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Replay: Best of Patriots Radio Thu Mar 30 - 03:25 PM | Tue Apr 04 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW Part II: Competition continues

The public portion of training camp 2006 has come to a close and the preseason competition for jobs, roles and roster spots is building to a head.

First, I have to thank the Pats for letting the air out of the Cardinals balloon a bit. The people out here in Arizona were already making their Super Bowl plans after beating the Steelers in the grand opening of the new stadium last week. Monday should be fun for me at work. With Cassel in his second year and being in the same situation that Tom Brady was in his second (#2 backup QB), I was wondering what Brady's stats were in that pre-season. I feel pretty comfortable with Cassel the #2 without a veteran backup. Besides, there is really nobody worth picking up out there. Keep up the good work.Dave Leonard

Tom Brady's numbers from the 2001 preseason included 31-of-54 passing (57.4 completion percentage) for 384 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 91.9 passer rating. He did not get sacked and his longest completion was a 54-yard touchdown He also rushed for minus-three yards on 4 attempts. Through two games this preseason Cassel has completed 27-of-46 passes (58.7 completion percentage) for 421 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 110.9 passer rating. His longest completion is a 57-yard touchdown. He's been sacked three times for a total loss of 14 yards and has rushed for 63 yards on 11 attempts.
Cassel looked better last week against Arizona than he did in the opener in Atlanta. I think he's making huge strides, a good sign for a guy who never started in college. But I'm not sure I'd say I'm "comfortable" that he'd be able to lead the team to victory if Brady had to miss an extended stretch due to injury. Cassel is still young, inexperienced and unproven in either college or the NFL. That's a lot to overcome if he gets thrown out there. Hopefully we won't have to find out this fall if he is ready. But if we do, I wish him luck because I think, to some degree, he's going to need it. And based on how the backup situation has played out this summer, I wouldn't hold out much hope for a veteran to come in and solidify the spot. Even if the Patriots sign someone now, would that person be able to learn the system and get game-ready in time?
Andy Hart

Is Ben Watson going to be the "number 1" tight end over Daniel Graham this year? I like them both but I hope Watson gets more opportunities this year. I think Deion Branch may become the next Terry Glenn, a soon forgotten Pats receiver.
Marco Madison

I'm not sure exactly what your criteria is for "number 1." Both players started nine games last season, although Graham's came in 11 games played while Watson missed just a single contest. As we all know, Graham is the better blocker and is often used to help out in pass protection. He caught just 16 passes for 235 yards and two scores. Watson tied with Kevin Faulk for fourth on the team with 29 receptions for 441 yards with four touchdowns. I think they will both continue to be a big part of the offense, with both likely starting most games. While I'm not sure Watson is suddenly going to put up Antonio Gates-type numbers, I do think he will have a boost in production if he can stay healthy, something Graham has never been able to do. Bottom line, they both start when healthy but Watson will have bigger numbers in the passing game.
Andy Hart

While emailer Patrick Hinman may or may not be familiar with the lyric "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest," I most certainly am. As is, of course, Paul Simon, who wrote the song "The Boxer" in which it appears in the opening verse. While I'm sure Simon has bigger things to worry about than not being properly credited for his insightful lyrics on NFL team websites -- and besides, I believe he's a Giants fan -- it probably would have been better form for you to have cited him, anyway.Jay Hammond

Paul didn't try to steal any words or try to pass them on as his own. But keep reading what you want to, seems maybe a man also reads what he wants to and disregards the rest. Did I steal that one? And by the way, no one asked you.
Andy Hart

Dear Ask PFW Staff: I know you all know better than to ignore sixth-round draft picks; still, I have yet to hear very much about Dan Stevenson. How is he doing in training camp? Thanks.Deborah Fellows

I have to admit, I haven't seen much from Stevenson at this point. He's certainly gotten his share of reps with the second and third groups, but beyond that I haven't seen him stand out. Based on his resume, including a long streak starting at Notre Dame, working for a year under Charlie Weis and drawing comparisons to Joe Andruzzi, I think Stevenson has a chance to make it over the long run. But I don't expect to see much from him this season, even if he does make the roster. I think he's another player thrown into the offensive line development program who could pay off down the road.
Andy Hart

I was going to wait to see more of Cobbs in pre-season but, Paul aggravated me with his comment "good chance to make practice squad". You mean he will be on someone other teams 53 man roster. If the running game is going to be heavily featured this year the Pats may want to think about stocking the RB position a little more heavily. Say - one kicker 5 RB's.... Thanks you guys Rock, even Paul.Mike Pal

Hey Pal, get off Paul's back. He's getting older and the heavy schedule of training camp has worn him down and shown in his Ask PFW performance. Of course, I also happen to agree with him. Cobbs is a perfect practice squad player. I don't think he's a guy that other teams will be beating down the door trying to sign if he gets cut. Guys that put up numbers in reserve action at running back aren't all that rare in the preseason and teams carry a limited number of backs during the season. Cobbs has looked good, is a nice story and I think he might have a chance down the road. But let's not go overboard here. New England's practice squad would be a good first start.
Andy Hart

Quick trade for you, Deion Branch and Daniel Graham to Arizona for Anquan Boldin and the linebacker [K]arlos Dansby. Seems like a good fit for both teams Arizona gets a good tight end and a good receiver. I understand Boldin is better than Branch but getting Graham too is going to make their offense even more explosive.John Shelly

I love the trade…just not sure even crazy Dennis Green is willing to just give away talent. Sorry, but that trade is lopsided in New England's favor. Boldin is the better wide receiver, who by the way will be looking for a on of money when his rookie deal runs out. Graham is a tremendous blocking tight end with sometimes questionable hands, while Dansby is a playmaking young linebacker on the rise. I just don't think Arizona would have any interest in such a deal for a ton of reasons.
Andy Hart

Hey guys. I love the work you do...keep it up! A couple of things. First off, why bother to fix everyone's errors? I find it humorous to see how poor some people are at spelling. Now to the football questions. You answered half of my question in this week's postings regarding when Branch has to return in order for the season to count towards his contract. If he comes back, say in week 10 at the deadline, do the Pats have the option to not dress him for the rest of the season and even prohibit him from participating in practice? And in doing so, would that prevent the final year of his contract from counting, therefore leaving him under contract with the Pats for 2007? Maybe that's a little cut-throat, but that's the nature of the business. Finally, before I let you move on to the next email, I wanted to comment on something I read by a so-called fantasy football expert. Michael Fabiano of CBS said that Maroney, "seems like more of a bruiser than Dillon ever was." To this I ask, "IS HE OUT OF HIS MIND?!?!?" I love what I've seen from Maroney thus far, but looking at the play against Atlanta when Dillon hit the hole and pushed the pile about 7 yards up field makes that comment a little hard to believe. Not to mention thinking back to 2004 and seeing Dillon lay out stiff arms that looked more like knock-out punches from Mohammed Ali. Anyways, I was just wondering what your take on that is. Thanks again for all the great analysis and I hope you can keep the editorial process on this one to a minimumumum. Later!Joel Lindgren

Oh, I see what you did there. Minimumumum. Good one.
Andy Hart

I'm not so much into the grammatical errors that seem to bother so many readers (hey, I make plenty of typos myself), but statistical errors are another thing. Paul, you said that Law and Milloy have been to 8 Super Bowls between them. By my count, they've only been to 5 between them, all with the Pats. At least I don't think the Jets or Bills have been to a Super Bowl recently.....[Edit, this was sent in later] Whoops! I mean Law and Milloy played in SIX Super Bowls - but still all with the Pats!
Andrew Miskavae

Law went to Super Bowl XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX with the Patriots, while Milloy went to XXXI and XXXVI. So you are right, that's six Super Bowls with the Patriots between the two of them. Neither has gone to the big game in another uniform.
Andy Hart

First, let me say that you guys do a great job. Living in WV, it's difficult to get much news on the Patriots. I've been a subscriber to PFW for about 4 years now. Combine that with the website and NFL Sunday Ticket and I'm set. Now, on to the questions. 1 - Heath Evans was impressive last year, and I know he played sparingly against Atlanta in the preseason opener. Any chance he'll replace Patrick Pass, or will BB consider keeping 2 fullbacks? 2 - Along those lines, if he let's Pass go, would he consider moving Cobbs to the FB or maybe even an "H-Back" position? He's big, fast, and catches the ball well. That's a pretty good combo for a FB. 3 - I know that Branch is still holding out, at $14,000 a day. He is under contract, so can they force him to play in regular season games? If not, why not consider a trade for Jerry Porter. He has good hands, he's bigger, and, best of all, from West Virginia University. (Sorry... shameless plug for the home state Mountaineers). 4 - Finally, who do you see winning the battle for kicker. Gramattica did ok against Atlanta, but I have concerns about his kicks being too low. The rookie seemed to have more "lift" on his kicks, which leads to less blocks. Thanks guys! Keep up the good work
*Greg White

1) I think Evans will make the team, as it's looking like Pass might start the year on PUP. Even if he doesn't, Evans might get the roster nod.
2) Cobbs isn't really big enough to fill and H-back or fullback role. As I said earlier I think the rookie free agent is destined for the practice squad and any role he might carve out for himself down the line would be in a third-down or Kevin Faulk type mold.
3) Branch can holdout as long as he wants, that's why it's called a holdout. It's not like the team can kidnap him and throw him on the field. And as far as Porter goes, it seems like the Raiders are looking for a lot in return, more than market value. I'm not into overpaying in a trade anymore than the Patriots are into overpaying in contracts.
4) I think the rookie Gostkowski has won the job, rather easily. I think he has a stronger leg, better kickoffs, more of an upside and will develop into a pretty good NFL kicker. I'm sure he'll go through his early lumps, but he's already shown me he's better than Gramatica.
Andy Hart

Mills is listed as a FB. Will be be used as a TE any this year?
Doug King

Mills is listed as a fullback on the roster, but he'll fill a variety of roles. The Patriots rarely use a true fullback, so Mills will be more of an H-back role that is hybrid between fullback and tight end. How well he fills out that role and how much he adds to the offense will be an interesting aspect to watch on offense this fall.
Andy Hart


While the Jets have filled their need at running back with Kevan Barlow. And I didn't think New York would have traded a proven wide receiver for an undersized rookie free agent running back, regardless of how much Mangini might owe Belichick. Sorry but that's one of those fantasy trades that people make fun of.
Andy Hart

I have been a Patriots fan since 1976 and I really admire what the current Patriots management has done. However, the decisions over the past year have me seriously worried. The team seems to be penny wise and pound foolish, in losing key players because they seek the money that they clearly are worth in a competitive market. The team seems to be seriously contemplating entering the season with only two quarterbacks, even though the injuries at that position in the NFL are frequent and serious. They drafted two tight ends when they already had two great ones, and no linebackers when there was a critical need for new blood. Year after year, they let experienced, top-performing leaders get away and keep the players who have a tendency to get injured (i.e the entire secondary). I have the feeling that the Patriots have already written off the 2006 season, and are already looking forward to next year. Please convince me I am wrong.
Bob Lyman

That's easy, Bob. The Patriots have the best quarterback in the NFL and the best coach in the NFL. And you can add to that a pair of running backs with dominating potential, the best defensive lineman in football, a couple playmaking linebackers and a variety of talent at many other spots. None of that counts? Are there some holes? Of course, but the same can be said for every team right now. If any fans should be looking to next year and jumping ship right now, it's the members of Red Sox Nation. They're done. The Patriots are just getting started and have plenty of reason for optimism. Take 10 deep breaths, and stay positive.
Andy Hart

I have one question to ask about Bill Belichick. Also this has to do with Monty Beisel. Ok, what does Bill see in Barry Gardner or Don Davis? I mean Monty proved that he can do the job and has busted his butt to get better to be in the middle with Bruschi. Monty to me proved he can get the job done at the Falcons. He almost had a pic, and filled the gaps to stop the run well. But the problem was that nobody was there to finish the play off the block Monty would take. I am sorry but Barry and Don are back ups at the best. To me Monty was the man the Pats needed to fill the position to make the linebacking crew a core in the defense. Can you give me some info on Monty and being a back up now instead of starting like he should. I am a supporter of the 250 pound, 6th year vet out of Kansas State. Please give me your opinion. Personally I think Bill is out of his mind ever since Monty Beisel and Bruschi have gotten injured. Thanks for listening to my question.Drew Beisel

Brother? Dad? Cousin? Or just a fake name? I agree that Beisel has "busted his butt" but I don't think he's really proven anything on the field. I thought he missed tackles against Atlanta and has been sliding down the depth chart this preseason. I'm not sure he can play the stout style required of an inside linebacker in New England and I'm not sure he'll ever be able to. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Gardner or Davis are the answer either. That thought was validated when the team signed Seau to play on the inside. The inside spot is very much up in the air right now and Beisel is a part of that. He was penciled in as a starter to open camp, now I'm wondering if he could get cut. So he certainly hasn't proven anything.
Andy Hart

I realize this isn't a Patriot specific question, but what's the deal with all these ex-NFL players who get commentating jobs? That Patriots game was almost unbearable to listen to. You could make a drinking game out of how many time Sterling Sharp said "decisive" or "decisiveness" (and get very drunk). Oh, and the quarterbacks favorite receiver? Is the open receiver! Thanks for that brilliant insight Sterling! Maybe I'm just spoiled by you guys at PFW, keep up the good work. I'd rather mute the game and wait until you post a recap.Will Bortolin

I can't comment on the broadcast, because I didn't see it. But I'm glad you enjoy the work we do here at PFW. We do our best. But I'm not taking any shots at the league or the NFL Network, I leave those sort of bombastic acts to Tom Casale.
Andy Hart

I'm a firm believer in Belichick, but how is Eric Warfield a viable patriots player. To some it may seem to be the 2nd coming of [Duane] Starks, but Warfield turns his hips in a similar manner to Chris Canty. Do you think Warfield will make the team? (I hope not) Or will he hang on long enough to prove he's a half step behind on any important play? Thanks for your hard work.Seth
Originally from Vermont

Warfield struggled early in camp and admitted that he didn't spend enough time learning the defense this offseason. But he's come on of late and made strides over the second half of camp. I still think he's in a tough battle for a roster spot, but he's in the mix. And I haven't studied his hips enough to pretend to evaluate that aspect of his scouting report or compare it to Canty. If Warfield does make the team, he certainly won't be a starter to begin the season, so he can't possibly fail to live up to expectations as much as Starks did a year ago.
Andy Hart

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