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Ask PFW: Offseason musings

The Super Bowl loss is lingering in the minds of Patriots Nation, but the offseason is upon us with free agent visits and draft positioning and possibilities at the top of the list. That and more in this week's edition of "Ask PFW."  

I know you're tired of these emails, but Mike Carey was nowhere near the fumble play involving Ahmad Bradshaw/Pierre Woods. Watch the film, and you'll see him come up and ask the other official who he thought recovered the ball - then he makes the call. He had no clue - and neither did Bill Belichick. That play demanded a challenge, and a tirade by the entire staff. Take a look at the reaction of Pierre Woods, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel after the call. They were shocked. The sideline did nothing. The whole staff was asleep and overconfident. I'd love to hear your response to this.Scott MacDougal

First of all, I still can't believe that Woods didn't recover that ball. He was the only one there but somehow decided to roll over instead of just securing the football. It was a terrible play. But he allowed the ball to get away from his body, which then allowed Bradshaw to come over and take it away. I actually thought Carey was right on top of the play and made the call. That's why Belichick said he didn't challenge because he felt Carey was in proper position and wouldn't likely overturn his own call. But even if Carey conferred with someone as you say, that's not uncommon. The official that made the call could have told Carey who had the ball, and that's why you saw Carey talking to someone else before making the signal that the Giants retained possession. It's the same thing when a penalty is committed. Let's say there's a pass interference called 40 yards downfield. Well, how could the referee standing behind the quarterback make that call? Obviously he gets the information from the official closest to the play and then he makes the signal for pass interference. Either way, I don't think the Patriots were guilty of being overconfident on the play, but it was a lost opportunity since the Patriots should have recovered the fumble.
Paul Perillo

As you guys have said a million times already – it's time to move on, so I'll try to do that. But I can't stop feeling that this might be the end of the dynasty, because I just can't see how BB can get it all together this time around. Last year we were lucky to have a lot of cap room, but this year I think it's more like $10M. I think the major concern is the defense - youth at linebacker and a sub for Asante Samuel, who I'm sure will be playing somewhere else in 2008. I have read that Troy's Leodis McKelvin should be the best corner in the draft and is projected as a top 10 pick. How do you like him at No. 7? Any of the other corners? I think we should go with corner, as I really don't think we could start Ellis Hobbs and Randall Gay - I like what they both are doing, but I don't like them as starters for a full season (if we resign Gay at all).
Philip Blomsterberg

Wow, 18-1 and the world is coming to an end. I really don't think the Patriots need to "get it all together" during the offseason since they are already among the league's elite. One loss doesn't change that. So heading into 2008 I don't see the need for wholesale changes. Retaining Samuel will be difficult, no doubt, but not impossible. While the odds favor him leaving, the Patriots have said they'd like to keep him so we'll wait to see what happens. But assuming he leaves, obviously the need for a corner would be there. I just don't see anyone in the draft being worthy of the seventh pick. I'm not overly familiar with all the players yet but with the combine on tap later this week we'll start to see some of the prospects soon. But if Samuel does go the Patriots can't sit tight with Hobbs and Gay. Someone will need to be brought in – probably a free agent and at least one draft pick. But all is not lost – the Patriots are still in really good shape.
Paul Perillo

I am a very depressed Canadian New England Patriots fan, and the only thing that keeps me going each day is the hope for next season. My question is regarding the blocking from the offensive line. I don't think Laurence Maroney or Kevin Faulk could slow down the DE of the Giants, so why did we not see Heath Evans in there more? Or if this is even possible, I have never seen a team do this, but could you put your tight end in the backfield as a running back to block for you? I realize this would tell the other team that you weren't running the ball, but couldn't Kyle Brady or Benjamin Watson have done some great blocking to give Tom Brady more time?
Joseph West

No question the biggest issue for the Patriots in the Super Bowl was the offensive line's inability to block the Giants. That more so than anything the backs did was the problem. Faulk is excellent at picking up the blitz but the Giants just had too many rushers coming free for him, Maroney or anyone else to do anything about. I don't think Evans would have been a much better alternative since his presence would have taken away a lot of the playmaking that Faulk provides – and provided in that game. Tight ends line up in the backfield occasionally but again I just don't think it would have made a difference. The tight ends got beaten when they lined up on the line, so why would being in the backfield have improved the performance. This just came down to poor execution and losing one-on-one battles and that's why the Giants won.
Paul Perillo

So I want to know what you guys think the Pats will do about Rosie Colvin this year? My first thought was they were going to cut him because of his cap hit but once I thought about it I just don't think letting him go helps the team. If Junior Seau or Tedy Bruschi retires this year then we are going to need him. Adalius Thomas was a great inside linebacker and early in the year when he was playing inside it provided Seau and Bruschi the room to switch off which I thought was a great combo and in fact I think if we had Colvin in the Super Bowl and AD was playing inside I think we would have won that game. So I guess this a two-part question, 1 do you think Seau or Bruschi will retire and 2 do you think Colvin will be back?Kenny Tasney

I think the Patriots will restructure Colvin's contract and he'll be back at a lower cap rate. Colvin will return to his outside spot with AD likely moving back inside. That way even of Seau and Bruschi return, and perhaps Zach Thomas signs, the Patriots will have some flexibility to keep guys fresh. I think AD will be better next year in his second go around in the system and that will give the Pats an effective albeit aging group of linebackers. To answer your last questions … I think all three will be back although I have absolutely nothing concrete from anyone to base that on.
Paul Perillo

I am a Green Bay Packers fan, but I love watching every NFL team play. In the NFC Championship Game I was hoping the Packers would defeat the Giants. Not just because I'm a Packers fan, but I thought the game could have been more interesting if it was New England vs. Green Bay (I made that judgment before the Super Bowl took place.) But my question to you is: Do you think that Super Bowl 42 would have been more high scoring had it been New England vs. Green Bay?
Ryon Harebo

If you asked me if I thought the Giants game would be high scoring I definitely would have said yes, and we all know how that turned out. But I do believe the Packers would have gotten in a slugfest with the Pats and likely would have fallen well short. I don't think Green Bay's defense would have matched up well with the Patriots diverse attack. Their safeties, especially Atari Bigby, are hard hitters but a tad slow and I think the Packers pressing style at corner may have led to some big plays from the Pats receivers. But we'll never know for sure, obviously.
Paul Perillo

Like all Patriots fans, I was devastated by the loss. One question is really bothering me. With 35 seconds left and the ball on the 13-yard line, why did the Pats try an all out blitz leaving the defensive backfield in one-on-one coverage instead of rushing three and dropping eight into coverage? The all out blitz is an all or none strategy that failed.Ralph Guanci

Basically that's what the Patriots did all year long and this was the first time it backfired. In many of the Patriots close games this season the defense got very aggressive at the end when it needed to get the ball back. They blitzed recklessly in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia, Baltimore and against the Giants and in all three cases it worked. This time, it didn't. But I can't fault the idea of being aggressive rather than sitting back in coverage and hoping the quarterback makes a mistake. Unfortunately, Hobbs bit on the inside fake and the rest is history. But I wouldn't change a thing if I was the Patriots. That kind of approach has led to many mistakes from the opposition in the past.
Paul Perillo

I am shocked to read these reports about Belichick's taping back since 2000. I don't think it had any effect on the Super Bowls, since NE did squeak by the in the first two, "In Bill we trust" right? This supposedly brilliant mastermind can't even "interpret" the rules correctly. I am truly disappointed and as a fan, it was fun to watch while it lasted. But in my opinion, BB has got to go. Regardless of whether the tapes affected the Patriots success over the past few years, this scandal has put shame on the coach and the organization. Or at least as long as BB is still coach. I'm expecting a defense for the coach from you all, and I might not even see this posted next week, but think of all the fans who had their hearts broken due to this scandal.
Andy N.

I'm not going to just defend anyone here, but I will say that I think you're being a bit harsh. After all, is this really a "heart-breaking" situation? The Patriots broke a rule and they were punished. I don't condone what Belichick did but the league addressed it and issued a stiff fine and penalty. To me that should be enough to satisfy people. I don't see where the shame comes from. It's certainly not anything anyone here in Foxborough is proud of, but is it really something Belichick should lose his job over? Unless there's more to this story than we know right now, I don't see it being quite as devastating as you do.
Paul Perillo

I haven't seen much news on Chad Jackson. He was on the PUP list until Week 6 or so then came off of it. He took a few kick returns where he looked really good but that was all. My questions are: How will he be factored into the new 2008 season? Will he be released or given a chance to showcase his skills since his injury.
Roger Barthelemy

Jackson hasn't been healthy on a consistent basis yet as a Patriot. He hasn't had many chances to showcase his ability and thus we haven't really seen what he can do. The question for the Patriots will be how much of that has to do with his injuries and how much is a result of his ability? I don't know the answer to that but from what I've seen on the field he seems to lack the instincts necessary. I didn't see them as a kick returner, which you evidently did, and I haven't seen them as a receiver either. Hopefully he is healthy now and will get a full year in the offseason program and hit the field in training camp ready to show his stuff. But really this could go either way at this point.
Paul Perillo

Zach Thomas seems like the prototypical linebacker that Belichick likes. Although he is in his final years most of our linebacker rotation is up there in age as well. I don't expect the whole rotation to stay healthy and in tact for another year and Thomas would prove to be a great addition. He is a proven run-stuffer, which would definitely help our D. He might also sign for a bargain (see: Adalius Thomas and Junior Seau). Let me know what you guys think.
Brendan O'Connor

I'm not sure I completely agree with your assessment of Thomas. While I do think he's been a terrific player and a Hall of Fame candidate, I'm not sure he's a perfect fit for Belichick's system, which requires the inside guys to two-gap and take on guards every play. In Miami was usually protected by big defensive tackles that allowed him to run around and make plays. Here he'd have to create his own space. But I do recognize Thomas' wonderfully ability and if he's over the concussion problems (another reason I'm skeptical) he would provide a nice addition. Also, I'm not sure the Patriots would agree with your categorization of Adalius Thomas' contract as a bargain.
Paul Perillo

With first-and-10 on the Giants 7 with about three minutes left, did Belichick not consider how gassed our defense was? Why not at least one running play on first or second down to get the clock under two minutes? Even if the Pats only kicked a field goal to tie, it seems that we needed to take more time off the clock given how valiant the defense had played. Any thoughts (and thanks for the year long savvy comments)?
Bill West

I don't think you can worry about the clock in that situation. The first priority is to score and take the lead. If the Patriots were trailing by two and needed only a field goal to take the lead, then I'm sure Belichick would have tried to bleed the clock as much as he could have in order to give the Giants as little time as possible to mount a comeback. But if the patriots ran the ball and were held to a field goal, the Giants wouldn't have needed as much time because all they would have needed was a field goal to win. I think throwing the ball gave New England the best chance of scoring, which they ultimately did to take the lead that the defense was unable to hold.
Paul Perillo

With the pace of change this time of year, the issue may already have gone somewhere by the next PFW, but what are your thoughts on Alge Crumpler - released today by the Falcons - as a potential Patriot? I don't follow the Falcons very much, but he used to be known as a playmaker.Andrew Miskavage

I love Crumpler and would love to see him in a Pats uniform. But unlike many of the guys they've talked to so far – Zach Thomas, Marty Booker – Crumpler would command a pretty sizable deal. He is a definite playmaker at the tight end spot and would look good heading down the seam for big plays next season. I'm sure he'll get plenty of attention around the league in the coming days.
Paul Perillo

Is there any chance we trade up and try to draft Chris Long after losing out on last year's linebackers? He played in a 3-4 scheme under Al Groh and had a breakout senior year. Or do we look for a Derrick Harvey, Vernon Gholston or a Keith Rivers to fill a spot at outside linebacker and keep our older group on the inside?
Jared Clark

I just don't know if you can take a guy that high and expect him to change positions. I like Chris Long as a player but he played defensive end in the 3-4. His size would seem to indicate that he'll move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 at the NFL level. Taking him at No. 7 assumes he can make that change. For example, Mike Vrabel did the same thing (at roughly the same size) as a young player but the Steelers took him in the third round – not seventh overall. Same goes for Gholston. Rivers is intriguing but again, forecasting where these guys would fit in the Patriots scheme is why the brass gets the big bucks and why we're toiling away here in obscurity. In other words, if I could give you a definitive answer I would be doing that for a living.
Paul Perillo

What's the word on Sammy Morris' injury? I know that kind of an injury could be career threatening. And what kind of an impact do you think a healthy Sammy Morris would have been in SB XLII?John Hanlon

Morris suffered a sternum/clavicle separation, which isn't career threatening but is quite rare. I talked to Sammy about a month ago and he said his rehab was going fine but he hadn't really started to do anything too physical as of yet. He did expect to be going full bore for the offseason program, which starts in mid-March. I think Morris was terrific in his role early in the season but I don't think his presence would have made a difference in the Super Bowl – unless he could have transformed himself into an offensive lineman.
Paul Perillo

It was a great season and of course a disappointing loss. But I would like the Patriots to drop the AFC banner on the other side of the stadium on the opening day. Make it white and put up the other six AFC Championship banners. What do you think?
Russell Forry

Personally, I don't like the idea of hanging second-lace banners. I used to rip the Bruins for hanging those old Adams Division Champions banners at the Garden and I'd feel the same way about this. The Patriots have won three Super Bowls so it's not like they don't have some tremendous achievements to be proud of. The six AFC championships are worthy of praise as well, but banners are for championships.
Paul Perillo

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