets for this?
*James Brown
Barre, Mass. *

Training camp opens to the public on July 29 in the afternoon. The schedule for camp is always subject to change because of weather or injury-related issues or simply because the coach decides to change things up. Check every day for updated information on camp practices. But the practices are open to the public for free with no charge. As far as meeting the players, I can't help you there. Sorry about that and good luck to your son.

Do you think that Troy Brown would have high trading value if the Patriots decided to trade him? Also do you believe that if the Pats traded him that his departure would be noticeable considering all the solid WR on the team, as well as the tight ends and a possible good running game?
Boston, Mass.

I've learned by now that just about every player is replaceable, but I do think you would notice Troy Brown's absence. Trades for players are rare in the league and a player of Troy's age would not command a high price anyway since it would likely be for a draft pick, which would be a much younger player. So the Patriots could not get equal value for Brown in terms of what Brown will give them now. I also think he is still the team's go-to receiver in tight spots and he remains a clutch, big-game performer. He will not be traded. But keep in mind that I predicted that Lawyer Milloy would be around last year and that the Patriots would not trade for Corey Dillon. So maybe my confidence is Brown's ticket out of town.

I don't mean to brag or anything but about 2 weeks before the Pats traded for Corey Dillon, I traded for him in franchise mode of Madden 2004. Seriously. Just thought I'd let you guys know that. Anyway, do you see Bethel Johnson emerging as a star this upcoming season? He's definitely got the speed to do so.
Mystic, Conn.

I will have Scott Pioli give you a call. You might be just what the scouting department needs. You trade for Dillon … the Pats trade for Dillon … it just can't be coincidence. Hey good for you on that one. As I said, I didn't think that trade would happen. If you did that anticipating that New England would make the move, then stick a feather in your cap. I think Bethel Johnson has the speed to be a game-breaking player, but he is young and did not come from a polished passing offense in college. My sense is that he still has a lot to learn about the offense and route running. But his speed is scary and he will help even as he continues to improve.

I was wondering whom you think our starting corners will be in the 2005 season because Ty Law will probably be gone. Samuel is probably a lock, but maybe they might move Wilson from safety and let Scott take his old spot. Or is it more likely that we will draft a corner in the first round, such as Corey Webster from LSU or Dominique Foxworth of Maryland to start opposite of Samuel and Wilson could stay at free safety where he already is doing great. Just wanted to know what you thought. Thanks for posting if you post it.
Snohomish, Wash.

Wow Nathan. Training camp hasn't opened yet, the Patriots are the defending champs and you're already worrying about 2005? My guess is that Ty Law won't be here in 2005, but most people thought he wouldn't be here in 2004. Remember all the speculation about Law after Lawyer Milloy was cut. Who knows what will happen between now and next year. But I'll play the game anyway and I think that Samuel would start and the Patriots would draft a corner assuming there was one worth taking at their draft spot. I wouldn't rule out a move back to corner for Wilson, but that may depend on how well Scott and Reid develop. Also, you have to wonder how much longer Rodney Harrison will play. I think Samuel would move in to the starting lineup, but he may do that this year opposite Law. I don't know anything about the college kids in next year's draft yet. So I won't comment on those players you mentioned.

First off, I would like to say that I really enjoy reading PFW every week, keep up the good work. Now with the recent signings of Miller (mediocre and injured) and Kittner (32.5 passer rating and 2 years experience) my question is, "Why bother?" Or is this just bringing in competition for the 3rd string position?
Derry, N.H.

The Patriots did not have an experienced quarterback behind Tom Brady. All of the players remain somewhat of an unknown entity since none have taken significant snaps in the NFL. I think Miller is insurance in the event that Davey hasn't developed as hoped. I know he performed well in Europe, but until he carries that over, it doesn't mean much. His performance "across the pond" means he didn't play himself out of a job this spring. Kittner will challenge Kingsbury for work and the Pats obviously see something in his game since they placed multiple claims on him. There is no financial risk with either player and both can be cut without cap charges. Kittner's presence will allow Brady to take fewer reps during camp and increase the competition for backup jobs. The real question might be "why not?"

Do you think that the Patriots would trade Patten or Stokes for draft picks so they can draft more players and get some depth in other positions cuz P.K. Sam should get a roster spot?
Robert Kilpatrick
Easton, Pa.

No. The Patriots will have a lot of competition at wide receiver in camp and some capable players will be cut. I don't think a team would trade a draft pick for players who may end up on the street where they can be had without compensation. Patten, who is 29, could be tradable if the Pats don't think he'll make the club, but Stokes was already available to the league and didn't have a lot of takers. So Patten and his experience could be worth a fourth round pick or so given that he is not yet north of 30. I don't think a team would give up much more than that for him when you consider that the Pats traded a fourth for Ted Washington, who while much older, was also much more accomplished. And that's no disrespect to Patten, who I think is a solid player who will make some big catches for some team this year if not the Patriots. I think he will be here.

Hey guys. I have a couple questions so I'll try to keep it brief. Does a players position on the depth chart from left to right indicate their number as a backup? If so, who is Ethan Kelley? When and how did we get him? And does this mean he is out-camping our number one draft pick? I was also curious if Brady ever picked up his car.
Justin Johnson
Northampton, Mass.

The depth chart on the web page is unofficial and put together by PFW. Rookies are always placed at the bottom until they come into camp and begin playing so don't read into that at all. Ethan Kelley is a 2003 seventh round draft pick who spent last year on the practice squad. I assume Brady got his car, but have not spoken to him about it. I don't think the company wanted more negative publicity so I'm sure they got it to him.

Patriots fan from the Silicon Valley of India. Hi guys, I am a UMass graduate now residing in India and and Ask PFW are the only reliable sources of information about my beloved Pats. My question is regarding the depth on the offensive line. Are the Patriots happy with their depth or are they looking to add more players? Can former practice squad players Hochstein and Ashworth contribute over an entire season? How long before Andruzzi re-injures his aging knees? With Woody not around to help will Koppen go through a sophomore slump? Which positions will likely see battles for starting and roster spots in training camp?Thanks and keep up the great work. Go Pats!!!!

Bangalore, India

You ask some very good questions and some that may not have answers yet. But I'll tackle them in order. I will sound like Bill Belichick when answering the first one in that I think he and Scott Pioli have proven that they will try to improve the team at any point. There is almost certain to be a training camp acquisition of some sort since there almost always is. Phifer and Cox were camp signings in 2001. Otis Smith was one in 2000. Last year, they got Ted Washington. Andruzzi signed in September of 2000 after being cut by the Packers. I don't think they are happy with their offensive line depth and they will be eyeing available veterans throughout August while at the same time evaluating the guys on the roster to determine whether reinforcements are necessary. Belichick always says, "We're always looking to improve the team." I think he's shown that to be true. Ashworth started 17 games last year so I think he proved he could compete. Hochstein is a bigger question since he only played in the playoffs. Stephen Neal, Wilbert Brown and Bob Hallen will press him in camp. I refuse to predict an injury to good guy Joe Andruzzi. He stayed healthy last year for the first time since arriving in New England although he did play 16 games in 2001. In fact, both seasons in which he started all 16 games, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. He's tough enough to play in pain so barring anything major, you can count on Joe being in the lineup. Will Koppen slump? No. He will get better with experience. He's a smart player who is solid technically. Finally, I think the best training camp competition will come at wide receiver, defensive back, defensive end and left guard.

Get out of town, rOMAN cONQUEST. Thanks for that terrible testimonial to begin the 7/13 column. While I do agree some questions are answered too many times, there's no need to be a jerk (for lack of a more appropriate word) about it. Frankly, I have never seen a question that asks, "Will Dillon fit in at Gillette, huh? Huh? Will he? Will he?" but if you can prove me wrong, be my guest. Oh, and thank you so much for the broadest question ever asked in the history of PFW. PFW: Keep up the good work/hilarious column.
Charlotte, Vt.

Our supporters strike back. Ask PFW has become a family. Insult one, insult all!!!!!

It's been hinted that Gus Scott is getting significant time at safety with the starters this offseason and has done well. If this is indeed true, and yes, this is without competition or pads so we'll see, would that precipitate a move by Wilson to his natural position at corner? That would certainly give the team some flexibility in dealing with Ty Law's seemingly imminent departure. This would give him a year to learn before the heat gets turned up (assuming Law departs). Do you think that there is any merit to this guess-timate? Thanks.
Brooklyn, N.Y.

It's certainly reasonable, but Scott took some extra reps at mini-camp while Wilson was out of the lineup. I think Wilson will start at safety and see some time as a corner in some nickel or dime sets. Belichick loves the coverage flexibility he brings to the safety position and he manned up on receivers at times last year in what was essentially playing corner in subpackages. I don't think he'd have a problem moving back to corner if asked to do so whether that be now or next year. I wonder if he would play as well at corner as he did at safety. But Scott did see some extra reps than he otherwise might have and he obviously showed the coaches he was up to speed enough to handle them. How that bodes for the regular season? Ask again in another month.

OK, I've heard of the SI jinx, but what's up with the PFW training camp diary jinx. I recollect at least 4 out of the last 5 participants have either been released, had a terrible season, or ended up on the IR. Can you give me a breakdown? (I think you should consider re-evaluating your screening process).
*Pete Harrod
Framingham, Mass. *

Easy Pete. You ever hear of a guy named Tom Brady. He was our 2000 Training Camp Diary. Last year it was Fred McCary. In 2002, it was Steve Martin. They support your argument. But in 2001, it was Otis Smith, who went on to start 15 games and all three playoff games while intercepting five passes, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He also was nearly the Super Bowl MVP. In 1999, it was Marcus Washington, who was the only draft pick in the Pete Carroll-Bobby Grier era that failed to make the club or practice squad out of camp – another check for you. I'll rest on Brady, though.

Hey I just wanna say u guys r doing a great job and that guy who wrote in last week to open off patriots football weekly was a moron and his question could have been answered with common sense. Anyway my question: what role do you think cedric cobbs will play this season with dillon obviously the starter and faulk coming in possibly as a third down back? will cedric play? will he split time with faulk or do you think he will even make it through training camp? Thanks guys keep up the good work.
Who Knows, Mass. *

I think Cedric has to beat out Mike Cloud for the backup job. He looks like he has some work to do to become comfortable in the passing game, which will be critical to getting on the field, but I am anxious to see him strap on the pads and run the football. I would say his potential gives him a leg up on a roster spot even though he probably won't see many carries this season.

In your opinion which coach would be a bigger loss? Charlie or Romeo.
*Scott Hill
Easton, Mass. *

I am going to dodge your question because I think both would be a substantial loss. But with the system firmly in place, I think the Patriots could overcome the loss of either and that's not to diminish those coaches' value because I think both are tremendous. It would be easy to say that Charlie would be a bigger loss because of Belichick's defensive background, but I think both do such a good job and have so much credibility with their players that they would be hard to replace. Charlie has done a terrific job bringing Tom Brady along and while it's easy to criticize individual offensive play calls that fail, he's been solid overall in that area too. Charlie, Romeo, Bill, Brad Seely and Dante Scarnecchia give a pretty prominent quintet at the top of the coaching staff.

Say the coaching staff lets Davey start in all of preseason and he does real well. Do you think other teams will have any good interest in him? And if we do happen to trade Davey to another team what kind of player we would get for him or how high of a draft pick we would get?
Renand Jackson
Boston, Mass.

I think if he followed up his strong spring with an equally strong summer early in preseason games against defensive starters, he would elevate his stock to potential suitors desperate for a quarterback. I think a third round pick would be reasonable given his experience and a second rounder not out of the question given your scenario.

Great job guys!!! Couldn't help but hope you post this so your devoted Ask PWF readers know that you really are doing a great thing by helping the poor un-football wise fans. You're just ushering new fans to the game keep it up!
The Skippa
Bristol. R.I.

Thanks Skippa. Tell Gilligan we say hello.

In my opinion, with all the offseason moves the Patriots have done to improve the team from last year, I think the main reason they have as good of a chance to get back to the playoffs and possibly another shot at the Super Bowl as anybody else is that they were able to keep Charlie Weiss and Romeo Crennel as the coordinators. Your thoughts.
Peter Bassignani
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

I think coaching continuity is important and it's certainly good for the Patriots organization that the coordinators remain on board for the time being. The Patriots have head solid continuity on the staff since Belichick took over and I think it's played a decent role in the team's success.

What is the status of David Patten and do you think he will be back as one of their starting wideouts?
Dave Willis
Shrewsbury, Mass.

David Patten is still a Patriot and received a $250,000 roster bonus in March that the team would not have paid if it didn't think Patten could make the roster this year. I think he has a legitimate chance to stick around on a deep receiving corps. He has good speed and could find himself in single coverage quite often given the number of weapons the Pats should have in the passing game. He could do some damage as a deep threat and he had a strong June mini-camp coming off an injury-shortened season. He won't likely be a starter, but that doesn't really matter in the Patriots offense. They all play and all catch the ball.

Enough with the prognosticating! We won't know how well they play until they start!HOWEVER... you guys have the inside track, so, what's the scoop? How do the returning vets feel about the way things are beginning to come together? I love the way the rookies keep talking about how they're learning the aspects of winning from the veterans. I never thought I'd see the day when a Patriots team started a season expected to blow most teams out of the water. Being on the inside, have you guys gotten the impression that the vets are quiet, humble and yet confident at the same time?

*Matt McDonnell
South Boston, Mass. *

Shhhhhhh. This is from the inside and I'll give it to you but only on the QT. Do not share this information. I think the shorter offseason is always a factor for the Super Bowl teams and will be something this one will have to overcome. It's a month less of recovery time for the body and you have to wonder what kind of impact that has on a team as the season progresses. Mentally, I think the veterans learned from two years ago and are ready to compete, knowing what defending a championship is like. Ted Johnson said that the team's June mini-camp was the best he's been around in his entire career. Everybody will be gunning for them, which makes road games like at Arizona one to worry about in terms of the team's focus. But that's where the veteran leadership on this team should take over. They know how to win and what it takes. You just have to hope that they didn't cut corners in the offseason while convincing themselves that they were working as hard as they did last year.

Does Mosi Tatupu's son play for USC? What kind of RB was Tatupu when he played for the Pats?
*Lauren Brousell
Medfield, Mass. *

Yes. Mosi's boy plays for Pete Carroll at USC. Mosi was a fullback who carried the ball at times, caught the ball out of the backfield, blocked and was a special teams ace. He was a fan favorite in New England for his playing style and unsung presence.

Please tell Roman from Alaska to have a coke and smile - light a campfire and thaw out. Sheeze - It's nice to have a sense of humor AND converse with people that share the same passion for the Patriots. Not all sports talk should be serious and stuffy. Great job guys.
Las Vegas, Nev.

Thank you Todd. You are very bright.

How do you feel about drafting Ben Watson with the 32nd pick of the 1st round? Ben Troupe was ahead of Watson on most people's draft boards at TE. Also, would the Pats have been better off with an offensive lineman - say, Chris Snee? Is our offensive line strong enough going into this season or could we have used the help of drafting there? Regardless of these questions, its very hard for me to question anything that Belichick does, as he and his staff evaluate talent so well and have done so well in past drafts.
New Orleans, La. *

I was surprised the Patriots took a tight end there although I have no problem (right now anyway) with them taking Watson over Troupe. Speed like Watson's at tight end is not something you pass up if the draft grades are close. I would have had no problem with New England taking an offensive lineman there either. I don't think Bill Belichick will use a first round pick on a guard, but I'm sure they liked Snee if he stayed on the board and they could have had him at the end of the second. Bill and his staff have earned the benefit of the doubt, but that doesn't mean they don't make mistakes like all of us. They just seem to make a lot less lately. But you, as a fan, can question whatever you want, especially if you can back it up with reasonable points.

I agree with some of what the man from Alaska on July 12 PFW says. (Roman ..) Some, maybe much of the stuff you print is junk . Boring to most I think. Your answers are always excellent however. Clearly your knowledge and flair to write are excellent. You have a huge job. You overlooked my question also. I think most readers would have liked an answer to it. I asked: Why don't we see the LINEMEN'S GRADES for each game. So many speculate on Ashworth, Koppen, etc. Coaches' grade them each game. It would be great to get this information. Wouldn't you like to see it!!! Players are 'timed' now each week . What are there times? We need more hard info in these days of wait.
Gary Lannquist
Palm Beach, Fla.

In the essence of fairness, I print Gary, a Roman Conquest supporter and misguided sole. But seriously, I would love access to the coaches' grades, but unfortunately, they do not share that information with us and I'm quite sure the players wouldn't be too happy with that practice. The coaches need the players to play hard for them. Exposing a poor grade publicly is certainly not the way to get that out of them. But I agree, getting would be terrific assuming we could decipher the way they grade them.

With all this talk about the Patriots losing Ted Washington to the Raiders, I hear nothing about losing Damien Woody to the Lions and Mike Compton to the Jaguars. It is my opinion that these were two solid offensive linemen. Will the loss of these two players greatly affect the offensive line? Are they replaceable with the players the Pats have now?
*Ryan Wells
Amherst, Mass. *

I think Compton's loss has been under the radar because of the way Koppen filled in at center, which allowed Woody to move to guard. Compton missed almost the whole season so it was like he was replaced last year. Woody is a big loss and the Patriots have no set replacement for him yet. They would have loved to keep him if they felt the value was there. They offered him significant money and he got more elsewhere and took it. Their disciplined financial approach forced them into this situation and I think they accept that. But Woody is a good player who will be tough to replace.

Ok doc, I seem to have this itch & and I am unable to focus on anything. I need September weather, Sundays on my couch and the smell of good food from the kitchen. Are the Sox still playing for anything...? I seem to not care as much this year. And that's odd for me. Anyway I see the Pats going 12-4, making the playoffs, going to the SB and pulling out another stunner this time against the Eagles 38-16. I do have a question, does Mr. Brady have the tools to work with just any ol' offensive coach or do they (the Pats) need to tailor their needs around him a bit more then they did with Drew. He seems to have the arm strength, does he need a coach who is comfy with his arm? And for the last time, what ever became of Anthony Collins? I have an autograph I would like to send back. Come on post this and I will deliver the SB goods. I have that power you know!
Master of All Things
Stockton Springs, Maine

I think Brady has all the tools necessary on the coaching staff and with his weapons. The offensive line is the only question at this point and even that should be decent if it remains healthy. The coaches are fine with his arm and they try to accentuate his strengths when game planning. Tony Collins is living in Florida, but I don't know what he is doing. Perhaps will research that for a Where are They Now? piece in PFW.

People like "Roman Conquest" need to chill out. I love the variety of questions that you guys answer. Something for everybody. If they don't like a question, skip it. Keep up the great work!
Malden, Mass. *

Thank you Dana. Another satisfied customer. (I am sticking my tongue out at Roman Conquest now to prove my maturity.)

I was reading the July 12th version of Ask PFW and I wanted to rebut Roman Conquest's scathing note. Ask PWF to me is all about the fans and fan interest in the Patriots and you have to realize that when you read it. You guys do a great job in giving the majority of the fans what they want to read/hear. I say keep up the good work!My question has to do with a theory of mine. I believe that it is easier to best improve the team by getting defensive linemen/backers through free agency than offensive linemen. It is easier for the defense to change personnel and have additions come in and make an impact. Seems like offensive line takes more time to jell and is better served in the draft building depth and cohesiveness in personnel.

Sterling, Mass.

Take that Conquest. Now I don't necessarily share your opinion. I think blocking is blocking and there are only so many ways to do it. Assuming you have the technique and ability to get on the field, then it's simply learning the terminology of the system. Developing cohesion is certainly an issue, but that can be done over the course of the season as it was in 2001 when Matt Light (draft pick) and Mike Compton (free agent) stepped in as newcomers up front. Defensively, the Patriots run a fairly complex scheme and are one of only a few teams to use a 3-4 base defense that employs two-gap defensive techniques in the front seven. So I think they have to find certain players that fit that system, which makes it harder to just plug in a free agent from another team and maybe another system. I do agree that offensive linemen need to develop cohesion and am not diminishing the importance of that, but I think that takes time whether through a draft pick or a free agent.

What's up guys? Post me, post me, Please. I am a huge fan of Rodney Harrison and have not heard much about him on PFW. How is his arm? And who will be starting besides him in the safety position? Thanks for keeping it real in the offseason. JL post me.
Jeff Lepak
Enfield, Conn.

The begging is weak Jeff. Really weak. Where's your pride? Rodney's arm is healed and he appears ready to go. Eugene Wilson should start next to him for the second straight year.

Does the coaching staff dramatically change the playbook from season to season or do they try to maintain some level of consistency? How much is the playbook affected by the amount of personnel joining rival teams (i.e. Rob Ryan)? While it would seem that losing personnel to opponents would prompt significant changes in the playbook, the coaches must also try to minimize the time required to prepare the players for the regular season.Also, concerning the Michael Bishop question (7/13): after his gig with the Rampage, he is currently the backup QB for the Toronto Argonauts. I watched a game on July 3rd when Bishop came in to relieve an injured Damon Allen in the fourth quarter. In 5 attempts, Bishop made 0 completions and was picked-off twice. Hey, maybe there's a future for Bledsoe yet! (sorry Paul)

D Pero
Halifax, Nova Scotia

The playbook changes, but I wouldn't say dramatically. The foundation of the system remains in place and everything is built off that. In reviewing the previous season, the coaches look closely at what worked consistently, what didn't work and why. They then throw some things out, add new elements and improve upon some existing things they'd like to keep while leaving some things untouched. Sometimes it might be as simple as a play that Tom Brady is uncomfortable running so it gets scrapped. Sometimes, a player may display an ability to execute a certain play and so it may become more prominent. But everything is reviewed and tweaked if need be. They do make changes to keep it fresh and add new elements that opponents haven't seen as well. They try to eliminate any predictability carryover from the last season regarding situational play.

In response to Roman Conquest I would just like to say a few things. First off, just because you have infinite wisdom about football doesn't mean that you can expect everyone else does. I personally believe that PFW does an excellent job of providing a mixture of in-depth questions, as well as basic questions for those who may be new to the sport. As for the same question being asked over and over again, there is some benefit to that. My opinion of whether Corey Dillon will fit in has changed dramatically since I first heard the news, maybe people want to know the changing opinions of their favorite sports writers. Asking these guys to respond to peoples questions by private e-mail is just a ridiculous idea. The amount of mail they have to sift through has to be incredible, especially considering the growth of Patriots fans throughout the past few years. To answer by private e-mail all those questions while still providing the excellent quality work of PFW and their other obligations would leave them with no time to think of the great, witty answers they do manage to come up with. Maybe the reason your question was passed up is because it is an opinion question rather than one that they can factually find any answer to. Quite frankly, I think the obvious answer to your question is; "In order to keep going in the direction that they have been the PATS need to continue doing the same thing they have been doing, while building on their weaker areas." Was that so hard wise one?
The Prophet
Minnesapolis, Minn.

Only a prophet could defend us so eloquently.

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