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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Sun Aug 02 - 12:00 AM | Mon Aug 03 - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: Good bye London

After the bye week, the Patriots have a very tough-looking November. They get Miami at home, then Indianapolis on the road, then the Jets at home, and then the Saints in the Superdome. Realistically, how many wins come out of that stretch? I would like to think the Patriots go at least 3-1 in that stretch but with the toughest-looking games being on the road it looked like it could be a rough month.
Sam Frankel

Sam, let me be Frank-el with you. (I know, I've used that one before. Get off my back, my body clock is about as out of whack as you can get right now.) I think 3-1 in that stretch would be a great mark. Two tough division games combined with two road trips against explosive offenses is a tough row to hoe. My guess is that the team goes through the four games with a 2-2 mark. The Dolphins are fighting a good fight these days. I still have my doubts about this defense matched up against high-powered offenses, of which there is none scarier these days than the Saints. Can I see three wins, or maybe even four? Sure. And if that happens, start booking your trips to Miami in February because this team will truly be rolling baby!
Andy Hart

It appears that the one area the Patriots still need improvement in is running back. With injuries and inconsistent running success, they still need a new "Corey Dillon" bread-and-butter runner. Do you see any possibility that the key runner can be found in time for the playoffs?Jim Tully

I don't think it's likely the team will add a key runner from outside the team by the playoffs. I think the most likely candidate for that role would be Fred Taylor. The veteran looked pretty good before he had ankle surgery. Ideally maybe he can get back by late in the regular season and be ready for a run in the playoffs. He showed me early on that he still has something left in the tank, hopefully that remains after yet another injury and surgery. If not, then you have to hope maybe Laurence Maroney can find some consistency at some point, maybe like he did down the stretch in 2007; that December and January brought his best production as a Patriot. Maybe he can stay healthy and get back there again. I agree some more consistency could be required at some point in the running game, but those contributions are likely going to have to come from the guys who've been on the roster from Day 1 this season and not from some surprise outside source.
Andy Hart

I hate to sound pessimistic after two dominating wins. However, we've seen the Giants destroy the Raiders and these same Bucs only to lose to the Saints and Cards. Do you think that the Pats dominating wins over a Titans team that quit and a poor Bucs team has more to do with the Patriots finally turning it around or does it say more about how bad the Bucs and Titans actually have become?
Gary Goldstein

I think it's a combination of factors that led to the blowouts, and I certainly understand your skepticism. While things have been great of late, we'll know a lot more about these Patriots in a month after a tough slate of November games. My gut tells me this team is truly getting better and is much better than the one that opened the season. The Bills were a lackluster team that this group struggled to beat on opening day. I think that would be a different game today. Bill Belichick's teams are always better in November and December. Put that fact up there with the certainty of death and taxes. Beyond that, I don't know exactly how good they are. Time (and the upcoming slate of games) will tell us that, but my guess is that by January this if one of the top two or three teams in football. Is that a certainty for a Super Bowl trip? No, but I wouldn't bet against it at this point either.
Andy Hart

I don't agree with some in the media attributing coach BB free-agent acquisition difficulties to the "conflict of interest", "lost touch", or missing S. Pioli. I think that hoping to find a significant number of affordable quality players on a free market is unrealistic. So if anything, I wish we do a slightly better job in drafting. I am particularly surprised that BB who played as a RB, has difficulty in drafting them. Even receivers, you should be able to see very well the skill-level they display in college, and gage character during the interviews. So I don't get Maroney and Jackson. Different picks could have been huge for us now.
Ed Truro

Ed, you're clearly referencing a recent run of stories in the Herald and then a follow-up later in the Globe dealing with Belichick the coach Vs. Belichick the G.M. It's a fun topic to discuss and debate, but the bottom line is that Belichick has and always will be the final decision maker on all things football in New England. He has advisors, always has, but in the end he deserves all the credit as well as all the blame. Talent acquisition is an inexact science. We've heard all top football men tell us that. It's true. I do think free agency is a bit more difficult as you are talking about guys changing schemes, growing older and also have to factor in the money/value of a player. It's a tough job. Belichick has done it very well at times and not so successfully at others. For the record, and not that it's really relevant in anyway, but Belichick was a lineman/tight end, not a running back, when he played D-III football in college. All teams have great signings/draft picks. All have busts. I think the Patriots have been above average in talent acquisition under Belichick. At times he gets too much praise in that area. Others too much blame. But I would tell you to keep an eye on this year's draft class, one that looks like it could be a foundation of the team's young depth for years to come.
Andy Hart

Hello Guys I have only a short question for you. I'm interested in the status of James Sanders. After his contract extension I was sure that he was the long term answer in safety position but as I see now the secondary could work without him too. What do you think about his role and his future as a Patriot?
Jozsef Bakk

I'm a little surprised the way the beginning of the season has played out for Sanders and the safety position as well. I'm pretty much the biggest Sanders fan out there. I think he's a solid player, sure tackler and steady force in the defense. I always thought he was underappreciated by fans. Heck, Belichick alluded to the fact that a coach would want 53 James Sanders-type players on his roster. Not long after that he seemed to be relegated to reserve duty and missed some time to injury. In the meantime the safety Brandons, Meriweather and the newcomer McGowan, have shown the ability the make some big plays. That's never been a strength of Sander's game. I still think Sanders has a solid future in New England and will help this team win games this season and beyond. But his role is clearly a bit less secure than it was in previous years. The Patriots have a lot of depth at safety right now, including second-round pick Patrick Chung. To me, all four safety players could be leaned on to contribute moving forward. Combine that with the depth the team has at cornerback and the secondary looks like it could evolve into a strength of this defense moving forward. I hope Sanders remains a part of that strength.
Andy Hart

Why don't you guys think Brandon Meriweather is a good safety? I know he could tackle better, but he's a db not a line backer and his ball skills are pretty good. Please explain yourself. P.S. you guys are awesome!Robbie Grant

I think the PFW boys, myself very much included, have fixated on Meriweather's poor tackling more than many other media outlets. He's clearly showing the ability to make plays in the passing game, both in coverage and in the rush. But I still think he misses too many tackles, goes for too many big hits and bounces off too many ball carriers. I actually think that's keeping him from making the jump from good player to a great one. Maybe we're too harsh on his tackling, but missed tackles from a safety can really bite you in the butt as a defense. One thing is for sure, Meriweather seems to get better each year. If that continues he's clearly going to be a force in this secondary for years to come. He seems to have the respect of his coaches, teammates and others. That's a great sign. If he can just cut down on the missed tackles, he could end up one of the better players at his position in the game. Some people have used his name in the same sentence as Ravens future Hall of Famer Ed Reed. (OK, it wasn't some people. It was a story in the Boston Globe.) That's a little bit ridiculous. They're a bit too positive. Maybe we're a bit too negative with Meriweather. His true value probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Andy Hart

Saw some pretty good looking draft picks this week! Meriweather made a couple nice plays. Aiken looks really strong in the open field, and I can't say enough good things about Vollmer. Did you see that block on Welker's TD screen? He punched that guy back 5 yards with just 2 hands to his chest. No leg drive or anything.. just a two hand punch. Awesome!Grant Bronk

Hey guys, love your work. I am writing to ask your opinion on the offensive line. I was a big fan of the Patriots selection of Sebastian Vollmer, and after watching his performance against Vanden Bosch I have to say I love the idea of him remaining at left tackle. In the past year or two Matt Light has shown some struggles against the more athletic defensive ends in the league and putting a young guy with good size and long arms seems like an ideal solution. I would like to see Matt Light move to right tackle and replace Nick Kazcur. I think Kazcur is too inconsistent, and I have seen him make far too many major mistakes this season. What are your thoughts on the possibility of this scenario?Tom Snow

Meriweather did play well in London. Aiken, too, in a reserve role at receiver thanks to some lack of depth at the position. But Aiken is not a draft pick. He joined the team as a free agent from the Bills and is a seventh-year veteran. He's been a career special teamer. He's gotten more chances early this year with the Patriots scrambling a bit at receiver. He took advantage with the big play on Sunday at Wembley.
Now, to the Vollmer situation. He played OK against the Bucs. Not as good as he was in the snow against Tennessee. He did have a great block on the screen against Tampa. He also got called for too many holding penalties as he was consistently getting beat off the edge in the pass rush. He struggled with the outside move much like Light has over the years, only it didn't even come against an elite edge rusher. I think Vollmer is the future at the position, but I'm not sure that's this season. Light, for his faults, has been the left tackle for this team since his rookie season in 2001. He's protected Tom Brady's blindside pretty well over the years. I know everyone wants to push him out of the LT job and move him to the right side. Maybe that will happen some day. I don't know. And are we even sure he'd be a good right tackle. He's played left his entire college and pro life. I also don't think Light has been all that different before the knee injury this season than earlier in his career. He's struggled at times with elite rushers. Had some great games against those types at other times. He's been a pretty good but not great left tackle. He's not a franchise guy like a Pace, Jones or Ogden. But he's been good enough for the offense to succeed for a long time.
Andy Hart

I would like to say congrats to the team, for finding their stride. They all look great and the D is friggin dominant. Also I would like ask when a player is suspended does the team lose that roster spot or can they replace him while he is suspended. Thanks, and also a big thanks to all the hard work that the people at PFW do. GO PATRIOTS!
Britt McPhee

While I'm not sure it's always the case, generally a team gets a roster exemption when a player is suspended. It happened to Kevin Faulk early last season. It happened during the Terry Glenn saga back in 2001. I think that's generally the way it works. It think it also happened this season with the players the Jets had suspended to open the season. You lose the player, not the roster spot.
Andy Hart

Curious as to how the lucky four cheerleaders that we're seeing in all the photos were picked to make the trip . ALSO - Considering it's a Tampa Bay "Home game" - Does this mean ALL of the BUCS Cheerleading squad in attendance ?Anthony Aveyard

Not sure exactly how the lucky ladies were chosen, as that is internal cheerleader squad info. That would be like asking Belichick about his game plan or why he started a certain player. You're just not going to find out anything. Let's just say the four ambassador cheerleaders were chosen in the best interest of the team. But, indeed, because it was a Bucs home game the team did bring its entire squad. Wembley Stadium was also decked out in Tampa signage, flags and logos. The team was introduced with a lightshow, fire bursts and fireworks as if it were a home game. It even showed all its own in-game messages, videos and highlights as if it were on the jumbo screen at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Andy Hart

What was the first name for the team and the date that they became the New England Patriots?
Dennis Neyland

When did team change it's name from Boston Patriots to present name New England Patriots ?Stanley Price

William H. Sullivan Jr. was awarded the eighth and final American Football League franchise on Nov. 16, 1959. After a public contest the team was named the Boston Patriots on Feb. 20, 1960. It played under that name until officially being renamed the New England Patriots on March 22, 1971 as the team prepared to move into its new, permanent home in Foxborough, Mass.
Andy Hart

A few weeks ago, Brett Favre defeated the Packers to become the only NFL quarterback to beat every other team. With the exception of the Patriots, how close is Tom Brady to beating every other team at least once?
Brian Geditz

Brady has beaten each of the other 31 NFL franchises in his career. He reached the feat with a 52-7 defeat of the Washington Redskins in October 2007. I'm sure I speak for all Patriots fans when I say I hope he never gets to match Favre's record.
Andy Hart

Perhaps trivial, but I couldn't help but notice that Tom Brady stood out from the rest of the Pats team, wearing a suit and tie, while others were wearing sweats and seemed a bit more casual. Since Brady does more endorsements internationally, is this a product of the Brady marketing machine, or is Tom just that GQ?John Q.
Dallas

The dress code for the flight to London was a bit relaxed as compared to normal team flights. But Brady, and he was asked about this in a press conference before practice at the Brit Oval, decided to treat it as a normal business trip. Wes Welker joked that it looked like the QB was going to the London Stock Exchange. Brady wore his usual suit, looking smooth as he always does. He did joke that he hoped some of his teammate would follow his lead, but none did. But make no mistake, Brady is indeed that GQ.
Andy Hart

It's common to hear announcers say that a timeout was called because the offense or defense didn't like what the other team was showing. My question is: Do the offense and defense have to maintain the same formation and/or players that they had going into the timeout?
Nathan Goulding

No, both sides can do whatever they want to after the timeout. New personnel, new formation, anything they want to do. But with the timeout the team that calls it can prepare for the formation or personnel that caught them off guard in that situation. Conversely the other team can either decide to remain in the same look or change it up. It's one of the many cat-and-mouse games that occur in the NFL.
Andy Hart

Hey PFW, I have noticed that Isaiah Stanback has been reported wearing the black practice player of the week jersey several times already since he was signed to the practice squad. He is always listed as a QB in these reports, but his previous NFL experience (at Dallas) was as a wide reciever. How have the Pats been using him? If it's as a QB, does that make his time as a Dallas WR an Edelman-style experiment that failed? Thanks!
Nate Cronin

Stanback played primarily at QB and scout QB early in the season. But he has taken some reps as a receiver of late. He's an athlete that could be called on to fill a variety of roles on the scout (or Dirty Show) team on a weekly basis. Depending on how injuries affect the roster, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the 53-man squad at either QB or WR/return man at some point down the line. He's willing to do either and could be an emergency option in a variety of roles.
Andy Hart

Greetings, I just have a quick question about the 2011 draft. According to some people, a rookie salary cap will be in place in 2011. If this is the case, do you think some of the elite underclassmen will be more likely to come out early (in 2010) and cash in on the last uncapped rookie year? If so, do you think this would significantly decrease the talent pool in the 2011 draft? Thanks.Eric Theall

This is one of the many interesting questions that make the current labor uncertainty so unique. My guess is that a lot of underclassmen will come out this season if they think they have a chance at first-round, or even high first-round money, with an eye on that possible rookie wage scale or salary cap. But I don't think that will necessarily make the 2011 draft a weak one. It's far too early to project that far with many of these prospects. So much can happen in a year or two in that business that it's not even funny. Guys rise and fall huge amounts over a few months, never mind a few years. But it is an issue to keep an eye on moving forward, especially with the Patriots holding Oakland's first-round pick in 2011 that could very well be a high one.
Andy Hart

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