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Ask PFW: Filling in some holes

I sit here watching the Colts/Patriots game, and have been a big fan for years, but I have to ask a couple of questions ... do the Patriots have a secondary? Really that is what I am asking because the Colts pickup 8 yards every down Manning throws. I know the Patriots have bodies placed physically in the backfield but it seems simply to fill up the defense. Let me ask another question (and I grant these questions are as much out of frustration as anything else) given that the point of football is to win the Super Bowl and given that there is no way the Patriots, even if they make the playoffs, which they will because the AFC East stinks, can beat the Colts in the playoffs with the secondary that they have, in all honesty isn't the season already over? Don't get me wrong, I will follow them throughout the rest of the season but really, in all honesty, isn't the season over?
Todd Scribner

Aren't you a happy-go-lucky sort, Todd. The Patriots currently have five defensive backs on injured reserve and that number could be six if Randall Gay, who hasn't been able to play much all year, winds up there. The Patriots secondary has been decimated, so it's understandable they've struggled even against average to below average quarterbacks like Kelly Holcomb and Gus Frerotte. My head tells me the same thing you said – even if they win the AFC East there isn't likely to be another Super Bowl run. But that doesn't mean we stop hoping for one. Maybe some of the young guys can continue to develop and players like Michael Stone and Hank Poteat can fill in and be better players in December than they are today. Who knows what will happen down the stretch?
Paul Perillo

I have to get this gripe off my chest. Why in the world don't the Pats play press coverage? All I see this year are third-and-short situations and the DBs backing off of the WRs 5-6 yards or sometimes more. They come up to the WR during the snap count, then back off. Are they that afraid of getting burned? All this does is cost the Pats another converted third down by the other team. Starks played off his WR in Denver late in the game on third-and-short and of course Plummer hits his man with a quick strike for the first down and the game was virtually locked up with that. This doesn't happen only on third down, either. I see it during the entire game and it's costing them dearly.
Stephen Thorud

In terms of philosophy, the Patriots do in fact employ press coverage quite often. Not all the time, but often. In Duane Starks' case, he said he didn't feel comfortable playing that style. At 174 pounds, playing physically at the line is not likely the best option. He's played his entire career off the line and had pretty good success. In New England, playing the same way he always had, he wasn't as effective. But Asante Samuel almost always plays tight to the line. He's a little bigger than Starks (185) and definitely more physical. Playing press coverage consistently is very difficult. You wondered if the defenders, many of which are inexperienced replacements, were worried about getting beaten. Of course they are. Better to give up a pass in front of you then a long one over your head. That's why Belichick has been so frustrated with all the big plays they've allowed as well. The secondary picture hasn't been pretty, but not necessarily because of a bad style being used.
Paul Perillo

Not too much pressure put on the quarterbacks this year. Can't we move people around such as Dan Klecko to end and RS back to nose tackle on passing situations. The Colts utilize Robert Mathis for such situations and it seems to work out well for them after all he is only 235 pounds and leads the NFL in sacks. Klecko seems better suited to play this position as opposed to a nose tackle and is similar in structure to Mathis only bigger.
Garret Stewart

You're comparing Robert Mathis to Dan Klecko in terms of athleticism? And you want to put your best defensive player in Richard Seymour and lock him up inside on all passing situations? I have no problem with moving Richard around and putting Jarvis Green or having a linebacker up as an edge rusher. But moving Seymour around for Dan Klecko, with all due respect to Klecko, just doesn't make sense. I'll take my chances with Willie McGinest, Rosevelt Colvin, Mike Vrabel or Seymour rushing from the edge over Klecko. If Klecko has to be on the field, I would keep him as a pass rushing nose tackle in subpackages.
Paul Perillo

I've been hearing some buzz about the potential return of Terrell Buckley. Have you guys heard anything about this or is it just rumor? I think I remember him being on the Super Bowl XXXVI (2001) team. Can you give me a short recap of his years with the Pats?
Paul Foster

The Buckley rumor has been out there for a while because he was in for a workout last month. He's a guy who's been around the league and has loads of experience, but I'm not sure how much ability to cover people he actually has left. He came to the Patriots for the first time in 2001 and returned to the team in 2002. He signed with the Dolphins for the 2003 season and then re-signed with New England before 2004. But the Patriots cut him after camp and he wound up with the Jets last season. He's been out of football so far in 2005. He had seven interceptions during his two seasons as a Patriot.
Paul Perillo

Not to talk draft in the middle of a season that is not over yet. The Pats will get better, they will win the East!! But, what current draft picks do the Pats have in terms of how many in each round next year? The reason I ask is I know the Pats made some trades for picks such as Starks & Davis. Obviously these have not worked out quite as well as the Dillon trade, or the Washington trade in 2003. Just curious.David

The Patriots currently have nine picks in the 2006 draft – one in each of the seven rounds plus an extra third (from Baltimore) and fourth (Detroit). The Starks trade was for last year's (2005) third-round pick.
Paul Perillo

When will the following be ready to play some football. Estimated dates would be appreciated. Kevin Faulk, Matt Light, Tom Ashworth, Tim Dwight, Randall Gay, David Givens, Daniel Graham, Jarvis Green, Marquise Hill, Ellis Hobbs, Richard Seymour, Ty Warren?Todd Costic

I'm not sure if you've been following the Patriots much since Belichick took over, but injury information isn't exactly readily available in Foxborough. Plus, some of the guys on your list are already playing – Dwight, Green, Hobbs, Seymour and Warren all were on the field in Miami. As for the others, I'd say Ashworth, Givens, Graham and Hill will be questionable again this week while Light and Faulk are probably still a couple of weeks away. Gay played in Miami but had to come out with his ankle injury. He could be headed for IR.
Paul Perillo

Remember in the offseason when someone predicted the Pats to go 11-5? Seems Patriots Nation wanted to run that person out of town. Funny, but 11-5 sounds way better than the 8-8 we seem to be headed for. To me the upside is that there is definitely a lot more room on the bandwagon. The Pats could go 0-16 and I would still support them. They will be fine!Victoria Gavel

I do remember when Andy got killed for predicting an 11-5 finish. I predicted 12-4 myself, but that was before injuries really devastated the team. Since then perspective has changed and I'd consider 10-6 to be an excellent finish considering everything that's happened. I'd be disappointed in anything less than 9-7, although that would still be enough to win the division.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, I really want to like the Patriots but for some reason I am finding it hard to grab why Tyrone Poole was put on IR. How can a guy go from ready to play then on IR? It doesn't make sense to me. I hope he wasn't put on IR so that Tedy would have an opening in the roster to play that would be messed up. They could have waited and Starks would have been out and then Tedy could play, but to lose Tyrone, their only good cornerback, is stupid if that's the case. I don't care if it's on the site just you never answer my stuff and from here on out I don't like the Patriots and I'm glad they got they're butts kicked by Indy. Why would you get rid of your best corner?
Josh

Maybe we don't answer your stuff because you send in nonsense like this. Do you really think Belichick would rather weaken his team intentionally by putting a perfectly healthy player on IR so he could find a roster spot to activate Bruschi? Poole was hurt and he wasn't ready to come back yet. Belichick felt he could no longer wait for him to get healthy so he made the move. It's pretty simple. To suggest Poole was 100 percent ready to go and Belichick wouldn't play him is absurd.
Paul Perillo

I was curious if you could find out who wore No. 38 for the Pats during the 1998 preseason. I went to a practice the Pats were holding for season-ticket holders that year, and as the players were leaving on go carts to get to their cars, he tossed me a Polaroid picture of himself when I asked for his autograph. I still have the picture, but I have no idea who he is. If you could find some time to check it out that would be awesome.Adam Sennott

That was probably Steve Lofton, a cornerback Cardinals and Panthers before coming to the Patriots in 1997. He played four games for the Patriots in 1997 and was in camp with the team in 1998 but was cut before the season. It's hard to say for sure, but that's a good guess.
Paul Perillo

With all the injuries to the Pats, why not bring in some old Pats who played big roles like Terrell Buckley, Otis Smith, Roman Phifer? These guys should still be in good shape and came up huge for us in past years?Glenn Sermos

First of all, why should these guys be in good shape after being out of the league for more than half the season? Second, Smith and Buckley were too old two years ago, and Phifer certainly looked that way for most of last year. I understand having affection for guys that have helped the team in the past, but I really don't think these are alternatives we want to explore. Buckley may be the lone exception since the defensive backfield is so beat up. But personally I don't see him playing any better than the guys that have been out there – including the official whipping boy Duane Starks.
Paul Perillo

I don't know whether anything has made me feel worse about the 2005 Patriots chances than Coach Belichick's postgame interview this week. I listened to the radio broadcast, and I have to say, I have NEVER heard BB be positive about everything in a postgame interview. This makes me believe that he has more or less given up on the season, realizing that with the personnel they have on the field that they aren't going to beat anybody good. Trying to coddle the psyches of his players is NOT his usual style, and if he is completely backing of constructive criticism, to me that says that he is just trying to make it through the season and looking ahead to next year, trying to prevent his remaining players from getting so far down on themselves that they might not recover mentally next year. I hope I am wrong.
Nate Stafford

In terms of Belichick's mindset, I can tell you for sure you're wrong. Bill doesn't think like that. He never believes things aren't going to improve. In 2000, in the midst of a 5-11 season, he remained as disappointed after every one of those losses as he does after a loss today. I think his postgame press conference after the Miami game showed simply that he was proud of his banged up team for playing with such passion under extremely tough circumstances. He certainly has not given up on anything.
Paul Perillo

I thought that we did a lot of things well, but Brady didn't have his best game but he never does against Miami. Heath Evans had a great game. I thought maybe they should have given him the ball more. I don't understand why they where tossing it when all his yards came from in-between the tackles. The D played great, I loved the hit from Asante Samuel on Ricky Williams. Ellis Hobbs had a great game do you think that he played his himself into the starting lineup? I think we are going to have a really good second half but one game at a time. Hopefully we get some players back.Big John Cavallo

Since Ellis Hobbs started against Miami, and there really are no other cornerbacks to pick from, I'd say Hobbs will continue to start. As for Evans, I think asking him to carry much more than he did would have been asking for trouble. He admitted he was out of gas after the game. Don't forget this is a guy who doesn't have the ball in his hands very often so expecting him to run more than 17 times is unrealistic. I thought he did a nice job filling in.
Little Paul Perillo

I like what I'm seeing from some of our midseason replacements. Evans was huge vs. the Fins, and Stone looks like he has all the physical tools to be a player. I think he just needs more reps and experience. Do you think any of these guys will stick around beyond this season? Are any of them signed beyond this season already?
Roderick Edge

I think there's a possibility that some of these guys can earn jobs for the future. Stone in particular, with his ability to play on special teams, would appear to be someone the Patriots might be interested in keeping around. My guess is that at least a few of them will be re-signed and get the opportunity to come to camp and try to earn a job next season.
Paul Perillo

What is the story behind all of the injuries? I understand that this is a physical game and that injuries happen. But, with that said... It sure seems to me that our boys in blue have suffered more than their fair share. We had tons of people on the injury report during both of the last Super Bowl runs and look at this year's injury report. Why is it that we have so many people injured week in and week out? Is it something in the training regimen? What percentage of this year's injuries have actually occurred during games? I know I'm not asking anything here that others haven't asked as well. But, I'd just like your insider's view of the situation. It's just so frustrating to watch such a strong team struggle like they have.
Chris "Big Red Machine" Howard

Sorry to disappoint you, Chris, but there isn't any "insider's view" to provide here. Injuries happen, just like you said, and there's not a whole lot that can be done about them. All of them have occurred on the field, so unless you're planning to not play the games, I don't see how they could have been avoided. Mike Woicik, the team's strength and conditioning coach, is considered one of the best in the business, a fact proven by the six Super Bowl rings he earned. If you're looking for specific reasons why so many players are injured, I don't think they exist.
Paul Perillo

What is the schedule of the NFL for the next four years 2006-2009? I realize that dates and times won't be set but the teams will have a set schedule, with fill-ins according to finish in their respective divisions. Second Question Can this team, as you see them, overcome all their injury problems and win another Super Bowl this year?
Raymond Hurteau

I'm not going to list the four year's worth of schedules here but links to this information can be found on Patriots.com and other NFL sites. As for pulling off a three-peat, I don't see that happening with all the injuries. At full strength, I would have given the Patriots a reasonable shot at making history. But the current crew would do well to find a way to make the playoffs – which I think they will do. Regardless of how many injuries the team has suffered, the Patriots remain one of the most mentally tough teams I've ever watched. Their win in Miami was example No. 2,456 of that.
Paul Perillo

I thought it was odd that the Patriots went for 7 points immediately after Dwight Stone's catch that got the ball down to the Miami 17-yard line. There was just over 2 minutes left in the game and the Pats were down by a point. I would have thought they would have tried to run the ball to run down the clock, force Miami to take their last time out, then have Adam V. kick a field goal. I thought that scoring a touchdown quickly gave Miami time enough to come back and tie the game. I know Mare missed a field goal earlier, do you think this effected the Pats play calling?
Ed Enman

I understand your line of thinking and I must admit I was surprised to see the Patriots go right to the end zone at the end of the game. But I wouldn't have simply run the ball three times either. There was more than two minutes left and the Dolphins had two timeouts. If they stopped the Patriots on three plays, there would have been still more than 1:30 left and Miami only would have needed a field goal to win. That's plenty of time only needing a field goal. As it was, Miami didn't need any timeouts to move to the Patriots 5 at the end of the game. If things played out the same, Mare kicks a field goal to win it.
Paul Perillo

Did someone say that we would be begging for Duane Starks to come back if we played the kid at corner? Don't think so dudes.
Phil Moseley

Since everyone chose to blame the season on Starks, everyone is now obligated to maintain that the difference Sunday was Ellis Hobbs. First, let me state for the record that I thought Hobbs played competitively and pretty well for a rookie. But to put the difference in simple terms like Hobbs for Starks was the difference is flat out wrong. Hobbs was beaten badly throughout the first half especially. He covered Marty Booker a lot and Booker wound up with 102 yards receiving. Now to Hobbs' credit, he kept fighting and made a terrific play to knock away a potential game-tying touchdown to Booker with the game on the line. That was a great play and Starks wasn't making those plays. So Patriots Nation can smile about that. But let's not lose sight of the fact that the secondary – even with Hobbs – allowed Gus Frerotte to throw for 360 yards. The only difference between the last three games (Buffalo, Indy and Miami) was that Indy's offense was good enough to score touchdowns while Buffalo's and Miami's was not. That's why the Colts scored 40 points and the Bills and Dolphins scored 16. They all finished with roughly the same amount of yards regardless of who was on the field for the Patriots defense.
Paul Perillo

When is the trade deadline and is there any chance of getting some help on the D-line and in the secondary?
Jeff Madigan

The trading deadline past weeks ago (Oct. 18) and expecting help in that department was unlikely anyway. It's rare for a midseason trade to have a big impact in the NFL. Trades in football usually involve players who are disgruntled in some way, and often times those players have big contracts that are tough to deal with for cap purposes. But I'd expect Belichick and Scott Pioli to continue to scour the wires in search of some guys who can fill in.
Paul Perillo

Can you explain the penalty call late in the 4th quarter that nullified our interception that would have effectively ended the game? The call we heard in the stands was holding on the offense. So why couldn't we just decline the call and take the result of the play?
Joe Smith

The penalty did not nullify the interception. The officials ruled the pass was incomplete because the ball was knocked loose before McGinest displayed full control. Personally, I thought he caught the ball and lost it when he hit the ground after the Miami offensive lineman tackled him. This would have made it an interception and down by contact. I was surprised the Patriots didn't challenge that play. But the penalty against the Dolphins had nothing to do with it other than moving the ball 10 yards back.
Paul Perillo

I suppose it doesn't really matter since we pulled out the game anyway, but I thought I saw something irregular on the Phins last TD. You know, besides Asante Samuel forgetting to cover his man after the ball bounced off Frerotte's leg. I was pretty sure I saw a Miami player in motion when the ball was prematurely hiked; shouldn't this have resulted in some sort of penalty?
Jamie Hammond

For what, going in motion? The offense is allowed to have a player in motion at the time of the snap, as long as there is only one player moving and he does not move toward the line of scrimmage before the snap. The Dolphins had a player in motion when the ball was snapped, which is perfectly legal whether the center hiked the ball early or not.
Paul Perillo

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