Without further ado ... here's installment No. 3.
What's up with the mystery behind Tully Banta-Cain? He's projected a high draft pick but goes in the seventh. He gets a four-year deal instead of three like the other seventh rounders and all the while he's being called "a steal in this draft". Has he shown something in mini-camp or what?
New Britain, Conn.
TBC as a 3-4 OLB for the NEP? Maybe. He showed good athleticism and coverage skills in mini-camp, but opened training camp with undisclosed injury. No one seems to be able to explain his draft slot. But I talked to his position coach at Cal who also coached Green Bay's pass rushing force Kabeer Gabija-Biamila in college, and he said that Banta-Cain is better than KGB was coming out of college. But he's a 'tweener who must learn how to be a 3-4 linebacker as opposed to a 4-3 rush end. With the depth of the linebacking corps, he could have a difficult time landing on the 53-man roster.
I would like to know what is the situation with Adrian Klemm? I do believe that he has a lot of potential.
Los Angeles, Calif.
If he has potential, this is the year you'll see it. Barring the injuries that kept him down his first two years, he will likely open the season as the starting right tackle and have a chance to prove he belongs. This should be our first real opportunity to see if he is cut out to start in the NFL. He has to prove he's tough enough and stop getting pushed off the line in pass protection.
The O-line already appears woeful. I sure wish Belichick would have put some of that defensive spending spree this offseason into the OL, just a smidgen would have been nice - one solid mid-level guard might have made all the difference. This team is going to live or die on a hope and an OL prayer (to the injury gods) once again because Belichick just won't fork out any real cash for the OL. And while we are on the subject do you think they knew this and this was the reason for the signing of Bill Conaty? Are you thinking they start Conaty at Center and move Woody to RG?
Hey Mike. It's good to hear from a PFW loyalist. You're all fired up and you didn't even see the first offensive line that started camp when you fired off this question. It's troubling. Conaty was signed because the team knew Stephen Neal was going to miss more time. That poor guy can't seem to stay healthy at all, which is too bad because I think he could be something. He coulda been a contendah in camp. Woody apparently failed the conditioning test, which left rookie Dan Koppen at center for the first day. With Joe Andruzzi and Kenyatta Jones rehabbing injuries, Adrian Klemm was at RT and Russ Hochstein at RG. Adding Brenden Stai should help the line's depth if nothing else.
What is your projected record for the Pats this year. I've been told they are the most improved team in the NFL. Is that true?
Most improved? I'm not sure I'd go that far. Buffalo comes to mind in that category. I'm going to do my best Bill Belichick and be non-committal on the record. They will be a wild card team, so they'll win 9-11 games. I think Miami has the best team in the division, but I've thought that before.
After reading the first 20 questions from the July 22 Ask PFW I am firmly convinced that New England fans are the most savvy fans in all of sports. Coming, originally, from Wilmington and just recently (June) having revisited my family, I was caught up, once again - while golfing and talking Sox with a few of my old street-hockey buddies - in the fervor of the Beantown sports mania. Truly, it's like no other place and I miss the pleasure-pain of being there in the midst of it. And, although I have, in the past, responded and berated writers and fans alike who have nothing better to do then second-guess Bill Belichick and whine about the Red Sox bullpen, (you're lucky to have teams to watch) I must say, on this occasion, I am proud of how cool the fans are. The questions were well written and relevant and I thought the questions the writers' chose to air and the answers they gave were extremely enlightening and fun to read. Keep it up. Maybe that Ian Browne optimism is starting to spread. Thanks, all.
Here here. Thanks for the kudos. Make sure you subscribe to PFW if you don't already. We deliver to Reno.
This is such a girl question, but I just saw Tom Brady for the first time on VH-1. I am definitely a dedicated Houston Texans fan but WOW! Is Tom married?
Single. See ya in Houston for the Texans-Patriots. What's your best restaurant? The PFW staff likes to eat, especially Perillo.
This will be my second Pats season I'll have to endure being away from Massachusetts. I'm stationed overseas and sadly have yet to see this new stadium in person. Is it really as nice as people say? Go Pats.
Well I watch from the press box, but the feedback has been mostly outstanding and any kinks have been dealt with. It's a nice place to watch a game. I think the fan experience has to be excellent
The Pats 5th quarter will be carried by Channel 4 & 38 neither are available on RI Cable (COX CABLE). Do you have any ideas to make this different?
West Kingston, R.I.
I'd call COX and ask them if the UPN on that cable system will air the Fifth Quarter or if it might air on an alternative channel. Red Sox games that are on Channel 38 are still televised by COX. I'd also call the local CBS affiliate that carries the games and see if they might pick up the feed following games aired on that network.
Do you really believe Antowain deserves all the criticism he is receiving? I'm a little tired of hearing about how Antowain Smith didn't perform last year. His numbers were about the same per carry with not as many opportunities. The top six running backs in the league didn't make the playoffs and only one out of the top 11 were in the playoffs. Only five playoff teams had 1,000-yard rushers and only two of those were from the AFC. Tampa Bay, this year's Super Bowl Champ, didn't have a running back in the top 30. If you add in Kevin Faulk's numbers, the team had very respectable rushing numbers. I think that Antowain's contribution to the team offense was significant and had the Patriots had a more balanced attack, Antowain would not be receiving the criticism this offseason. Consider where the Patriots were before Antowain after Robert Edwards' injury and note that 1,000 yards does not mean playoffs.
Sorry I didn't include your list of running backs, but we get your point. I also disagree with you. I don't care what the numbers say. Antowain did not run as well last year as he did in 2001. He wasn't as aggressive or decisive and looked to this layman like he was looking for the big play rather than simply taking what was there and trying to make a couple of yards after contact. That is what sticks out to me about 2001. His best play since joining the Patriots came when Junior Seau drilled him at the goal line in the comeback win over San Diego that saved the 2001 season. He bounced right off and walked into the end zone. Talk about numbers all you want and I also don't care how many playoff teams had great running games. To win in this league, you have to be able to run and stop the run. When we see 10-15 years like last year, then we can talk about how the game has changed. Smith admittedly didn't run well last year. I'm not saying Antowain deserves the amount of criticism that seems to get lofted in his direction, but you can do whatever you want with stats. He needs to run like the guy who scored 12 touchdowns in 2001.
Didn't the Patriots run the 3-4 defense in 1996 and 1997? When Parcells was running the team?
The Patriots used both a 3-4 and 4-3 during Parcells tenure, but they were a 4-3 team in 1996 if I'm not mistaken. In 1997, Pete Carroll was the coach and it all 4-3 under Pete. The Patriots have played some 3-4 in each of Bill Belichick's three seasons here as well.
During this past draft, the Patriots selected yet another QB. I have three questions pertaining to that subject. Why do you think they did it? How does this guy help our team as a whole? What are coaches saying about him?
Eric, that is the one position where you can never develop too much talent. If there is a quarterback on the board who the team thinks is at a good value point in the draft, they will draft him regardless of what they already have. If you can develop a quarterback you have some options. You may not have to pay your incumbent some ridiculous amount of money. You may be able to trade one of your quarterbacks for a better value. The Brady example is perfect. His development allowed the team to get another first round draft pick for a guy who was going to be on the bench. And if they decided to keep Drew Bledsoe as the starter, they would have been able to trade the Super Bowl MVP, who they drafted in the sixth round, for a high draft pick. It's a position to take risks on late in the draft. As far as Kliff Kingsbury, he was productive in a short passing attack and threw almost every down. There was a lot of tape to watch this guy throw. But he is a developmental guy whose potential benefit might be two or three years away.
Outside of Damien Woody, the Patriots offensive line is composed of nothing but a bunch of bumbling, low-round draftees, league-rejects, ex-wrestlers, and players who never made the draft. Is this anyway to run a football team? How can such an important component of the team be staffed so poorly with essentially "no-talent", "B-team-caliber" players in charge of the running game and protecting Tom Brady?
Matt Light would like you to meet him in a dark alley. Incidentally, he is a second round pick who started at left tackle as a rookie on a Super Bowl team. He was asked to fill Bruce Armstrong's shoes and did so admirably. I also don't think Mike Compton is a slouch. The right side of the line is more of a problem. Adrian Klemm, another second round pick incidentally, has to prove he is more than a capable, versatile backup. Kenyatta Jones hasn't shown much of anything yet. Joe Andruzzi, who is solid when he's in there at right guard, always seems to be recovering from an injury and the overall depth of the line is weak. The team signed Brenden Stai and Bill Conaty and I'm not sure either should boost your confidence, but both have played in the league and Stai has started 96 games. If they stay healthy, they'll be OK. If not, they will struggle. But you need to get off the edge of the cliff. It's not as bad as you think it is.
I would just like to know the logic behind picking center, Dan Koppen, in the 5th round instead of addressing one of our other needs. In my eyes, the center position is not a big weakness at all for us.
After losing Grey Ruegamer in free agency, the only other center on the roster was starting left guard Mike Compton so depth there was a priority. Also, Damien Woody is entering the final year of his contract and negotiations on extension have not exactly moved quickly and smoothly. The team has to prepare for Woody to leave in free agency. Bill Belichick has a solid relationship with BC coach Tom O'Brien, which makes me feel confident that he had good information on Koppen. He was a fifth round pick. It's not like they used a first round pick on a position that wasn't an immediate need.
It was obvious that in the 2003 NFL draft the Pats went for defense. They took Ty Warren and Eugene Wilson in the early rounds -- two guys who can create an impact instantly. But my question is why didn't the Pats go after a running back? Or is that what they are planning to do in next year's draft by trading up with the Ravens?
First off, they needed defense first and foremost. They had the oldest defense in the NFL. Also, it was a weak draft for running backs. Finally, they just signed Antowain Smith to a five-year (really a three-year) deal after the 2001 season.
I went to a Patriots game at Fenway Park in the mid to late 60's. I believe it was against the Houston Oilers and the score was 12-0 (don't even remember which team won but I think it was the Pats!). Can anyone tell me what year that game was?
The Pats were involved with two home shutouts with the Oilers in 1960, but neither was 12-0. IN 1968, the Pats lost 16-0 to the Oilers at Fenway, which must be the game to which you are referring. A year later, in 1969, the Pats beat Houston 24-0 at BC.
Could you tell me If Dan Koppen from BC is talented enough to start (even if it isn't this year). Could we possibly see a move to guard by the big man in the middle -- Woody? And why, when Woody and Compton switch for the shotgun, wouldn't they put Compton at center permanently and let Woody dominate at guard or even tackle, he seems talented enough.
Poland Spring, Maine
Woody is too athletic to play him at guard full time (no disrespect to big fat guards intended). He can get out front on screens or to pull because he has the quickness despite carrying 320 pounds. If he could shotgun snap, they wouldn't ever move Compton inside. As far as Koppen, he has some adjustments to make, but I believe he will play center in the league and have a good career. I'm not necessarily qualified to grade him out as a lineman, but he is smart guy who studies and works hard and will make up for any physical deficiencies with smart play. I think he will be a starter even if it's two years down the road.
Greetings to the great staff of PFW. Since it appeared that Antowain Smith had failed the conditioning run again for the third time making it 0-3, there have been rumors starting up that the Patriots should re-consider bringing in Jamal Anderson who is attempting a comeback into the NFL. Maybe this is what Antowain needs as a wake up call but this wasn't just a rumor since I saw this story on ESPN Insider. What's your opinion on this matter?
If Smith failed the test, he passes it the next day so he I hardly think he was out of shape. For all we know, he ran 19 of the 20 sprints in the allotted time and fell down on the 20th. Regardless, he passes one day later, which should eliminate the conditioning questions. I'm all for increasing the competition for Smith and trying to motivate him in whatever means possible, but I wonder if Anderson could pass the conditioning test. Mike Cloud might be a guy to watch come October.
So much talk has been on the defense. What about the offense? Will Deion Branch be as good as he was last year? Will Bethel Johnson be a strong contributor? What about David Givens? Will Mike Cloud or any of the other backs give Smith a run for his money?
Questions, questions, questions. You may have a reason to worry. The offense's success will depend on how well Antowain Smith complements the passing game and how well the offensive line plays. Deion Branch will have a big season. It's too early to evaluate Johnson. Givens is having a good camp, but is in a fight with Dedric Ward for a roster spot. Smith will be your starter at running back. Just hope that they play a physical brand of football. There always seems to be a way to stop finesse offense's but a tough, physical group is tougher to stop because it can become a battle of wills.
I'm wondering about the injury to Chas Gessner. It is listed as a leg but if I recall correctly, he injured his groin in mini-camp. Is this the same injury or a different one and how is he progressing?
J. Adam Bailey
I believe he hurt his hamstring during rookie mini-camp while running a deep route. I actually saw it happen, but can't confirm whether it was a groin or hammy. I also believe it is the same injury, but the team doesn't reveal any details regarding injuries so I can't speculate any further without facing a public flogging.
Who is David Givens?
Mr. And Mrs. Givens' son. What kind of question is that?
I am a new fan to the Patriots team and I wanted to know what the schedule is usually like after a preseason game. Could anyone tell me if the players are given off the next day or if they at least have an open practice? Even if this season is uncertain, could you please tell me how the schedule worked in the previous years?
They don't practice the day after a game.
Do you think Ty Warren will be a good D-lineman?
He was the 13th pick in the draft. He'd better be. Do you?
Do the Pats run a West Coast type game plan in their games? I've been telling my friends from New England that the Pats might not say they run a West Coast type offense, but when you look at the type of passes thrown and the game plans, we indeed run a West Cost type offense. Do you think I'm right or wrong?
Palm Bay, Fla.
I definitely think there is some truth to that. I believe there are West Coast elements in the offense, but it isn't based on the West Coast system. Perhaps the biggest difference might involve the movement of the quarterback. West Coast quarterbacks are typically more mobile than any of the Patriots passers as they move the pocket and throw on the run more. With all the slants the Patriots run, it's a legitimate comparison.
What became of the plans to install escalators at Gillette Stadium? I have been using the elevators thanks to the kindness of the stadium personnel, but would like to see the escalators installed.
There never was a plan to install escalators to the concourses although it was something that the planners looked into. It was determined that because they would be exposed to the elements year-round, it wasn't feasible. I do know that for people with health conditions that make walking the ramps dangerous, the Gillette Stadium staff is there to assist in any way it can.
Will Fred Baxter, a 10-year veteran in the NFL, see any playing time at tight end this season?
Good question from a fan from Fred's home state. Right now, Fred has to worry about making the team. The Patriots have five tight ends in camp at the moment with one, Daniel Graham, a lock. His main competition at the moment is Christian Fauria who was pretty productive last year catching touchdowns. Fred might be a better blocker, however. The other two guys are Spencer Nead and Rodney Trafford. Nead was a seventh round draft pick. If one of those guys looks like they can excel at special teams, Fred could be in trouble. On the other hand, if he has a good camp, how can you let someone w/his experience go? If he does make the roster, he'll definitely get some quality playing time.
Whatever happened to the plan that the lighthouse would send a beam of light 2 miles into the sky after each score?
I remember hearing about that as well but with the opening of the stadium, a lot of other issues came up that took priority. As for what they will do in the future, I know that the organization is looking into every aspect of the fan experience, including all the new facilities they built behind the stadium for training camp. I would say that eventually they will re-address the use of the lighthouse in some form in time, so stay tuned.
Bethel Johnson really intrigues me, but I remember our last tall and speedy second-round receiver (Tony Simmons) and I'm concerned that he may simply be a track star. Have you seen anything that can alleviate my concern?
So far I really haven't. But I also can't say I've seen indications that you should worry, either. How's that for covering all my bases? Johnson possesses tremendous speed but hasn't shown the softest pair of hands in camp. I'll withhold any serious judgments on him until I get to see him in some game action, at least in the preseason.
Could you give me the date, time and places of the preseason schedule for this coming season?
Here goes: Thurs., Aug. 7, New York Giants (Gillette Stadium), 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 16, at Washington, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 22, at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 27, Chicago (Gillette Stadium), 8 p.m.
With what I read from Tyrone Poole, what are the ramifications if 1.) he retires, or 2.) His attitude stinks so much that Belichick lets him go? Can they really depend on the two rookies to take his place in a real game like they are in practice? Referring to a question I read, I believe the Pats could trade a few of next years draft picks for a running back say Kevan Barlow or even Travis Henry if the cards fall right. Though there are a few draft prospects the Pats are eyeing next year (could they somehow get Maurice Clarrett?)
Poland Spring, Maine
If Poole retires, he would be forced to return his signing bonus (about $1.8 million) to the team and the Patriots would gain some cap relief. If the Patriots release him, then they'd be responsible for the signing bonus on the cap (both this year and next). As for your trades, I don't see Barlow or Henry being on the block. Both had solid seasons in 2002 and will likely be a big part of their teams' futures. I know Willis McGahee's arrival has some thinking Henry's on his way out of Buffalo, but I'm not in that camp.
I went down to training camp Sunday and I want to know why we either had to stand by the turf field with no vision or watch it on TV and it hadn't rained all day.
Dan, sorry you didn't get to see the action from up close, but the overnight rains left the regular practice fields too wet to practice on. The team decided it would be best to move to the Field Turf field and keep the players safe. Unfortunately not everyone got a good chance to see everything.
Who wore No. 10 between the years 1993-2002?
That's kind of an odd request. Are you a big Fran Tarkenton fan or something? Anyway, that number hasn't been used often during that time span. Scott Secules (1993) and Lee Johnson (1999-2001) are the only two members of the active roster to wear No. 10 during those years. Rookie free agent wideout Dan Stricker currently sports that number, but if he were to beat the odds and make the team, he'd switch to a receiver's number for sure.
How is Derek Watson doing? Does it look like he will make the team?
His chances don't look very good since he was released before camp began. The signing of Michael Cloud likely made him expendable as a backup running back.
Getting Larry Centers probably means the end of Patrick Pass or J.R. Redmond. Do you agree or disagree?
Agree. Or at least, I agree that at least one back will definitely have to go. I think Pass is in the most trouble, but only because Redmond might get a month-long reprieve while Cloud serves his suspension to open the season. At that point, he could be in trouble too. If Antwoine Womack doesn't find a way to get on the field soon, he could be gone as well.
What's the problem with Tully Banta-Cain?
Good question and I wish I had an answer to match. Banta-Cain hasn't practiced yet but the team hasn't said why. It's been widely assumed he has an injury and didn't fail the conditioning test, mostly because he was out of action during the June mini-camp as well. But the team hasn't specified what that injury may be, as is normally the case with injured players.
Could you please tell me if Robert Milanese is still with the team?
The Woodlands, Texas
Lois, I'm sad to report that Rob is no longer with the team. Despite a very strong showing during rookie mini-camp in May, he was released just before the start of training camp.
For the third year in a row, Antowain Smith failed his conditioning run. My question is, did he fail it by fractions of a second or full seconds? Does he run it only against the other running back or are the wide receivers included in the run?
Yorba Linda, Calif.
First things first … we really don't know for sure if Antowain indeed failed his third straight conditioning test. The team hasn't commented on specific players' cases and Antowain hasn't spoken to the media so far in camp. Most of us covering the team assume that he did and then passed it the next day when he resumed practicing with the rest of the team. But that isn't confirmed. Now, when he runs the test he does so with (not necessarily against) the other running backs, the defensive backs and the wide receivers.
I've heard a lot about Smith failing Belichick's fitness test, but can't seem to find out exactly what the fitness test entails?
With the way they hide information around here, Clark Kent would have a tough time finding that out. But we here at PFW aim to please, so here it is: the test is run in three separate groups – offensive and defensive linemen; tight ends, linebackers, kickers and quarterbacks and running backs, defensive backs and wide receivers. The first group has to run 20 40-yard dashes in less than six seconds each with 30 seconds in between each and a two-minute break at the halfway point. The second group runs 50-yard sprints in seven seconds or less and the final group has eight seconds to run 60 yards. Smith would obviously fall into the latter group.
I like listening to the audio press conferences by Bill Belichick but why can't they give the press a mike so we can hear the questions without trying to figure it out by listening to the answer? I'm sure a lot of fans would appreciate this.
As a matter of fact, a microphone was installed this Monday for precisely that purpose. Let us know how it sounds to you.
Does anyone know if it is possible to buy a video or DVD of the Super Bowl XXXVI complete from the beginning of the game to the end? I am very much interested in purchasing such an item. There must be something available out there.
There is no video or DVD for sale that is the complete SB XXXVI game. The best out there is the Three Games to Glory DVD available in the Patriots online ProShop. If you really want the entire game, your best bet is to post your request on the Patriots.com bulletin and maybe someone who taped it will let you make a copy.
Last year, Jamal Anderson looked all but sure to sign with the Patriots. A lingering knee injury prevented that. He is again talking this year of a possible return. This possibility of a recharged running game and an Anderson-Smith duo seems very exciting. How likely is it to see Jamal Anderson in a Patriots uniform come autumn?
Sorry to disappoint you Daniel, but I think it isn't very likely at all. As Bill Belichick would say, I wouldn't rule it out, but with Anderson being another year removed from playing and the Patriots already having Smith, Kevin Faulk, J.R. Redmond and Michael Cloud – not to mention Antwoine Womack – there doesn't seem to be much need for Anderson.
What is your opinion of Daniel Graham? He seems to have Ben Coates-like size. Is there any chance of him being THAT good?
I feel Graham definitely has the talent to be that type of player. The question is can he fulfill that promise? It's too early to tell if he'll be a better player this year, but Graham seems to be catching a lot of balls in camp and he runs very well for a man his size. His athleticism is extraordinary for a tight end.
I am a strong believer that Kliff Kingsbury doesn't get nearly the respect he deserves. Do you think the Patriots might give him a roster spot this year?
Derby Line, Vt.
Geez Matt, when did the Kingsburys move to Vermont? Seriously, the Pats sixth-round pick is making the most of his limited chances in camp and has looked pretty good. I'm not sure if he deserves any more respect than he's getting but he has shown the ability to operate the offense and throw the ball with nice touch. He could lose out in a numbers game with three other quarterbacks already here but he could stick or be placed on the practice squad. I certainly think there's a place for him in the NFL.
Is Antwoine Womack healthy and making headway in camp? I haven't heard anything about him.
We all were looking forward to seeing if Womack was healthy enough to make a run at playing time this year. Unfortunately, he's yet to step on the field. The team hasn't disclosed any injury but given his history one would have to assume his knee isn't quite ready. He's been on the stationary bikes more than Lance Armstrong so far but hopefully we'll get to see him show his stuff soon.
My question is actually related to PFW itself. What happened to "The Broad Side" with Michelle Muise? I enjoy the lightheartedness of the column, and Miss Muise has a great way of seeing through the seriousness of the game, while bringing an air of comedy to the newspaper. Any chance of the return of The Broad Side?
East Boston, Mass.
Mark, you'll be happy to know that Michelle makes her awaited return in the next issue (due to hit newsstands July 29). I think you'll like her latest installment.
I'm concerned that our defense is not going to be up to par. The last time we had a 3-4 defense we went 5-11. My question is what are the chances of going 5-11 again with the 3-4 defense?
Mountain Home, Idaho
That's not entirely true Oliver. The Patriots used the 3-4 defense to open the 2001 season and only switched to the 4-3 because of injuries to Ted Johnson and Bryan Cox, and we all know how that season ended up. Belichick uses both fronts back and forth throughout the season and will likely do so again. The defense has made some improvements personnel-wise and those players will make the difference in performance, not the scheme.
Does anyone feel that this is the year that Tom Brady has to prove himself as a top quarterback. I honestly think that he needs to step up as the leader in order for this offense to improve. Do you agree?
I guess you don't count leading the league in touchdown passes as having proved yourself. Brady had a fine season last year but the team didn't enjoy the success it did in 2001. Sometimes that's the way things happen. Brady is a solid leader and clearly is in control of the offense. He, like all players, can always improve but I think he proved himself to be a solid quarterback already.
What are the chances that the Pats will look at Terrell Davis? Do you think that would be a good move for a third down back? After all, look at the success that Dave Meggett had here. I know that Faulk is the third down back although maybe they could share playing time.
None and no. Too harsh? Maybe, but I just don't see an injured Terrell Davis helping the Patriots in any way, shape or form. And you answered your own question by acknowledging Kevin Faulk is the third down back.
Does the defensive line have enough depth to be consistent this year and be strong enough to stop the run?
Bill Belichick certainly hopes so. The Patriots have a solid building block with Richard Seymour but will need guys like Ty Warren, Jarvis Green and Dan Klecko to join Bobby Hamilton and Anthony Pleasant in forming a deep front. The pieces are there but some lack experience. Only time will tell if your fears will be warranted.