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Ask PFW: Moss hysteria

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Do you think any AFC teams would claim Randy Moss just to block him from returning to the Patriots line up?
Joe B.

Why would a team claim a guy and pay him a decent chunk of change if they didn't want the player? There are plenty of teams out there that could use a wide receiver – in the AFC alone Tennessee, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Miami all could be interested. But I can't see a team that doesn't want Moss claiming him off waivers just to keep him from New England. That makes no sense at all to me. You see stuff like that happen in baseball but in those cases where teams don't really want the player they aren't responsible for paying the contract unless a deal is worked out. In the NFL, the waiver claim puts the team on the hook for the salary immediately so it would be hard to imagine a club doing that without some interest.
Paul Perillo

I'm sure you're being flooded with should the Patriots claim Randy Moss off of waivers emails. But my question pertains to the draft pick compensation that would be rewarded from claiming/signing Moss, then allowing him to leave via free agency in the offseason. Would the signing/claiming team still be eligible for a compensatory fifth-round draft pick? Also, what's to prevent the Buffalo Bills from claiming Moss and then immediately trading him to another team for a fifth-round (or better) draft pick?
Matt Rupp

Whichever team that winds up with Moss would be eligible for a compensatory pick provided that Moss remains with that team through the end of 2010 and signs with another team as a free agent next offseason. The best that pick could be would be a third-rounder due to Moss' experience. As for the second part of your question, the trade deadline has passed so any team that picks up Moss would not be able to deal him.
Paul Perillo

Here's the question you'll be getting 10,000 times: will the Pats bring back Randy Moss? Regardless of why they got rid of him, it's pretty clear that the offense was significantly better with Moss on the field. Brady has been sacked more and has completed a lower percentage of his passes without Moss, and the other receivers have suffered as well. Will they bring Randy back? SHOULD they?Sam Frankel

I have no idea if the Patriots would be interested in bringing Moss back but I certainly wouldn't be. While I agree with your assessment of the offense since the trade, I don't believe bringing him back would be a positive step. I feel he's a player with greatly diminished skills who hasn't always given his best effort – he certainly didn't when he was here on Halloween with the Vikings. Historically he hasn't played well in cold weather and that's pretty much what you have left at this point in the season. And I haven't even gotten into the off-field reasons for not making the move. He wasn't happy not being a big part of the offense in September and now we're supposed to believe he's had an epiphany and would be satisfied running off the coverage now? I'm not buying it. He may work well initially but two or three weeks without much of an impact would certainly bring the old Randy back and as far as I'm concerned the Patriots would be better served making do without him.
Paul Perillo

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]()This season we have all seen how Rob Ninkovich has stepped up in the clutch and made some fantastic, game-saving plays. The first down-saving tackle only reiterated this against the Vikings. How would you rate his overall performance this season and is he someone that may factor in long term with this team?*
*Jeremy Schain

Is it my imagination or is Rob Ninkovich starting to channel a little of the 2002-2004 Mike Vrabel vibe?
John Gawienowski

Ninkovich has been excellent thus far and since he's been here for two years I'd say it's reasonable to expect that he's part of the team's long-term plans. He's been around the NFL for five years and is starting to see significant playing time for the first time in his career. He's taking advantage of his opportunities and is proving to be quite a versatile player working against both the run and the pass.
It's not your imagination, John, you just must read and listen to the PFW crew a lot because as soon as he arrived last summer, we've referred to Ninkovich as Mike Vrabel 2.0. While he may not be quite the impact player that Vrabel was, he's making those comparisons look pretty good right now. Ninkovich has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise on a defense full of them.
Paul Perillo

It's been on my mind for quite some time now, and I know Bill Belichick has a plan for everything but it could be argued that after the Steelers game, the Colts and Packers are our two toughest remaining opponents besides the Jets. I was wondering if Coach Belichick has already begun planning for those games, mostly the Packers for we have seen what the Colts can do every season.
Frank Djelaj

The Patriots prepare for all the teams on their schedule on a basic level throughout the year. Usually they break things down in four-game intervals with coaches and scouts focusing on the next four opponents while compiling information. But the team itself works in the old cliché driven one-game-at-a-time fashion. Belichick formulates game plans for the upcoming opponent regardless of the caliber of that week's foe. You can't overlook any team in the NFL because every team has the talent to beat you. Cleveland went to New Orleans two weeks ago and blistered the defending champs. Just think about how much worse you would feel if you were a Saints fan and later found out that Sean Payton spent that week working on Pittsburgh instead of Cleveland. The Patriots are playing well but not to the point where they can afford to look past anyone. One or two plays go the other way and the story could be a lot different.
Paul Perillo

So, for the first 28 minutes the Pats couldn't stop Adrian Peterson, then with two minutes and 1 yard for six points we make the stop, and continue throughout the second half. What'd we do differently?James Siegel

I'm not sure there were any drastic changes to the Patriots approach after the tough start. Belichick rotated a lot of players into the game, particularly up front along the defensive line. But that's something he's done often thus far in 2010. It just came down to the Patriots playing better, and you're right – it started with that great goal-line stand on Peterson on the fourth down at the end of the half. Then the Patriots took the ball away and went up 21-10. From there, Peterson never carried the ball again and he never got a chance to get things moving. But in terms of schemes, I'm not sure New England did anything different other than play better football.
Paul Perillo

What are your thoughts on the touchdown that Belichick challenged? I could not see the ball breaking the plane of the goal line. Belichick mentioned twice in his postgame presser that he thought they had them stopped, so clearly he didn't agree with the review decision.
Mahesh Kalyana

The play on the goal line was almost impossible to see clearly. There were no clear views of the play to suggest that the ball did not make it to the line because there were too many bodies in the way. I think the officials had to go with the call on the field either way because I didn't see any conclusive evidence either way. Personally I feel Peterson probably got the ball to break the plane, but the replays I saw didn't show that definitively. I thought it was a worthwhile challenge because it would have put pressure on the Vikings to convert on third-and-goal had the call been overturned – and certainly it was close enough to take the chance.
Paul Perillo

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]()I am thrilled with our record, but I feel that our offense is missing something and it may catch up to us. Often Brady has nobody to throw to. I feel that we are missing a third reliable receiver. That's what we had when we went to four SBs. And in spite of Brandon Tate's long catch on a busted play, I am not sold on him as a new David Givens yet. Are you? *Adam K.*

At the risk of losing my Patriots Nation membership card, I agree with you Adam. Brady is still searching for reliable alternatives without Moss on the field. Wes Welker has been significantly slowed coming off his knee injury and he hasn't had the space he's been accustomed to. Aaron Hernandez has been a nice addition and made some plays. But he's still a rookie and asking him to do much more than he has may be asking too much. Same with Rob Gronkowski, although I'd like to see Brady look to him more often. Tate has had some chances and so far hasn't shown the ability to get open. He made two big catches against the Vikings and both were somewhat fluky. The first he was covered perfectly but Madieu Williams mishandled an easy interception and Tate caught the deflection for 32 yards. The second was, as Belichick described it, a broken play where Brady scrambled and was fortunate that Ray Edwards fell down as he was in pursuit. The extra time allowed Tate to break free down the sideline and from there he made a terrific move to turn it into a touchdown. But relying on plays like that is not ideal. Givens was an excellent possession receiver and Tate appears to be more of a speed-based threat so that comparison isn't ideal either. But I do feel the Patriots will need someone to emerge as a consistent threat because right now Brady doesn't have a go-to guy.
Paul Perillo

Why do quarterbacks often (but not always) lift one leg while in the shotgun just prior to the snap? We could guess, but why do that with such a great resource like all of you at PFW to take the guess work out of it for us all. Thank you very much for providing PFW as it is now part of my Tuesday routine.
Pat Riotti

Quarterbacks lift their leg out of the shotgun for a variety of reasons depending on the team, situation and play – and different actions can mean different things. Brady can lift him leg to let the players know when it is time to shift or go in motion, he can lift it when all the shifting is complete and he can do it to let the center know it's time to snap the ball. The latter is almost always the case on plays out of the shotgun because it's hard for the linemen to hear the quarterback from that far away. But there are adjustments the quarterback signals as well – it just depends on the particular play.
Paul Perillo

When is Kevin Faulk coming back?Sean Powers

Unfortunately, not anytime soon. Faulk tore his ACL in the loss to the Jets in Week 2 and was placed on injured reserve, meaning he cannot return this season. He's set to be a free agent so it's possible that Faulk has played his last game as a Patriot, although he has said he would like to attempt a return next season.
Paul Perillo

I wanted to ask the coach if he plans to do anything to help protect Tom Brady especially if he plans to give Matt Light some much needed help stopping his man? It seems to me that Matt has been having a difficult time in the last few games. Either he cannot stop his man and TB is sacked or he draws a holding penalty.
Chris Reed

I'll pass along your concerns to Coach Belichick. But I will add that Light seemed to hold up pretty well against Jared Allen against the Vikings and he's one of the toughest pass rushers in the league. Light struggled at times earlier in the season but that's been true of the entire offensive line as well. Against San Diego the pressure came from both edges, as well as up the middle. It's unfair to place all the burden on Light – especially after he and the rest of the line turned in a great performance against Minnesota.
Paul Perillo

I saw that NFL.com analyst Gil Brant claimed that Cam Newton of Auburn is better than Tim Tebow. Depending on how well Oakland does, do you think the Pats could draft him? Do you think he would be a good choice?
Pierre Steenblik

I love Newton as a college quarterback and I totally agree with Brandt that he's a much better passer than Tebow was in college. But I would not draft Newton early and I wouldn't have taken Tebow either. Without their ability to run, neither would be an NFL-level passer and it's nearly impossible to succeed as a pro without a high level of ability in that department. I love Newton's size and athleticism but I'm not sold on his arm and accuracy.
Paul Perillo

Is BenJarvus Green-Ellis' emergence against the Vikings going to put Fred Taylor down on the running back depth chart when he returns healthy?Matthew Wilson

You never how Belichick will handle these types of moves but I would be surprised if Taylor didn't return to his lead back status as soon as he's capable. He hasn't been healthy so it's been a moot point, but Taylor clearly is the team's most talented back and once he's ready I have to think that Belichick would want to have him resume that role. No disrespect toward Benny, but Taylor has proven himself over a long period of time.
Paul Perillo

I just read Erik's response regarding onside kicks, where he says once a ball has traveled 10 yards, it is a live ball and either team can try to recover it. How does this differ during a normal kickoff, where the receiving team makes no attempt to catch the ball? Isn't that also a "live ball" since it traveled more than 10 yards?
George Newell

Your first mistake is listening to Erik … Andy and I rarely do. But yes, any kickoff that goes at least 10 yards is a live ball. Sometimes you see teams chip kicks high and short in an effort to catch the receiving team off guard by having the ball land in between the returners and the wedge blockers. Every so often a team recovers one of these kicks. But the bottom line to remember – kickoffs are live whether the return team touches it first or not.
Paul Perillo

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