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Ask PFW: Could Ty be the Patriots safety net?

I have been following your mini-camp coverage for the past week and I haven't seen any mention of Randall Gay. I thought he had a great rookie season after Ty Law went down and although he struggled last year (along with the rest of the secondary), I feel that most (but not all) of the CB problems were related to a lack of support over the top after Harrison went down. How do you guys see Gay fitting into the CB battle this year? Will he even be on the roster?Derek L

Gay was not present at mini-camp but he was at the charitable golf tournament the day before. He actually drew the biggest laugh of the day. Sporting old school, over-sized sunglasses, a baseball cap that wasn't broken in yet and a big gold chain around his neck inspired some of his teammates to refer to him as 80s rapper "Kool Moe Dee." I can't remember who came up with it but it sure was funny.

I don't see Gay starting. I know a lot of people point to the fact that he started in the Super Bowl but that was before Ellis Hobbs was on board. Hobbs has more physical talent and much more upside than Gay does. I think Gay will compete to be the nickel or dime corner but if the season started right now, the smart money is on Hobbs and Asante Samuel lining up as the starting cornerbacks.

I wouldn't say Gay is a lock to make the team because there is so much competition right now in the defensive backfield but if he can stay on the field during training camp, he's got a good chance to make the squad because of his knowledge of the system.
-Tom Casale

I saw an episode of "Patriots Today" do a feature on Ryan Claridge. He seemed like he had a good college career, and was a pretty good player. What are the chances of him making the team, or even becoming a starting linebacker if Beisel or anyone else struggles during the preseason?Tom Fiascone

Claridge has no chance of being a starting linebacker this year. Monty Beisel is going to start in the middle alongside Tedy Bruschi unless he gets hurt. Not only is this basically Claridge's rookie season but he wasn't even around the team last year while he was injured. He rehabbed in Las Vegas so he wasn't able to sit in on meetings and pick up the system mentally. Claridge didn't do a heck of a lot during mini-camp and while he does have potential, he's going to be in a fight with guys like Eric Alexander and Barry Gardner for a roster spot. His best bet to stick around is on special teams. I wouldn't plan on seeing much of Claridge on defense unless the team suffers a rash of injuries at the linebacker position.
-Tom Casale

Hey PFW, you guys do an awesome job every week! When Larry Centers came to New England a few years ago, he was supposed to be a big pass catching threat, as far as FB goes. But his presence wasn't really felt as a pass catcher. Can Garrett Mills produce, even if he is a great receiver, as a FB?Jeremy Brown

Garrett Mills is never going to be a traditional fullback. He's going to do things here that Chris Cooley does for the Redskins. Mills will line up at fullback from time-to-time but as his position coach in college admitted, blocking isn't Mills' strong point. You will see Mills lined up in the backfield but you will also see him lined up at tight end – where he was a majority of the time during mini-camp – and also in motion. Mills is basically an H-back but he's more of a tight end than a fullback. Larry Centers was primarily a pass-catcher out of the backfield but he was also a legitimate fullback. Mills isn't that kind of player. If you want to get a better idea of how Mills is going to be used here in New England, watch some Redskins games and see how they are using Cooley. That should give you a better grasp of the type of player Mills is going to be for the Patriots.
-Tom Casale

Am I the only one who feels sick to his stomach at the idea of Tebucky Jones starting over Eugene Wilson? I know Wilson had a lousy 2005 season, but that's not entirely his fault? Who was next to him? Who wasn't next to him last year? I really hope this doesn't happen. Jones is out of position even more than Wilson, and isn't as natural in coverage. He's also not ALL THAT MUCH more physical than him. Is Wilson moving to corner? I hope not.Dan G

I have to say, Wilson didn't play well at all last year. I know Harrison was out and Wilson was battling injuries but the bottom line is he didn't perform up to his standards. There are two things I want to address. First, if Jones starts the season at safety, it will most likely be him and Wilson out there. He isn't going to replace Wilson; he'll be playing for Harrison until he comes back. The other thing I would argue is that Wilson is more physical than Jones. I don't think that's correct. Jones has some holes in his game but being a physical presence isn't one of them. The team even lined him up as at outside linebacker in some of their defensive packages during mini-camp. It's hard to play both linebacker and safety if you aren't physical. I agree with you about Jones' coverage skills being a little shaky but not about him not being all that more physical than Wilson. I think Jones is a very physical football player.

As far as Wilson switching to corner, there have been some rumblings about that lately but there is no evidence at all that would suggest a switch. It's purely speculation at this point. I think the fact that Wilson was dressed for mini-camp but didn't participate in a lot of the drills got some people thinking that a switch back to corner was in the works. However, I would be surprised if Wilson wasn't one of the starting safeties on opening day, with Jones and James Sanders battling for the job next to him if Harrison isn't ready to go.
-Tom Casale

Andy Hart's comical wit and enjoyable charm are the twinkle in my eye, and the spring in my step. Also, does Dave Thomas like Wendy's? He should.Brian Bim

Thank you Mrs. Hart. Your love for your son is touching but you have to work on your jokes. The Dave Thomas/Wendy's joke is already played out and we haven't even reached training camp yet. Oh well, at least now I know where your son got his sense of humor from.
-Tom Casale

Hey Guys, Great column, I just have a question about how the supplemental draft works. I know you guys have answered questions about it in the past few weeks and explained how teams submit a closed-envelope pick if they want to. But I was wondering what happens if two teams submit the same draft pick. For example, what if the Pats and Colts both submit a third-rounder for Ahmad Brooks. Then would the Pats get him because they had the "better" pick this year, or would there be some sort of runoff because they're wagering picks for next year. Thanks.Jeff Wong

If it came down to the scenario above, the Patriots would get Brooks because they pick ahead of the Colts. Every team submits a sealed envelope for a player eligible in the supplemental draft and the team with the highest pick in the round he's selected gets the player. For instance, the Patriots would be ahead of the Colts but not ahead of the Browns, Dolphins and Cowboys – three other teams that use a 3-4 defense. In order to obtain Brooks over those teams, the Patriots would have to select him a round higher than them if they are interested in getting him. My guess is some team gives up a third or fourth round draft pick for Brooks and that team won't be the Patriots. That's just my opinion.
-Tom Casale

Hey! As a lifelong Patriot and Fighting Irish fan, I have become intrigued with the rookies New England has brought into camp. Dan Stevenson the 6th rounder is the player that may start a south bend to New England pipeline, but I'm curious about Corey Mays the inside linebacker and Matt Shelton the wide receiver. Do you think either of the two has a legitimate shot at making the team, and if so could you foresee either of them getting some playing time after all it is the teams two weakest positions. Thank you for your insight.Patrick Hinman

Both Mays and Shelton face an uphill battle in regards to making the team, especially Shelton. Not only is Shelton tiny, he dropped a lot of balls in both mini-camps he's taken part in. I don't think he has the size, speed or hands to play in the NFL. There's always a possibility of Shelton landing on the practice squad but I think guys like Erik Davis and Rich Musinski have a better chance of making it than Shelton does.

Mays could be a possibility for the practice squad. He didn't really stand out during mini-camp but I didn't notice him making a lot of mistakes either. I thought he looked better than Freddie Roach, who really appeared to be struggling. I think with Mays – just like every other young player on the Patriots roster – it's going to come down to how quickly he can pick up the system and his ability to play special teams. I don't think Mays will be on the active roster but if I had to pick a practice squad today, he would probably be one of the guys on the list. Stevenson looked good in both mini-camps so far and could end up being the steal of this draft for the Patriots.
-Tom Casale

Just curious, we've been hearing a little lately about Belichick having talks with Ty Law. Do you think there is any chance of a Law/Patriots reunion for 2006? I know I'm not the only Pats fan hoping to reinstate the Law in the AFC East. Thanks a lot.Greg Wilson

Since we will be gone for a while, I figured I would answer a Ty Law question. We have no clue where Law is going to land. If he gets more money someplace else, I would guess he would go there. If everything is equal between the Patriots and the other teams involved, my guess is Law will come here. I would like to give you a more definitive answer but none of us really have any idea where Law will land. He probably has no idea himself at this point. If I had to throw out a guess, I would say that sooner or later a team like the Chiefs is going to offer Law more money than the Patriots are willing to give him and he'll end up signing elsewhere.

One thing to keep in mind about Law is his foot injury. I cover the opposing team for the newspaper and both times when I talked to Law late in the season after his two games against the Patriots, he admitted that he had to come out in the second half because of stiffness in his foot. Now, his foot obviously didn't hinder him for the entire season because he led the NFL in interceptions and went to the Pro Bowl. However, I found it interesting that as the year went on and the temperature dropped, he was having problems with his foot. This may be an injury that never fully heals (kind of like Deion Sanders' toe injury), so teams have to weigh the pros and cons of giving a player that can still produce, but may wear down as the season goes on, all that money. I'm just glad I'm not the one making the call because it's a tough one.
-Tom Casale

Do you guys think if the pats do sign Ty Law that he will even play corner? Now I know he is one of the best in the league but I had this vision that Asante Samuel will be the Pats starting no 1 corner. In fact I find it amazing how many people I talk to who are down on him. He hits hard, plays the quick out throw just as good as any corner in the league, and is extremely fast. He also is young. I also believe that if Randall Gay is healthy he will beat out Hobbs for the #2 spot. Gay, after all, was a starting corner on the pats last Super Bowl team. He also is bigger than Hobbs and just as aggressive. Not that Hobbs couldn't be a great corner. I just think he will make a better nickel corner. He is aggressive but he is not big, facing possession type receivers in the league (e.g. Keyshawn Johnson) would be a big challenge for him, but in the slot I think he could really excel. Which leads me back to Ty Law. I think if Ty comes back to New England he will be heading to safety. Lets face it when Rodney went down the Secondary was in disarray from the lack of his leadership. With Rodney probably not going to be ready to go early in the season I think having Ty back would be great, but our corners are, at least the top three, very good. And lets face it Ty looked slow last year. He still had a tremendous year and even if he has lost a step he still is an elite player. Ty himself even stated that when he couldn't play corner anymore he still should have another 3-4 years at safety. I think that time is upon him and if he does switch to safety when Rodney comes back Wilson can play corner, which is where he played in college. However if it takes Rodney (God Forbid) longer than expected the Pats will still have a veteran guy back there leading the secondary. What do you guys think?Tim Renadette

Okay, one more Ty Law question. If Law returns to New England, he won't play safety for three reasons. One, he would be the best cornerback on the team. I love Hobbs but he's not in Law's class yet. Second, he's Ty Law and third – and most importantly – he's Ty Law. The day Ty Law plays safety is the day I admit Sean Salisbury provides useful NFL insight.
-Tom Casale

With the apparent depth at running back what do you think about the possibility that Kevin Faulk will see time at wide receiver?Paul Donoghue

I think you will see Faulk line up at receiver every now and then but he'll still do most of his damage out of the backfield. Lining up at receiver, he would most likely be covered by a defensive back. When Faulk comes out of the backfield, a linebacker usually covers him and that's a mismatch the Patriots will take every time. With Givens gone and the Patriots breaking in a lot of new receivers, expect a huge year out of Faulk when it comes to catching the football.
-Tom Casale

Hey guys, I was just wondering how Tedy was doing and how he looked at mini camp. Is he back to old form? Also what is his contract status, is he going to be around a while in your opinion? I can't wait for the season to start. Thanks guys.Curtis Levesque

Tedy was his usual intense self at mini-camp. While some guys were taking it easy, Bruschi was fired up virtually the entire time. During one drill one of the offensive players must have said something to him and Bruschi yelled back and told him to keep talking. Bruschi only knows one way to play and that was evident at mini-camp watching him compared to some of the other linebackers (I won't mention any names).

Bruschi is signed through next season, so he'll be up for a new contract in 2008 when he turns 35. You're probably looking at another Willie McGinest situation where the team is going to put a value on him and then he can either sign or test the free agent waters. One advantage about Bruschi staying in New England is – as I'm told by people who have been here a lot longer than I have – he loves living in this area. This could be a situation a couple of years down the line where Bruschi takes a little less money to stay in New England so he can finish his career as a Patriot and remain in the area.
-Tom Casale

Guys, there are no UFA receivers out there--I just went through the KFFL (fantasy) website of available WR's and the few available are all flawed or injured: Johnnie Morton, Az Hakim, Kevin Johnson, Dez White... Even with Branch, how can the team count on a rookie from Florida on the other side? Where's the magic rabbit going to come from? Help me get some sleep.JK

Well, the magic rabbit won't be coming out of the hat of stiffs mentioned above, that's for sure. Seriously, out of the guys you listed, I'm not sure one of them could beat out Bam Childress. There is no reason to sign a player just to sign him. None of those guys you mentioned could even get on the field for the crappy teams they played for last year. My advice would be to get some sleep and not worry so much. The combination of Branch, Caldwell, Jackson, Brown, Kevin Faulk and the tight ends should give Brady plenty of talented options in the passing game. If that doesn't work, try some NyQuil. That should knock you right out. Also, out of the four guys you listed, I say they don't combine for 50 receptions in 2006 and there's a good chance that at least three of them won't even be on a roster once the season starts. Sleep tight my friend.
-Tom Casale

Branch is disrespecting the team by staying out, and the team shows no appreciation for the key contributor who was underpaid for years. I believe that both parties show great disrespect to fans by not working things out and not exposing us to the business' ugly side.Frank

Deion Branch is going to do what is best for him and the Patriots are going to do what's best for the organization. I'm sorry to say this but in a sport that brings in billions of dollars, neither side is giving much thought to the fans when they are negotiating a contract. That's just business and reality. You act like this is the first time this has happened in the history of sports. Players have a monetary amount they feel they are worth and the organization has their amount. Sometimes the two parties come together and sometimes they don't. That's the way it is and that's the way it's always going to be. No one is showing any disrespect to the fans. Branch is trying to get all the money he can and any one of us would do the same. He's not going to sign for less just to please the fans and the team isn't going to give him more just to please the fans.

Also, Branch is disrespecting no one. I bet if you ask every player on the team, they would say Deion should try and get all the money he can. NFL players are very unified on this matter unless we're talking about Brett Favre who holds out for more money himself and then slams his teammate when he does the exact same thing.
-Tom Casale

Does the Patriots coaching staff tape all of the games themselves and if not where do they get their video from? Thanks.Mark Richter

Every single game the Patriots play is taped by the team's video crew from the end zone angle and a side angle specifically for the coaching staff. The game is recorded from above so the coaches can see everything that's going on and what is happening anyplace on the field on a particular play. This is the reason why you hear the phrase "coaches' tape." The way they tape the game gives coaches a very specific view of the action that most people aren't able to see. They also tape every practice in a similar manner.
-Tom Casale

Note: Ask PFW will return on July 25 as myself and the rest of the boys will be on vacation. And yes, this job is like being on vacation but we're talking about the kind of vacation that involves sunbathing and swimming in some kind of an ocean. Keep sending in your questions and we'll answer them when we get back. Take care and enjoy the final month of summer until training camp starts and we get back to business for good.

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