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Ask PFW II: Picking up the pieces

It seems to me that Bill Belichick needs some help. I watched the Saints dismantle the NE defensive backs and I watched early on as Bill huddled up his defense to make adjustments. I didn't see the same from the defensive coordinator Dean Pees. If Bill needs to be the defensive coordinator then maybe it's time to replace Pees. At the same time without a named offensive coordinator, Bill must be performing some of those duties. He might have too much on his plate. I like the young defensive talent but they need some dedicated instruction.Charlie Vogus

I agree with your larger point that Belichick probably needs some more experience on the coaching staff to help out. But I also think Belichick has always been a very hands-on coach and has been actively involved in all areas of the team throughout his time in New England, and not just since Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel left. The reason Pees wasn't involved with the huddled defense is because he's up in the booth during many games, which Belichick says makes it easier for him to keep track of the personnel changes during the course of the game. Belichick would likely be involved anyway, but it's unfair to say that Pees not doing it is a sign of some deficiency on his part.
Paul Perillo

If you could do the personnel moves all over again, would you rather extend Seymour's contract and re-sign Asante than pay Moss $9 million a year? Or put another way, why do you think Belichick decided to throw away the "efficient offense, playmaking defense" model that won us all those championships and decided to copy the Colts model of "high-flying offense and suspect defense" (which didn't really win them anything -- in their Super Bowl season, they mostly rode their D to the title)?
Mahesh Kalyana

Actually, I see no reason why they could have done all of those things. The cap has risen dramatically in each of the last three years so there wasn't anything preventing them from making big-money moves. Samuel in particular I believe should have been re-signed. Belichick seemed to want him back and I don't think his deal in Philadelphia was over the top. The Seymour trade, as I wrote earlier, was a good deal in the long term but left the defense lacking in 2009. He could have helped. I'm not saying he would have made the difference all by himself, but the defense would be better. However, I'm not sure he would have been easy to re-sign whether you wanted him back or not. Now we'll never know. I also don't think $9 million for Moss is outrageous. The guy has produced and it's scary to wonder what the offense would look like without him. As for your premise of intentionally changing the philosophy, I don't think that has been the case. First, Indy did not win the Super Bowl with defense. Peyton Manning threw for nearly 4,500 yards and 31 touchdowns that season while posting a passer rating of 101. Conversely, the Colts had the worst run defense for a Super Bowl champ in history. So let's not change the facts and say the Colts won with defense. Indy played better in the playoffs, but without the high-powered offense they never win 12 games that year and make the playoffs at all. The Patriots championship defenses were littered with veteran playmakers – Seymour, Law, Vrabel, McGinest, Harrison, Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Phifer, the list goes on. At some point those veterans need to be replaced and many of them haven't been thus far. We'll see if Jerod Mayo, Brandon Meriweather, Ron Brace, Myron Pryor, Jonathan Wilhite, Darius Butler and Pat Chung can be those kinds of players, but they're all still unproven. It's not because Belichick suddenly decided defense is no longer important.
Paul Perillo

Having stayed up until 4:30 a.m. to watch the Saints game, I was looking for any positives I could find in order to console myself. One I was looking at was Laurence Maroney. Although he is never going to be an elite running back, I noticed he looked pretty good in the passing game, and was running quite well if not outstandingly, which made me wonder if you guys agree with me that he could be a good long term replacement for Kevin Faulk as a third down kind of back?
Dathai Quinlan

I'm not sure I see the same skills in Maroney as you. First, I don't think he has great hands. He's not terrible, but not the sure-handed type you normally see in that role. I also don't think he has the instincts to perform in that role. Faulk is incredible at reading and reacting to the blitz, knowing when to stay in to block and when to release into the route. I'm not sure Maroney could do those things. Maroney hasn't been anywhere near as bad as many fans complain he is. His problem has been durability and so far this year he's held up well. I agree that I don't feel he'll ever be an elite back but he's shown this season that he's more than capable as one of a committee. I just don't think he's a great candidate for a third-down back.
Paul Perillo

Is there any effective defensive pass rusher available anywhere that the Patriots can sign up quickly? They obviously need an effective pass rusher immediately to avoid a very disappointing season?Jim Tully

I'm pretty sure Michael Strahan's available … that sitcom thing didn't last long. But since Strahan doesn't want to play anymore I don't think the Patriots can count on him. Other than that, what quality pass rusher is currently out of work? It's not like they grow on trees. At this stage of the season it's highly unlikely that the Patriots would acquire a guy who could markedly improve the pass rush. The fact is if a player was able to help a team he'd be on a roster unless there was an injury situation preventing it. So I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for a roster move.
Paul Perillo

Is it me or has this team's mojo gone? Where have our in-game and halftime adjustments gone? Bill can say we don't have the personnel to cover man to man, but why is this? We cannot trade down any longer? We turn down pass rushers in the draft and let shutdown corners go, because we feel they are not in our value. I cannot watch this blah defense any longer. With the departure of Asante Samuel, this defense stinks to be frank. You can blast me, but it is what it is. Am I way out there?
Craig Fricke

What are you Austin Powers with the mojo? I'm not going to blast you but when have you heard Belichick say he can't play man-to-man defense because of his personnel? I've never heard Bill say that. In fact, the Patriots played plenty of man to man against the Saints and it didn't go so well. I agree with you about the draft philosophy in recent years – too many trades down looking for better value. If you want talented pass rushers and shutdown corners you have to take them early. Obviously Belichick didn't feel there were many of those players available or he would have taken some. I think you're being overly critical coming off what was obviously the worst game of the season. Much like the Tennessee game couldn't be considered a validation that the Patriots were the best team in the league, the opposite can't be said after the Saints loss. It wasn't that good then and it's not that bad now. The defense has made strides this season and should keep getting better with more experience playing together.
Paul Perillo

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