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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 16 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 21 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW Part I: Roster questions

From Kyle Eckel and Roman Phifer to Peter Warrick and Peerless Price, Patriots fans want to know how the roster will shake out and if additions will still be made. Part II will come later.


Greg, that remains a possibility. The Patriots certainly performed better against the run in their last preseason game against the Packers when they limited Ahman Green to 23 yards on 11 carries. But Phifer's nameplate remains over his locker for whatever that's worth. He had some offseason surgery and the club could be waiting until he's healthy, but that's just a guess. He certainly would not come in and be an every down guy at inside linebacker at age 37, but he could work in and provide depth. As far as the run defense, it will be hard to remain patient, but the new guys aren't just going to walk in and know the defense like Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi know it. Give them some time even though it is of the essence. It looks like they've started to improve a bit.

Greetings! I will make a prediction that the upcoming season would not be as bad as 2002 and not as good as 2003. Pats will make the playoffs but not SB. It will be the Steelers this year. Now I want to do incomprehensible - I want to criticize Belichick and Pioli for lousy offseason free-agent acquisitions. I cannot think of any player that they brought in this year, which would be a key contributor to the team. The team lost Bruschi, Johnson and Law. Pats had a chance to sign a quality free-agent ILB from Baltimore and a corner from Miami. Instead they went to Arizona for CB, KC and Seattle for ILB. Are these teams known for their defenses?! I also think Patriots post 1st round draft picks over the Past 5 years were very mediocre. Besides Light and Wilson, there are no players of consequence from 2/3 rounds. So it is only a 20% success rate - not stellar! There is a lot of talk about Dynasty. I do not think that the organization is currently staffed to be a SB dynasty. What are you thoughts?
Thanks, Mark Small

I think you're being a little tough Mark. The guys the Patriots signed are the type of acquisitions they've made throughout the Belichick-Pioli era, the kind that have contributed to three Super Bowl titles. How will they do here? Who knows? But top dollar free agents have proven more often than not to be fool's gold. As far as the draft goes, what's wrong with Bethel Johnson, whose big plays in the return game played a critical role in several games in 2003. Asante Samuel? Deion Branch was a pretty good second round pick. David Givens was a seventh rounder. Tom Brady a sixth. Jarvis Green a fourth. Dan Koppen a fifth. What are you looking for, perfection? Geez.

I want to know why the linebacker positions aren't more interchangeable. Outside linebacker would seem to be the tough position to fill since the player needs excellent speed, but it seems like inside is more specialized. Last year's draft had plenty of guys that were over six feet tall and 250+, yet were strictly slated as outside linebackers. Then there's a guy like Jonathan Vilma, who is a scant 230lb. and is an inside linebacker. What makes an inside linebacker an inside linebacker? Why can't the 240+ outside guys play there?
Morgan Van Lent

Some of that depends on the scheme. If you play the Jets scheme, which comes from that Tampa Bay system with Tony Dungy and is now used in Indy and St. Louis as well, then you want smaller, faster linebackers across the board. The inside guy in that defense is playing behind two big defensive tackles and runs to the ball more freely. In the Patriots system and other 3-4 schemes, the offensive guards are uncovered and generally fire out to the linebackers on running plays. So those inside linebackers have to be big enough to take on offensive linemen, shed blocks and find the ball. The outside linebackers have to be able to play on the line of scrimmage or off it. So they need some size and pass rushing ability while also needing the athleticism to drop into coverage and play the run at the point of attack since there is only three down linemen. But those outside guys in a 3-4 are oftentimes rush defensive ends in college and their experience is playing in space rather than in traffic inside.

What is more likely- four tight ends or six wide receivers? If they keep three TE's (as is customary), does Fauria or Weaver get cut? Would they get scooped up by some other team? My concern is that Watson appears injury prone and either Weaver or Fauria wouldn't be available to pick up. Why does it seem that they are talking up Weaver during training camp- are they trying to garner some interest from someone?

While I think it's possible they keep four TEs, I'm going with three with Fauria making it over Weaver, who also had a solid training camp. I'm also going with six receivers but only because I'm having a hard time cutting down to five.

Let's take a time out from all the football questions for a truly important one: Does anyone out there happen to have an extra Dunkin Donuts schedule magnet from the 2001 season? As a season ticket holder, one of the highlights of the first pre-season games is the Dunkin Donuts schedule magnet giveaway. I have all of them going back to the 1996 season. Recently I noticed that my 2001 was missing (it is red). I was wondering if anyone had an extra to re-complete my collection. I would be glad to give you 5 bucks or whatever for it. Email me at****if you have an extra! Thanks to the PFW folks for answering all the great questions and allowing me to use this forum for personal gain. Thanks!
Andrew Brown

Good luck Andrew

With all our reported trouble at MLB, aren't there other options to stopping the run? Coach Bill has always said that he will play whatever defense he needs to for a given situation, and he has shown the willingness to change up formations on many occasions. If LB is a weakness, DL is definitely a strength. Do you think we might see a little more of the 4-3 this year in order to put another big run-stopping body on the field? I know that the 3-4 is traditionally strong against the run, but we have 6 or more solid D-Lineman available and ready to play.
Mike Mammay

It's definitely a possibility Mike. It's not unheard of for Bill to play one defense all summer and switch it as the season begins. If the Pats struggle against the run early on, I could see a move to a 4-3 in the future. But the bottom line is that if you have to scheme to stop the run, then you can't do it simply by being more physical, and you are probably in for some headaches anyway.

I've been writing to you guys for years and never have been published once. Do you have to know someone to get an answer from you or do you guys just like your favorites? Out here in Hawaii we have many diehard Pats fans as most of us are transplanted New Englanders and the only drawback is watching the games at 7 am. A lot of us subscribe to PFW and have the Internet to keep up on our daily fix. We drive around proudly with our New England logos, throw in a few red sox stickers and I'd say we are a bit arrogant to the melting pot of fans out here. We'd appreciate if you acknowledge us as we all faithfully read and subscribe to PFW. I've been a fan since day one and was actually at the great "flush out" at the old Schaeffer stadium and I clearly remember the "pain" of waiting in line!!!
Jack Keefe

Aloha Jack. Thanks for your loyal support.

I can usually see the logic in the seemingly unorthodox decisions made by our personnel dept. Milloy aside, nothing has struck me as baffling until now. What potential angle makes sense of signing every available receiver, knowing we'll keep a max of 8, while we're literally ONE DEEP at nose tackle in a 3-4 system? Now that we have great depth in the secondary, has Troy taken any reps at NT?! Thanks for keeping us busy during the off-season.
John Constantine

Good one. Troy at NT. I get it. I think that if there were a body available at NT that would help the team, the Patriots would sign him. But they aren't just going to waste a roster spot to get in a body and say they have a backup if the guy can't do the job. So they will adjust as needed if something happens to Vince Wilfork. It looks like Ty Warren would move inside while Jarvis Green or Rodney Bailey takes over at end. I was surprised when the team signed Andre' Davis, and it may mean something to a guy like David Terrell, but Bill sticks to the credo that he will look at anybody that can improve the team. He felt Davis would do that and found value in dealing a fifth round pick.

In the 2nd preseason game vs. the Saints "Rodney Harrison nailed Saints tight end Ernie Conwell to break up a pass on second down with New Orleans at their own 11-yard line." Was this right-armed wrap around the helmet hit legal? On 8/2 Bryan Morry wrote about league referees visiting camp - notably Walt "Tuck Rule" Coleman -who came to get everyone up to speed at camp". The officials showed the media and later the players a video highlighting rule changes and points of emphasis for 2005. Player safety appeared to be the No. 1 concern with crack back blocks and horse collar tackles among the newly illegal tactics." Wouldn't that hit qualify as a horse-collar/head hit they are trying to prevent? Odd for the NFE ref-in-training to do so if it is.
Matt McNulty

No. A horse collar tackle is when the defender grabs the ball carrier by the back of his shoulder pads near the neck and pulls him down from behind. Rodney did not do that. And I assure you, his NFLE referee internship program will not stop him from leading the team in penalties. He's like the crook that goes on to be a police officer.

Mailing this before the cuts...Cobbs out, Eckel in. There is too much of an upside on this hard bruising running back. Neither know the passing offense, from what I hear. Eckel has my vote. Lets see if I am right.
Bob Sulik

So far, so good.

Hey guys, what do you guys think about Troy Brown and Tim Dwight this season and beyond? Both look great in training camp and in the pre-season. Do you look for big seasons for these two guys? I also believe they both only have contracts for this year. Do you think that they will be able to stay a while in New England? Also there are a lot of WRs being cut in the NFL now, do you think that the Pats will go after Peter Warrick and Peerless Price? Thanks.

I think Troy and Tom Dwight will contribute this season, but I don't expect "big" things out of either. Dwight will be a deep threat for Tom Brady while he returns punts while Brown won't have a ton of catches, but will make his typical difficult, clutch grabs. Deion Branch and David Givens will be the Nos. 1 and 2 receivers and will have the better numbers. I don't think Warrick or Price will land in New England. There are other teams more desperate that have more money to spend that will likely target those two receivers. As Paul Perillo points out, maybe Drew Bledsoe made Price all that money. But while Brown's and Dwight's contributions will be critical, they will not fall into the category you ask, at least not as I interpret it.

Deion Branch hasn't been on the field for any preseason games. I think that's good if he isn't hurt but with the Patriots going after all these wide receivers, I have my doubts. How can no Patriots Football Weekly writer ask him that question during the daily press conference?Christopher Neveri

Belichick has been asked about Branch and dodges the question. He refuses to divulge why Branch hasn't played. But I did ask Branch after the Packers game about his health and he said he felt terrific. In fact he promised that he was fine. I take him at his word.

Living in Jacksonville, Fla., we don't get a lot of Pats info. What kind of camp and pre-season did Guss Scott have?
Jim Power

Relatively quiet, but I expect him to make the team. He had three defensive stops and two special teams tackles.

Cobbs is gone and no surprise there give his durability and focus . Meanwhile Chapman has shown some good power and Eckel has not only been a beast at the goal line but shown some pretty nifty speed getting wide. Given Eckel's ability to pound the goal line, and his speed, do you think he can earn the #2 spot? So far I have not seen him catch too many passes but I guess when you can plow guys over and move the pile then why bother. Meanwhile Chapman is a big runner too with some great moves and a good burst. Still I have to think he is more on the bubble however given the special ability of Eckel. Finally we know Kevin Faulk is a great change of pace back, especially when the chips are down. Moreover he continues to improve - very underrated but still a great asset. Do you think Dillon and Eckel would make a good 1-2 punch, with Faulk providing his usual huge plays during crunch time? Is it even feasible to carry all three backs?Mike Luster

Believe it or not Mike, I think both Eckel and Chapman could get cut with the Patriots keeping an extra body at either receiver, corner or tight end in that roster spot. In that case, Patrick Pass and Kevin Faulk would share the duties as Dillon's backup in what would be deemed a committee approach. If one of the other two stays, I say it's Chapman, but I think Eckel could be on the practice squad. He's not yet polished enough as a blocker, but could stick around for the season to learn that role since he predominantly ran the ball at Navy.

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