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Ask PFW: Mixing it up

The summer is here. Despite the recent weather patterns that would suggest otherwise, that's the only way to explain the lull in Patriots conversation that has hit the Ask PFW mailbag.

Talofa. I'm so glad we finally got Troy signed, but does this mean an end for Tim? It seems they both do the same job(s)? Which receivers do you think will stick, which ones to be cut? In Samoa we get limited news I count on you guys to fill me in. Love your writers! Ex-New Englander sailing though the South Pacific.
Corky Decker

Thanks for the kind words, Corky, and Talofa to you (as long as that's a good thing!). It does seem Troy and Tim Dwight figure to handle similar roles. Both are solid punt returners and both would be considered complementary receivers at this point in their careers. But these kinds of "problems" usually have a way of sorting themselves out, and by the time camp rolls around, and then is finished, the situation may be dramatically different. The Patriots have had a tough time keeping their receivers healthy in recent seasons so they may wind up keeping the ones that are ready to go at the start of the season. If everyone remains healthy and productive (that's a big if), then I'd say Branch, Givens, Terrell, Brown and Johnson should be pretty safe while Sam and Dwight battle for the last spot if Belichick decides to keep six receivers, as he did last year. But I'll reserve judgment until I see these guys out on the field and see who performs.
Paul Perillo

A lot has been made about the Pats adding depth at DB this offseason - and rightfully so, after last year. But how many DBs can they keep on the roster? Samuel, Poole, Starks, Gay, Hobbs and Chad Scott make 6 corners (not to mention Poteat and Charlton, 2 long shots), and Harrison, Wilson, Dexter Reid, Guss Scott and James Sanders make 5 safeties. I'm sure an injury or 2 will creep up during training camp (hopefully not, knock on wood), but if everyone remains healthy, wouldn't they have to cut 1 or 2 DBs? If so, who are the most likely candidates? My guess would be Poole or Chad Scott.
Nick Proia

First, I like you depth charts to start off with. I agree with your top six corners and top safeties – but don't rule out the possibility of all 11 DBs making the roster. Belichick opened the 2001 season with 11 DBs so it's no unprecedented. Now, if I had to guess I'd say at least one of those guys will get released and I think your speculation of Chad Scott or Poole probably isn't that far off base. Poole received a bonus during the offseason that could make letting him go more difficult (but not impossible). But if Belichick has proven one thing it's that he'll go with the guys he feels performed the best during camp. So if guys like Sanders, Hobbs and Guss Scott outperform veterans like Poole, Chad Scott, etc., Belichick will stick with the young guys. It should be one of the more interesting job battles of camp.
Paul Perillo

Huge Cali Pats fan here wanting to know if the Pats might make any cuts at LB to go after Boulware? And if they do, do you think he can come back and be productive after last year's injury?Robert Langdon

I know the Patriots have like 15 linebackers on the team but with Tedy still uncertain do you think the Patriots will pick up or look at someone like Peter Boulware? I know the Ravens have a very good defense and he was a pretty important part of that team and is a great linebacker.
Michael Hobbs

Peter Boulware is a terrific athletic linebacker who, I believe, would be a perfect fit in the Patriots 3-4 coming off the edge. Whether or not the Patriots feel like they have the room – both financially and personnel-wise – to add him remains to be seen. Unlike Chad Brown, Boulware seems like more of strict outside guy and with Colvin, McGinest and Vrabel already in place perhaps the urgency to add another veteran isn't quite as high as inside. But as I've already stated, if Belichick feels Boulware can help (and is healthy enough) you can bet he's looked into it.
Paul Perillo

Thanks for such a great article every week. Now down to business. I know in 2000 the Pats carried 4 QBs with Brady as No. 4. With so many on the current roster (5?), all of which in my opinion have upsides to provide do you think we'll carry 4 again? And which ones? Thanks.
Jordan Schultz

I've learned my lesson of using the word never when it comes to the Patriots, but I'd strongly doubt the Patriots would keep four quarterbacks on the active 53-man roster. Back in 2000, the Patriots didn't even have 53 NFL-caliber players and opened with 51 instead. That meant that Belichick had the flexibility to keep a fourth quarterback because he wasn't taking a spot away from someone who deserved it. Obviously Belichick felt Brady was a better player than anyone he could have kept in his place. Now it's not out of the realm of possibility to suggest that Chris Redman, Doug Flutie, Rohan Davey or Matt Cassel (whichever of this group is deemed fourth best) might be a better player than the 53rd man on the roster. But the way the Patriots use pretty much everyone suggests to me that those players will keep Belichick from being able to keep a fourth quarterback.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering if you had any information on Klecko's injury status, and I was curious if he will play any linebacker. I remember hearing about him being groomed as a possible Bruschi backup. Keep up the strong work guys.
J Curria

Klecko is rehabbing nicely from his knee injury and says he expects to be ready to go by training camp. Other than that, there isn't much to report on the matter given the Patriots strict secrecy when it comes to injuries. He definitely still considers himself a linebacker and has done a lot of film study as he tries to continue his transition to the new position.
Paul Perillo

With some of the recent free agent/trade activity (Starks, Scott, Brown) it occurred to me that the Patriots defense is suddenly stocked with first day picks. They have 16 day one picks on the defense, including seven first-rounders. Nine of the 11 starters are first day picks, including six first-rounders. I know much of the media points to Belichick and the scheme, but they sure have amassed a talented group of players to implement those schemes.
Mark Woelfel

An excellent point by you, Mark. Too often we all get caught up with a particular storyline and ignore the facts. As great a coach as Belichick is, without some quality players to implement his schemes he would not be as successful. Back in 2000, many of the defensive players complained in the media that those same schemes were too complicated and the team went 5-11. While those schemes indeed have the reputation of being tough to comprehend, it was obvious that talent – not schemes – was the problem with that team. Since then the Patriots have had the same head coach, the same schemes but have changed players and they've won three Super Bowl titles.
Paul Perillo

We've seen the last of Ty Law folks. Let it go. Actually you can probably forget about his even playing at all this season (and perhaps ever!). The particular foot injury he sustained is one of the worst possible for any athlete, let alone an elite NFL cornerback! He may very well be all done. Hey - there may be some desperate team willing to take a flier on him (but only at a HUGE discount I'd imagine). You can be guaranteed it won't be the Pats, and I can't imagine it'd be for much up-front dough. Don't fret -- the D backfield will be fine.
J. Manning

Not sure if there was a question in there but I disagree, J. Ty Law's career is not over. The only thing I agree with you about is Law's injury cost him a lot of money and he won't be getting what he's probably looking for – up front or otherwise – in 2005. But I could see Ty signing a one-year deal with someone (Detroit, Jets, Miami, Pittsburgh) and hoping to show the rest of the league he's fine and going back to free agency for 2006.
Paul Perillo

Do you know of any NFL players that are/have been in the league that are of Indian descent? 1.08 billion people, one of us has to be represented, right? Yes, I am a very bored, bored man. Go Brown! We love Troy!

You're in luck, Shaji. According to a story that ran in the May 5, 2004, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, linebacker Brandon Chillar was the first NFL player of Indian descent. Chillar was the Rams fourth-round pick in 2004. Chillar, a linebacker out of UCLA, played in all 16 games last year for the Rams, making 27 tackles. He is still on St. Louis' roster.
Paul Perillo

I noticed that the Patriots do not list anyone under franchise player. Was Adam V. signed to a contract, and if so, how long. Love to read PFW especially during the offseason.
Dan Sirois

I'm not sure where you would find the Patriots listing of franchise players, but as far as we know Vinatieri is still under his one-year, franchise player agreement, which calls for him to earn $2.509 million in 2005.
Paul Perillo

Corey Dillon finished within an eyelash of leading the league in rushing last year. The Patriots finished sixth in the league in lowest percentage of QB sacks allowed. And yet the offensive line is ranked as "average" by a slew of Pro Football annuals. What does this unit need to accomplish to be considered "darned good?"
Andy Avery

Personally I think the Patriots have a solid offensive line. It's not the best in the league but it gets the job done, and has even when injuries have become a problem. But in terms of the stats you cite, I'm not willing to give all the credit to the offensive line. Corey Dillon would make any line look good. When Antowain Smith was running behind largely the same group, he wasn't nearly as effective as Dillon was last year. And Tom Brady obviously does a great job of getting rid of the ball and reading the blitz. His preparedness is at or near the top of his list of strengths. Again, he wouldn't get sacked a lot playing behind any offensive line. So while I do think the Patriots group is solid, I don't think it's among the best in the league.
Paul Perillo

Is the recent conversion to the 3-4 defense (by other teams across the league) a reflection of the Patriots success with it or does it just seem that way?
Al Struthers

I would expect there to be some truth to that. Whenever a team has success it's almost inevitable that others will try to emulate its style. The Patriots have won three Super Bowls in the last four years so it makes sense that others are looking at their defense and trying to copy some of what the Patriots have been doing. Of course, without the personnel and coaching, that task might be much harder duplicate than simply incorporating the same alignment.
Paul Perillo

What happened to P.K. Sam? I remember seeing him in training camp but I haven't heard about him since. Did he get hurt or was he released?Nathan Graf

P.K. was having a pretty solid camp last year when a leg injury caused him to miss about a month late in the summer. He was able to make the 53-man roster coming out of camp and dressed for a couple of games when injuries hit the receiver position. But then he was injured again and placed on injured reserve for the season. He's been working out in Foxborough for most of the offseason and recently sat and talked with Bryan Morry about the progress he believes he's made on and off the field. If you're interested in Sam you should check out Bryan's story in the next issue of PFW, which should be available beginning June 1.
Paul Perillo

What is going to happen with Ty Law are the Patriots signing him or is he not coming back?Christian Osorio

Like J said a little earlier, I wouldn't expect to see Ty Law back in the Patriots uniform. I don't think either side has any interest in seeing that happen. My guess is Ty will sign a one-year for short money and hope to re-establish himself as one of the premier cornerbacks in football and hit free agency again in 2006.
Paul Perillo

Looking at the Patriots current roster, it appears that several quality players ... players that would be starters or at least strong back-ups on most teams... will have to be cut from the 53-man roster. Do released players automatically become free agents or are they subject to the waiver rules of reverse order? And regardless, why don't the Pats offer these potential cuts to other teams eager to upgrade that position for say a 4/5/6/ round draft choice rather than just let them go? To me, the chances of drafting in the lower rounds a player as talented as some of the Pats potential cuts is remote and therefore a win-win situation for both the Pats and trading partner. I give as an example an early cut Keith Traylor, a quality guy and quality player who had to be worth at least a 4/5/6 to some team.
Otis Hill

I agree that the Patriots list of cuts figures to be somewhat impressive and that at least a couple should end up on another team's roster. When a player is released after training camp, he immediately becomes a free agent. This changes after the trading deadline when released players are subject to the waiver process and teams then get to choose in reverse order. I also agree that the chances of drafting a player in the late rounds that is better than a proven veteran is very remote. But where I disagree a bit is in regards to trading the players as opposed to releasing them. Using your example of Traylor, why would Miami have dealt a draft pick in May to get him? Nick Saban obviously would have wondered why Belichick was making such an offer and would likely have assumed that Traylor probably was going to get released. Therefore, why give up a pick when you don't have to? Even though Traylor wasn't a "big-money" player, I'd assume the timing of his release helped in terms of the cap while also offering a respected veteran as much of an opportunity as possible to hook on somewhere else. So while the best-case scenario would be for the Patriots to trade any "valuable" cuts they'd be making, fooling a team into giving something up for a player that will be inevitably available for nothing is easier said than done.
Paul Perillo

I just had a few questions about the contracts of a few of the new players for the PATS. I know Duane Starks was traded to the Pats but didn't he re-work his deal? How long is he signed for and do you see him returning to the player he was? Also, I am thrilled to see Troy Brown back as well as everyone else but do you really think this will be his last year? I mean I believe that he can still play at a very high level when given the chance. Is there any way after the season he could get another deal from the Pats that would allow him to retire a Patriot? And I don't mean one of those one-day jobbers either.
Curtis Levesque

Starks did restructure his deal when he became a Patriot and he currently has two years remaining on his contract. He's scheduled to earn $540,000 this season but his salary jumps back up to $3.6 million in 2006. Depending on his play this year, the Patriots may ask him to re-work the deal again next year or they could release him if they felt he wasn't worth that financial investment. When healthy, Starks has been a pretty solid cornerback and I would imagine playing on a defense as good as the Patriots will bring out his best. As for Troy, I'd expect this to be his last season given his age and the Patriots seemingly deep crop of receivers. Unless he unexpectedly increases his production immensely this year, I think the Patriots can get one of the younger guys to fill his role for less money.
Paul Perillo

I have been a Patriots fan since 1980 and I cannot recall the last Patriot to wear a No. 89 jersey. I noticed that since all the 80s are taken with the exception of 89 they seem to give a wideout a number such as 14 (P.K Sam) or 10 (David Terrell) rather than utilize the 89. Any idea on why this is?Rob Burnett

That's because No. 89 is retired in honor of Bob Dee. Dee was a defensive end for the Patriots from 1960-67 and was voted to the All-AFL 10-Year Anniversary Team in 1971. He is the only player in Patriots history to ever wear the No. 89.
Paul Perillo

(I did my best to keep this short - feel free to reduce more if you prefer). What would you think if the combined average record of the Patriots 2005 opponents coming into the 2005 season is 14-2? In a way, that is exactly what the Patriots are facing. The average 2004 win-loss record of the Patriots 2005 opponents is about 9-7. However, every time these teams met each other last season, one always won and one always lost, so a more meaningful measure is found by eliminating the games when these teams played each other (including the times they played the Patriots). This results in 56 wins and 29 losses against the presumably average remaining NFL teams. If you only look at the last 9 weeks of the season and eliminate four meaningless Week 17 games to get a better indication of strength coming into the 2005 season, you net an astounding combined record of 36 wins and only 4 losses. That's the equivalent to an average record of 14.4-1.6. (I'd be willing to wager this is a record for toughest schedule ever based on previous season record; if your statisticians had the time/tools, I would be very curious to know.) I know this doesn't account for offseason adjustments and a myriad of other factors, but based on this alone just getting to the playoffs may be the toughest challenge the Patriots face this season. They could end up with a 9-7 or 10-6 record, right on the edge of even being in the playoffs. Oh, and thanks Sir'mon Brown for convincing your Dad to return. Welcome back No. 80… we'll need you!
Len LaPadula

Len, great job on the research angle in all of this, but what exactly does this mean? Basically, what you're doing is taking out some of the losses the Patriots opponents had last season. Don't you think everyone's record would improve if you took some losses out? Strength of schedule always gets a lot of attention when the slates are released and then the season begins and almost nothing is as it seemed back in the spring. For example, who expected Pittsburgh to go 15-1 last season? I don't remember many people circling the game at Heinz Field last Halloween as a particularly difficult task based on Pittsburgh's lousy 2004 season. But sure enough Pittsburgh was right there with the Patriots all season long. And what about San Diego? If the Patriots played the Chargers last year, would anyone have figured that to be a tough game? But then San Diego went out and won the West and the Chargers are now considered to be a tough opponent for the Patriots in 2005. But who knows what kind of team they or anyone else will be. Things change in the NFL so quickly it's almost impossible to gauge how tough anyone's schedule will be. That's one of the reasons the Patriots extended success has been so impressive. Plus, with the way the schedules are formulated now, there really isn't much difference between the Jets schedule and the Patriots. And the Patriots don't have to play the back-to-back champs twice like the Jets, Dolphins and Bills do.
Paul Perillo

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