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Ask PFW: Moving Forward

Do you know if Belichick is thinking about Cato June as a possible acquisition for next season? (His 142 tackles put him in fifth best in NFL his speed and Colts signed Adam last year so this year we should take one of their best players) I think he would be a big reinforcement for our defense. What is your opinion of him?Nemanja Rankovic

Cato June is a decent player, I just don't think he fits into this defense. Being a former safety, he's a very good coverage linebacker. However, June is small by linebacker standards and while he does have a lot of tackles, that's a little misleading. If you watch most of the long runs against the Colts this year, many times June is one of the first players to miss a tackle. I don't think he's great in run support but he's much better in coverage. The reason he has so many tackles is because teams ran the ball all day on the Colts. He's a player that probably needs to be in the right system to be successful and I don't believe the way New England plays defense is that system.
-Tom Casale

Almost all the mock drafts I have seen have the Patriots taking a DE in the 1st round. Is there some magically need for a DE that I don't know about because I thought we were already set with Seymour, the emergence of Warren, and a solid backup with Jarvis Green. It wouldn't surprise me that much if the Patriots did take a DE because that whole thing with taking the best player on the board???Nick Mortell

First Nick, let me say that while mock drafts are fun, they serve no real purpose. Don't get me wrong, fans love them and I'll be doing one for However, no one knows which players these teams are going to select, so take what you see in these mock drafts with a grain of salt.

Also, the players that you are seeing being projected to the Patriots are most likely college defensive ends who will switch to outside linebacker in the NFL. Guys like Florida's Jarvis Moss or Georgia's Quentin Moses. My guess is that's where the confusion is because most sites are figuring the Patriots will take a 3-4 edge rusher in the first round this year.
-Tom Casale

In response to Andy Hart's comments about desire having an impact on the game: Perhaps you're right Andy, but I don't know that the choice of Vince Wilfork as an example of an athlete playing until fatigue takes over was a good choice. Love to you Vince, but I have a feeling he gets fatigued walking back to the buffet line the 3rd time.Arthur Soule

I'm sorry Arthur but you're going to have to be more specific. Who is it you are referring to going back to the buffet three times? Wilfork or Andy Hart? By the way, unlike Andy Hart, Wilfork had a very good season in 2006.
-Tom Casale

The consensus seems to be that linebacker, cornerback, and safety are the big offseason needs this year. I absolutely agree with linebacker - we could take 5 guys in the draft and still be thin, (wouldn't it be great if the Cowboys new coach waived Hoyte?). Cornerback, I'll give you if we lose Asante, (although I think Bill loves his DB's a lot more than his kickers and receivers, and unlike Branch, Asante really is THAT good). But Safety I'm in total disagreement as a top 3 need. Here's some names: Rodney Harrison, (he'll be back), Eugene Wilson, (Likely to be back), Artrell Hawkins (always solid), James Sanders (great upside), Tebucky Jones (no chump), and also the part time safeties, Don Davis (likely to be back), and Chad Scott. Granted, we started THIS year and the same situation and still saw Rashad Baker lined up against Marvin Harrison, but what can you call that besides terrible luck? I would like to see some fresh coaching talent sooner than safety, (Bill seems over-worked), what do you think?Will Bortolin

I'm going to agree and disagree with you Will. I admit that the Patriots aren't completely bare in the secondary with young players like James Sanders, but I still think they need to address this area in the offseason. Say Harrison comes back. Okay, he's suffered three major injuries in the last two years and is now 34-years old. It would be great to have him back but can we really expect him to be healthy for a full 16-games next year or be the player he was five years ago? Probably not.

Hawkins is a very important player for the Patriots, although I like him better in that swingman role instead of a full-time starter. I don't consider Don Davis a safety. He's rarely played there in his career and when he has, it was in emergency situations. Meanwhile, Chad Scott, Tebucky Jones and Ray Mickens are all older player who will be battling just to make the team next season. Throw in the inconsistent play of Eugene Wilson over the last two years and this is definitely an area to be concerned about. I wouldn't be shocked if New England didn't select a defensive back in the first round but I do expect them to upgrade that position this offseason. And if Samuel leaves…well, let's not even think about that right now.
-Tom Casale

I think that inside linebackers are not usually taken in the first round. Given the possible situation that the Pats might be thin at that particular position next year (no Seau, possibly no Bruschi, Vrabel better on the outside, Alexander not fit yet to be a starter...), do you think they could go in that direction? If so, who's on the top of the list at ILB coming out of college into this year's draft?Karim Sassi

In my opinion, Mississippi's Patrick Willis is hands down the best inside linebacker in this year's draft. I've watched Willis for two years now and the guy makes plays all over the field. I will be talking a lot about him over the next couple of months. If Willis were still on the board when the Patriots pick, I would take him in a second. However, if he has a strong combine and a good personal workout, a team like the Rams could snatch him up before New England is on the clock.
-Tom Casale

With Bruschi possibly retiring, what are the chances the Pats re-sign Junior Seau? I thought he did a great job and could be very valuable next to Vrabel in the middle while the Pats groom a young inside linebacker (or two) for the future. Reports are that he's looking to play football again next season rather than graduating again.Nathan F.

I agree that Seau did a terrific job at linebacker this year for the Patriots. However, let me ask you a question: After watching the Colts exploit the lack of speed in the middle of New England's defense, do you really want to rely on a 38-year old, injury-prone linebacker in 2007? I don't. I'm going to be very consistent on this all offseason. I want young, fast linebackers for the Patriots, not 30-something veterans. Like I said, Seau did more than anyone could have expected this season but it's time to move forward. If Seau wants to comeback in a reserve role, that's fine with me. However, the Patriots need to get younger and faster at linebacker. In my opinion, that's the biggest offseason priority for this team after trying to re-sign Asante Samuel.
-Tom Casale

Well unfortunately the season ended the way it did and it will surely sting all offseason, but you still have to be pleased with the entire organization from top to bottom and you can still see that this team will be a factor during the regular season and come playoffs for years to come. My question is this, does it seem that Chad Jackson resembles a lot of how we viewed Bethel Johnson when the team acquired him. All the speed you could want but did not translate to the field and how do you think he will progress leading into the 2007 season? A possible playmaker or the same that had taken place with Bethel Johnson?David Lineberry

I'm not ready to close the book on Jackson quite yet but he better show something early on next year. The problem I have with Jackson is that he couldn't even get on the field. Stop with all the hamstring nonsense too. He hurt his hamstring in August. If his hamstring takes that long to recover then he's going to re-injure it again because it's the weakest hamstring of all-time. The Patriots were in a shootout against the Colts and they didn't go to Jackson once. Not a fly route, nothing. I will wait until next year before I get on Jackson too much but other than one nice catch against the Jets in Week 2, he didn't show anything that suggests we should have high hopes for him in 2007. He's not Bethel Johnson yet, although he needs to step up his game next season or his stay in New England could be a short one.
-Tom Casale

I am really hoping Andre Tippett makes it to Hall of Fame. He was one of the most dominant pass rushers of his time. My question is of potential Hall of Famers on current Pats team, why isn't Rodney Harrison's name mentioned? Am I alone in thinking if he was in the backfield against Colts the defense wouldn't have gotten dominated in the second half? He has been a huge force for his whole career and I hope the Patriots Defense can get a young leader with his aggressive swagger in the 1st round next year. I fear his career is coming to an end along with Brown & Bruschi.Jason Belliveau

I really hope Tippett makes the Hall of Fame too. Growing up in New York before all the media machines like ESPN was born, we always heard of Lawrence Taylor. However, I always heard about Tippett too. I remember seeing him as a kid and thinking how unstoppable he was. In my lifetime, LT was the greatest defensive football player I've ever seen. Having said that, I would put Tippett a shade below Taylor. If being a shade below the best ever isn't good enough to get into the Hall of Fame, I don't know what is.

Harrison's chances of making the Hall are slim and none right now. That's no reflection on him, rather on how the Hall of Fame treats safeties. In order to get inducted as a safety, a player needs to be Superman or have played cornerback as well like Ronnie Lott did. Some of the greatest safeties to ever play the game are still waiting for a phone call. That's something I never understood. You are either a Hall of Famer or you're not. To this day I don't get what a player's position has to do with anything but then again, maybe that's why I don't have a vote. If you're asking me if I think Harrison is one of the best safeties in NFL history, my answer is yes. If you're asking me if I think he'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame, going by history, my answer is no.
-Tom Casale

With the season over, Drew Bledsoe has earlier hinted that Dallas would be his last stop. I highly doubt Dallas will bring him back and he doesn't want to be a backup, so do you see Drew starting somewhere else or even beginning a career in coaching? If he decides to retire what is the possibility of the Patriots retiring his number 11, and maybe even when he is eligible, an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?Mike Croteau

Drew Bledsoe's days as a starting quarterback in the NFL are over. My guess is he will retire to his ranch in Montana. He will someday be enshrined into the Patriots Hall of Fame but if he wants to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he'll need to buy a ticket just like you or I.
-Tom Casale

I was watching the Senior Bowl this past Saturday and I was wondering what you guys thought the chances are of the Patriots drafting Buster Davis out of Florida State? He has a great nose for the football always running around making plays. I feel he would be a great fit with his size in are 3-4 Defense.Amber Bennett

Davis is a guy I need to watch more tape on. I've seen him quite a bit over his career at Florida State and right now, I have a mixed opinion on Davis. He makes a lot of plays and is always around the ball but I'm not sure about his abilities to take on blockers. If he can shed blockers and not get worn down, I think he has a chance to play here but I have seen him run around blocks at times. Like I said, Davis is one of the players I will be focusing on a lot in the coming weeks but right now my initial impression is I don't like him as much as some other people do. However, that opinion is subject to change once our prospect tapes arrive.
-Tom Casale

Pittsburgh won back-to-back Super Bowls twice in 6 years ('75 '76 - '79 '80). Those two years in between those 4 wins, they lost in the playoffs. In '77 they lost in the Championship game to Oakland, in '78 they lost in the Divisional game to Denver. Now New England has a similar situation. Dare we think back-to-back again? Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLIII? I know it may be a stretch, but who better than the Patriots to do that. Just something to hope for and dream about.Raymond Boulay

Wait Raymond, slow down a second. I like the enthusiasm but let's take it one season at a time. You have to remember, football was a lot different back when the Steelers played. If we still lived back then, all those players the Patriots lost over the years would most likely still be here. When people say teams like the Steelers were the best ever it's because talent-wise they were. They didn't have to worry about free agency so if a team had a great defense like the Steelers did, they had for close to a decade.

In today's NFL, no one does a better job of competing year in and year out than the Patriots. Why? Two words: Bill Belichick. Two more: Tom Brady. In the history of the NFL, do you know how many times a team has been fortunate enough to have the best coach and the best quarterback in the NFL at the same time? Let's just say you can count them on one hand without using all of your fingers. As long as Belichick is roaming the sidelines and Brady is under center, the Patriots will be a force in the playoffs every year. Will they win the Super Bowl next year? I don't know but my guess is they will be right in the thick of the race come late January.
-Tom Casale

Call me a poor sport but I still don't feel like the season is over. I have no Patriots related news to look to until the draft. With that said, could you wonderful gentleman at PFW provide a breakdown of the possible free agents at each position the Patriots could target in free agency? In a wonderful world we would retain Samuel, Graham and make a push for a playmaking LB such as Adalius Thomas or Lance Briggs. I also would like to see Wes Welker because of his versatility. Tell me, who else is available and who might they take a shot at?Mike Bingham

Mike, over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at all the high-profile free agents and which ones might fit in with the Patriots. Thomas and Briggs are the two big ones but we first have to see if they even hit the open market. Just looking at the list, it's a very weak year for free agents, so that means a lot of teams are going to be throwing big money around for players who may not be worth it. I don't expect the Patriots to get caught up in that game. Just for the record, Welker is a restricted free agent so a team would have to give up draft picks to get him. Although, I do have one thought on a free agent they may be interested in. He's a cornerback in the prime of his career who tied Champ Bailey for the NFL-lead in interceptions this year. Ever hear of him?
-Tom Casale

I have the 2006 yearbook and I noticed that some of the players numbers have either a w or a b next to the numbers. What do the w and b stand for? IE: Wilfork is 75b and Nick Steitz is 75w. Someone suggested that it may be white and blue which would make sense except not all the players numbers have these letters, they simply have the numbers. I have 4 people stumped on this anxious for an answer.Heather Niles

Heather, we put out the yearbook before the end of training camp so it lists a lot of players who didn't make the team. When a team has roughly 80 players on its roster at one time, sometimes they have to use a number twice. So Wilfork and Steitz both wore the number 75. Steitz plays offense so the "W" stands for white and since Wilfork is on defense, the "B" stands for blue. If Steitz had made the final roster, he would have changed his number once other players were cut and more numbers became available. Tom Brady doesn't have a "W" next to his number because no other player wore No. 12 in training camp. I hope this helps.
-Tom Casale

Hi I think you all do a great job and I enjoyed the piece Tom wrote about the Senior Bowl. I happen to think one of the Pats largest needs is at CB especially if they don't Franchise or sign Samuel. I was just wondering if any of you who were down at the Senior Bowl saw any CB's that might fit in well with the Pats that might be available at 24 or 28?Joe Smiroldo

I'm glad you liked the article Joe. I'm not in love with this cornerback class right now. Granted, I'm sure I'll find a couple of guys I like after going to the combine and watching tape like Richard Marshall last year. But right now I think the players who currently project as first-round selections at that position are a bit overrated. I don't like Michigan's Leon Hall and can't understand why he's ranked so high. Virtually every time he went up against a great receiver, he was beaten like a drum. Texas' Aaron Ross is a decent player, although I've seen him struggle against the better receivers in college football as well.

I do like California's Daymeion Hughes but not enough to take him in the first round at the moment. Two players to watch are Pittsburgh's Darrrelle Revis and Auburn's David Irons. Revis is not only a solid cornerback but also a tremendous punt returner. Meanwhile, Irons was one of the top cornerbacks at the Senior Bowl, where he really improved his draft stock. Like I said, we need to break these players down a lot more but my initial impression is this may be a good year to pass on corners early and look for some sleepers in the middle rounds. Taking a look at the cornerbacks available in this draft and free agency, it makes signing Samuel all that more important.
-Tom Casale

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