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Ask PFW: Moves continue

I don't know what happened to Andy Hart. He seems to be on vacation every time his turn for Ask PFW pops up so you get me again. I haven't seen him in weeks or so it seems. I wonder if he still works here ... I should probably know that. I'll ask Fred Kirsch and let you know in next week's Ask PFW. But without further ado, here is this week's sampling of questions and answers as the Patriots gear up for mini-camps.

I can't get the theme from PVN outta my head! I've got to hear the whole song a couple of times. Could you tell me artist and song please? BTW Brian Lowe does a great job too. As does Patriots.com radio. I listen, but never live -- on real player.
Ed Filistowicz

Peace Frog by The Doors, song chosen by the inimitable Dave Querzoli back in 2000

Dear PFW: I am going to go out on a limb here, and I hope that I am wrong. In my opinion I am reading more into coach Belichick's mentality when it comes to how this team views the quarterback position. The split second Tom Brady stepped on to the field this offense has been steadily progressing, knowing the timing of all the different receivers, it is like a finely tuned instrument. I have listened to Coach Belichick and heard some of his thoughts about the offense. He says it does not make that much of a difference who the QB is. To me this is very, very, serious stuff, and then he brings in Doug Flutie. With all respect to Doug Flutie, this is like North Pole and South Pole. You cannot get any further apart from one QB to the other. If he thinks he can win Super Bowls as a coach no matter who the QB is, he will never win another Super Bowl in New England! Two last comments. If you recall Belichick's first year the Patriots were 5-11 and the following year they started a flat 0-2 until Tom Brady began to start! I can distinctly recall one particular play early in Graham's first season playing where Brady over threw him when he was wide open down near the goal line. After the pass fell incomplete Brady stood there for several seconds. In my opinion to me his reaction was that he was still finding Daniel Graham's speed in his routes, this is called timing gentlemen. For coach Belichick to make a light hearted comment about how sensitive the offense is run I see this as if Belichick is the coach of this team Tom Brady will finish his career somewhere else!
Joel Luongo

You are wrong Joel. I'm not going to promise you that Tom Brady finishes his career in New England, but I certainly suspect that he will. Bill knows exactly what he has in Tom and I don't recall that comment being made. If it was said, then I would have to see the context in which it was to decipher its meaning. I know Bill doesn't think just any old quarterback could step in and run the offense at a championship level or the team wouldn't be paying $60 million to Tom. Yes, Doug and Tom are very different quarterbacks. But the Pats have a pocket passer in Rohan Davey. They have a pocket passer in Chris Redman. Doug is a guy that could come off the bench and bring an entirely new element to the game if something happened to Tom. The Patriots receivers will get plenty of reps with Doug and understand that they must stay alive in their routes. Will defensive coordinators have to spend time preparing for Doug's entrance into the game? If so, that takes away from some other element of preparation. Doug forces a defense to essentially scrap its game plan if he comes in. Now, do I think that is a huge factor? No. Definitely not. I don't mean to make that sound like more than it is, but in a league where most games are quite close, if it's any factor, it helps. Don't worry Joel, Bill knows what Tom Brady is and knows that there aren't very many Tom Brady's around.

Hi Guys, Thanks again for making "Ask PFW" great. I realize it is early in the season to read much into depth charts, especially one labeled "unofficial". Where does the depth chart on the Patriot's site come from? Based on this depth chart, the age of all starting players, including special teams, will be an average of 28.7 years old at the end of '05 (very close to last year's average). As a whole, the offense appears to be at or below prime playing age, with Dillon, 30, the oldest. So the offense should only improve compared with last year (with the exception of LG). On defense, the linebacker core is the oldest group on the team, which, besides Bruschi's uncertainty, might be another reason for 17 linebackers on the roster. How likely is it that Colvin, 27, might take the starting spot from McGinest, who will be 34 at the end of '05?
Len LaPadula
Amherst, N.H.

Good questions Len. Andy Hart usually updates the very unofficial depth chart. It is labeled as such because it does not come from the football operation, which would never commit to any such chart. When healthy, the offense should continue to evolve although it will have to adjust somewhat to a new play caller this year in Bill Belichick. Bill and the offensive staff will formulate the game plans, but Bill will be calling the plays and that could change some things. I wouldn't expect the offense to score 520 points the way Indy's does because I think it's designed to be more balanced and control the ball rather than making it's bones as a quick-strike unit. Not that it wouldn't love to score on long touchdown passes each series, but it's a physical offense that wants to wear down defenses with a power running game while also having the ability to dissect a defense with a precision passing attack. The 437 points last year's team scored were the second most in franchise history – 4 behind the 1980 team. As far as your linebacker question, it's possible that Colvin could end up starting over McGinest, but Willie definitely enters camp as the starter. That said, they will all play plenty of snaps if healthy so it doesn't matter who starts.

Is Troy Brown coming back for this season or not??? We will miss him for he is a great player. I live in Florida, but the Pats are No. 1 in our family.
Beverly Forte

I suspect he will be back, but I don't know for sure. Mike Reiss reported the Saints interest in him and that he was in the Patriots Pro Shop last week. Take that for what it's worth.

As much as we all love salivating over the vertical game every time the Pats come by a 6-foot-plus wideout (I think PK Sam is supposed to be our latest vertical game messiah one day), could the real story in the passing game quickly become the overwhelming impact of the tight end position - especially given the multitasking abilities of Graham and the receiving strengths (at the very least) of Watson and Fauria? If I see Graham and Watson lined up at tight ends, Branch and Givens wide, and, say, Bethel Johnson in the slot, I am looking at five potential big play threats - with the added threat of either Graham or Watson, but most familiarly, Graham, clearing a path for Corey Dillon. This is a guy that can play as a fullback, or pull in five touchdowns in four games (Graham that is.) With either Fauria (old reliable) or Watson (so far unproven, but potential galore) in the mix, plus the rejuvenated O-line, it's hard to see the Pats sweating the fact that there's still no T.O. or Randy Moss running around Foxboro, bigger than life and just as unpredictable. Put another way: doesn't shifty speed in the best receivers, combined with possession and red-zone receiving by the TEs, argue for more of the same, but better? That is, lots of play action, nickel-and-dime passing, and a healthy dose of Corey Dillon? Also, is there any truth to the rumor that Logan Mankins owns a blue ox named Babe? And finally: why do the Pats insist on having only running backs with some variation of "Corey" joining the backfield lately? It's getting weird. Thanks.
Dan Halberstein

In a perfect world, yes, your scenario is intriguing and even exciting. If Watson's potential becomes playmaking ability, then the Patriots have a perfect combination of tight ends and receivers heading into the season. Graham, Watson and Terrell should all be bigger targets with ability to get downfield. Givens and Branch are the most reliable of the smaller receivers and both operate inside and outside the numbers. Fauria is more of a short, possession type. The offense has the potential to be very diverse. Bill Belichick always says that the primary receiver is the one who is open. Well the Patriots should be able to create some favorable matchups this year assuming the offensive line can protect the quarterback. Play action will be a huge weapon. But all of that is contingent upon Graham continuing to develop as a more consistent receiver, Terrell playing better than he did in Chicago, Watson staying healthy and playing to his freakish ability and the smaller receivers staying off the injury report. I don't know anything about an ox named Babe (except Paul Bunyan's), but he does have a horse named Buck.

I'm curious about how much money has been committed to the veteran free agents that the Patriots picked up during the off-season, especially those with injury risk like Duane Starks and Chad Brown. I've seen the dollar figure estimates for their contracts, but am wondering how much of that money is payable if they don't make the active roster and are cut before the season opener. Also, I'd like to know your opinion of the Chad Scott acquisition. If my recollection is accurate, other than the regular season game against the Steelers last year when the team could do little right, the Patriots passing offense has thrown in Scott's direction often over the past few seasons with a lot of success. Is much expected of him or was he signed only to strengthen the competition in training camp? Thanks for the great work you guys do in presenting well-reasoned balanced opinions.Bill Annand

Both Starks and Brown would seem to be locks to make the team this year based on finances although Starks more so than Brown. Starks re-worked his salary to take most of it as a bonus this year and would cost the Pats $1.5 million against the 2005 and 2006 cap if he was released at the end of training camp. Not going to happen. Brown received a $485,000 signing bonus and will get another $100,000 reporting bonus. With the Pats on the hook for $585,000, he is almost certain to make the club this season. Those are the dollars already committed to those two players. Chad Scott is an interesting case. He was a talented player before injuries started coming one after another. He is a low-risk signing and is by no means a lock to make the club. He is a veteran with experience who ups the competition in camp. If he gets any nagging injuries this summer, he'll probably write his ticket out of town quickly. If he stays healthy and makes the club, he gives the Patriots experienced depth down on the depth chart. But like Terrell Buckley last year, he won't make the team over a guy like Randall Gay, at least I don't see him doing that.

I have heard and read much discussion about our cornerback situation. Who's going to start? Who's going to play nickel back? Etc... Why is it that EVERYONE has forgotten about Randall Gay? Most people I've talked to (and I) think that Samuel will be our #1 corner next season. Then people all seem to think that Chad Scott, Duane Starks, and Tyrone Poole will be in tight competition. Why isn't anyone giving Randall Gay some consideration? He was very impressive last year. Let's set aside the fact that he was undrafted. He was a rookie, and was made to cover the likes of Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne, and others. He did very well. Chad Scott (ask any Steelers fan) stinks, and Duane Starks may be too injury prone to start. Tyrone Poole is getting up there. Let's play Randall Gay. He's good. Let's give the kid a chance.
Greg W.

The competition for starting jobs and jobs in general will be intense this summer and Gay is certainly in the mix to play a lot. Given his play last year and his age and affordability, I have to think he is a lock to make the club. If healthy, my guess is that Starks and Poole start with Gay and Samuel pushing both for those jobs and playing in the subpackages. I'm not discounting Gay and Samuel's ability in the least. I choose to go with experience just so long as neither one of those veteran corners has lost a step. Given that both are coming off an injuries – Starks a shoulder and Poole a knee -- the potential exists for one or both to have lost a little given that neither is considered young in football years anymore. Starks is 30 and Poole is 32. If they have slipped, the young guys will be ready to slide ride past them on the depth chart. Starks has been marred by injures the last three seasons. He has something to prove here. Samuel is 24 and Gay is 22. So even if this isn't the year for the young guys to assume the mantle full time, their time will come. But don't worry; Gay will get his chances and plenty of them.

Your compatriot (competition?) Pat Kirwan at NFL.com made the ridiculous statement that Patriots fans (I qualify) must be relieved now that Flutie has been signed. Flutie shmootie. BRING BACK TROY BROWN. That's how this fan spells relief! But on to the question: Now that the Pats have brought in a cast of thousands (especially at LB), how do all these guys get paid? Most of them will be cut before the final 53-man roster is set. Are the "tryouts" paid for just showing up? Is there a different pay scale for guys taken in the draft and undrafted players? If they attend mini-camp/ preseason training and then get the bad news, are they paid anyway? I guess the question is, do you actually have to make the team to get the paycheck? Thanks for being patient with a civilian who understands the game of football pretty well, but the business of pro football not at all. And . . . BRING BACK TROY BROWN!
Miranda Good

Every player receives a per diem for any preseason training or mandatory mini-camp with veterans making $1,100 per week and rookies making $775 per week during said camps. The players are not paid their contractual salaries until they make the club and begin the season. Also, we all respect Pat Kirwan, I think, and don't consider him to be competition to what we do covering the Patriots.

I would like to know how... Logan Mankins and Ellis Hobbs are fitting into the Patriots system? Also I hear that the Patriots have signed a linebacker with the same last name as former Patriot and still a Patriot in the heart of many Brown... I hope the Patriots will consider taking Troy Brown back... Troy I consider to be the face of the Patriots... go to a place like ask jeeves type in the Patriots and one of the first if not the first football player you see is him... I hope Brown knows he is still in the heart of MANY Patriot fans... ALSO what are the chances of him coming back of right now?
Michael Hobbs

Any relation to Ellis? Beyond a no-pads rookie mini-camp we have not seen Logan or Ellis play so it would be impossible for me to answer that question with any degree of accuracy. That will play out this summer and we'll see how they look with the veterans at the June mini-camp. You are not alone in your feelings for Troy Brown. I think he'll be back.

Hey guys, please forgive me if you've covered this, but I've been a bit busy here in Baghdad and haven't had much time for the 'net. What's the status of new O/D coordinators to work alongside BB, and fills for the other coaching vacancies? Love the website, and the "news blitz" feature. You guys are my best (only) source for Patriots news.
MAJ Ken Karcher
US Army
Baghdad, Iraq

The coaching staff is complete and there is no official offensive coordinator although Bill Belichick will call the plays. Eric Mangini was promoted to defensive coordinator while keeping his assignment as defensive backs coach. Joel Collier was added to the staff as an assistant defensive backs coach. Pete Mangurian took over the tight ends, which Jeff Davidson previously coached, while Matt Patricia was elevated from coaching assistant to assistant offensive line coach, a role Davidson also filled. Harold Nash took over for Markus Paul as the assistant strength and conditioning coach. And please stay safe. Hopefully you and your compatriots will be home soon for good.

Hey guys, With Flutie in the fold now, do you think we will see much of him in the pre season or do you think it will be all Rohan- (throw the ball at the ground)-Davey
Andre

Ouch. That's a bit harsh, no? I think you will see Flutie in the preseason for certain, but Rohan will continue to get his share of the reps. How each of the reserve quarterbacks performs on the practice field could determine preseason playing time. The No. 1 goal in preseason at that position is to get Brady ready for the regular season. After that, it's hard to give the more than 1 or 2 quarterbacks enough reps to make a good evaluation. That will make things tough on Matt Cassel and presumably Chris Redman.

Very excited Doug is back. But I just had a jersey specially made up for my husband's birthday and put #2 on it. Is this the correct number for this season?
Diane Boyd

On the latest roster, issued May 16, Flutie is listed as No. 2.

It occurs to me that you don't hear much in the way of Patriots players holding out in training camp due to contract negotiations much. I'm of the mind that this is due to the emphasis in our program on teamwork and unselfishness, core values of the Belichick approach. Or, I might just not know that much! Your thoughts, please?
Michael J. Clark

One of last year's first round picks, Benjamin Watson, missed the first 18 days of camp in a contract dispute. But no veteran has held out trying to force a new contract in recent memory. No one has pulled a T.O. if you will. There are a lot of factors in that, but none bigger than the character of the players themselves. Clinton Portis did it in Denver while displeased with his rookie contract. Don't you think Richard Seymour could do it and hold out for more? He hasn't, which is a credit to him. But, personally, I don't think it would do him any good anyway. Bill has implemented a team philosophy and I would find it difficult to believe that he would react and/or acquiesce to any individual player in that type of situation. I applaud the Eagles for the way they have handled the T.O. situation. It's a P.R. nightmare for Owens, who doesn't care about that anyway, and I don't think it helps Drew Rosenhaus, his agent, much either.

Has there been any kind of update on the condition of Tedy Bruschi? Does anyone know if he will be able to play next season yet? If not, is the depth at the linebacker position sufficient to do well next season? Or might the Patriots need to look to the free agent market or the trade market to fill the vacancy? I would hate to see Bruschi's career end so suddenly when he could still be making tremendous contributions to a great team, but so far the only rumors I have heard have not exactly filled my heart with hope for his future. Please, rebuke these rumors and give me some good news about Bruschi.
Jeff Harrigan

Don't listen to rumors. They are all about gloom and doom and are based on nothing that has come from Tedy Bruschi or his doctors. Physicians who have never examined Tedy have commented on his alleged condition and what the future MAY hold for the Patriots star linebacker, but they are opinions from afar. As I've said and will continue to say, I don't think Tedy yet knows what he will do, but he has certainly prepared himself to be out of football this year if that is the case as he should have. The Patriots, meanwhile, have prepared to play without him through the additions of Monty Beisel and Chad Brown in free agency and Ryan Claridge in the draft, as they should have. If your hope is that Tedy plays football in 2005, don't give that up until he announces news to the contrary. Obviously we all want whatever is best for Tedy, his health and his family, but that may still include a pro football career. My head says he sits out, but my gut says he plays. I'm going with my gut.

I am trying to breakdown the numbers at each position to get a handle on how many spots are going to be available and thus how competitive the battle for roster spots will be. Question: at the beginning of last year, how was the 53 man roster allocated (i.e.: 6 cornerbacks, 7 d-line, 3 tight ends, etc.)?
Andrew Stebbins

According to our Week 2 depth chart from last year's PFW (our week one depth chart was published before final cuts), the Patriots had 5 CBs, 4 Ss, 10 LBs, 7 DL, 6 WRs, 3 RBs/FBs, 3 QB, 3 TE, 9 OL, 1 K, 1 P, 1 LS for a total of 53.

I read your column as often as I get the chance, good stuff. I would like to know about Scott Pioli. Where do you see him next year? What are the chances that he will stay in N.E. after the 3 million offer from the Seahawks? Thanks.
Nick Motzny

This is a dicey subject and one we have not been able to broach with Scott or Bill. Scott's comments stand alone on this. He will be here through the end of his contract, which runs through the 2006 draft. There is no question that he and Bill make a terrific team and I think any Patriots fan would want to see that dynamic continue. I don't think Scott feels any need to go out and prove he can win something without Bill. I think he understands that, together, they have been successful. And from a Patriots perspective, who cares about whether either of them can be successful without the other? We know what's here works. Bill knows it. Scott knows it. Their working relationship is tremendous. I don't know anything about Scott's desire to stay or go or the team's desire to entice him to stay. I don't know if there have been any discussions to extend Scott's contract. My opinion after having stated my ignorance on this matter is that he will be made an offer from elsewhere that is too difficult to pass up.

Givens was quoted a while back saying that he wants to get a long-term deal in the works to stay with the Patriots. I'm sure he knows that no one stays in New England expecting to break the bank. I know a few of you think that he may turn around and walk away, but him publicly saying that he wants to stay in NE makes me wonder if they might find a way to get a good deal done. Any thoughts??
Nathan F.

Wanting to stay doesn't necessarily equate with taking less to do so. It can, certainly, but that often means that he wants to stay if the team is willing to pay him what he wants to make him stay if you get my drift. Remember that David was a seventh round pick who made very little money, relatively speaking, through his first three seasons. Now he will make $1.43 million in year 4 when he could have gotten more as a UFA this year. He knows that he likely has one chance to maximize his salary and that will come after this season. He's never had a six-figure signing bonus, never mind something beyond that. So I think he will test the market. If the Patriots are able to make a competitive offer to keep him and it's comparable to what he's offered elsewhere, then I think he would stay even if the Patriots offer was marginally lower. But if there is any significant gap, he will be gone.

Just wanted to be the first to say: if A.J. Hawk stays healthy, I hope we trade up from Pick 32 to get him in next year's draft. You wouldn't happen to know if there's been any interest expressed yet, or is it just way too early?
John Constantine

Too early for me John. But I posted it so everyone knows that you tagged him as your guy a year before the draft. Also, I think everyone will notice that you have the Pats picking 32nd again. I thought that was notable as well.

I am a rabid Pats fan. I even enjoyed them when they were bad. I am enjoying this winning very much. My question is this -"what am I supposed to do to make the time go by faster till the season comes again and I can feel normal"?? Thanks, without you all I would freak.
Victoria Gavel
Maine

Keep reading Ask PFW and subscribe to the newspaper. 1-800-494-PATS or go to pfwonline.com. It's $43.95 for 30 issues and you get the Yearbook FREE, a $12.95 value. You also get free bonus issues when the Pats make the playoffs. So the last two years, subscribers have received 34 issues for the same low price.

Hey guys! Great job on AskPFW--that along with Paul's appearance on WEEI on Mondays keeps me going through the offseason. I don't actually have a question, but rather a clarification for some questions that you guys have been getting about the CBA. People have been asking why it's so certain that the CBA WILL be extended, and isn't it good for the players to not negotiate so that they can get rid of the salary cap? I've been studying the CBA as part of a business school project, and I can tell you that there are incentives built in to make not negotiating an extension extremely unfavorable to BOTH sides. The owners lose the salary cap, yes, but the players lose a lot as well. For one thing, the amount of time before they become UFAs increases from 4 to 6 years if an uncapped season occurs. For another, there's a clause that says that the top teams in each conference (i.e. the playoff teams) are not ALLOWED to sign UFAs if the cap goes away, except under very special circumstances. So the most successful teams (who are presumably the richest) couldn't bid on UFAs, and salaries would likely decrease in spite of not having a cap. That is why both the players and the league desperately want to get a deal done before the uncapped season.
Mike King

Excellent job Mike. Thanks for the help. I'm sure our readers will love that explanation.

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