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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Sun Aug 02 - 12:00 AM | Mon Aug 03 - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW, Part II: Rookies and miscellaneous

Hi, I'm a big Patriots fan from Mexico. I always read your blogs and I think they are great!! I was wondering if [Devin] McCourty will have a chance to start opposite to [Leigh] Bodden [at cornerback]. I think we need high-impact players and McCourty and [linebacker Brandon] Spikes can make some big plays for the Pats. You guys rock!!
Fernando Morayta

Sure, he'll have a chance, but in all likelihood, the job on the left side is Darius Butler's to lose. McCourty will certainly get his opportunities on both sides, and even in nickel and dime packages, but I'd be surprised if he wound up winning the starting job over Butler. But, hey, stranger things have happened, and we've yet to see any of this year's rookies in full pads at full speed yet, so, anything's possible. But those are my expectations for McCourty at this point – a reserve role at corner, plus a significant contributor on special teams.

You also mentioned Spikes, who was definitely a playmaker in Gainesville for Urban Meyer's Florida Gators. But this is the NFL, and Spikes hasn't had a chance yet to make big plays, so I don't quite share your certainty that he'll do so at this level. Not until I see it, anyway. Remember, Jerod Mayo won Defensive Rookie of the Year and is still not considered a playmaker … even he'll admit as much if you ask him. We have, and he has. The potential is there for Spikes and McCourty to make plays, but let's hold off on the definitive proclamations until these guys put some pads on, why don't we.
Erik Scalavino

I am Patriot Nation's most incurable optimist, but here goes: Between the sheer quantity of draft picks we've had in each of the last two years, along with some completely unknown holdovers like Tyrone McKenzie, Shawn Crable, Brandon Tate etc., does it not feel like we have more intriguing young potential than any of the other 31 teams? Does it not seem like we have 20-plus young players likely to yield 7 or 8 long-time starters and 4 or 5 stars? I won't start listing names, but I for one feel that the talent is here. Hopefully it all comes together sooner rather than later.Kenyon Gagne

Well, yeah, the potential exists for your rose-colored-glasses scenario, but that's all it is at this point – potential. There's no reason to be over-the-top excited about all these young players until we see how they perform in full pads, at full speed, in game conditions. Potential is meaningless unless it's fulfilled. That's neither optimism nor pessimism, my friend … it's realism. But if most of them do turn out to be the real deal, as you suggest, then, yes, they'll form a solid foundation for an entirely new generation of championship-contending Patriots teams.
Erik Scalavino

Who do you think will be the starter at the tight end position next year for the Pats?
Alex Brown

Glad you asked, Alex. This gives us yet another opportunity to promote the PFW Blog, where we've started a new series previewing training camp. We've dubbed it "Role Call," because we analyze different roles that are up for grabs and allow you, the fans, to make the call with your comments. The first one we posted was about the tight end position. Give it a look.

Erik Scalavino

I read your column every week … great work. My question is on pass blocking. At the snap, the o-line steps back and tries to block the oncoming defensive lineman while many times they seem to be on their heels. Why not at the snap rush forward, smack the defender in the mouth, then begin to fall back and block? Seems like you could get the upper hand this way. But is it against the rules to cross the line of scrimmage even if you are back behind the line before the ball is thrown? This question has bugged me for years. Thanks.
Andy Buck

Yes, any o-lineman would be flagged as an ineligible receiver downfield – a five-yard penalty – if he stepped over the line of scrimmage prior to the pass, even if he got back behind the line in time. That's in part why the line falls back on its heels on pass plays, to avoid risking the penalty (obviously, they also want to give themselves the proper leverage position to fend off the oncoming rushers). Even on play-action passes, where a run is faked at first, the linemen typically engage the defenders at the line and no further. Good question, though. We sometimes take these minute details for granted because we watch so much football, so it's good to sharpen the mind with these tests now and then.
Erik Scalavino

Great job and thanks to all of you. PFW is now part of my Tuesday routine and I really look forward to it. I have seen recent questions related to our coaching staff and my question is: What year does Bill Belichick's current contract run through? Also, how does his salary measure up to that of other top NFL coaches? I was thinking he should be in the top five at least?
Pat Riotti

Nobody knows how long Belichick's contract is, except the Krafts, Bill, and whoever does his taxes, I would imagine. That's always been the way, since Belichick got here. However, thanks to some impressive journalism by Forbes magazine, we know that Bill earns $7.5 million per year – second only to Phil Jackson among American pro sports coaches, meaning he's the top wage earner in the NFL ranks.

Oh, and clearly, you're not fooling us … Pat Riotti? That's obviously a play on the word "Patriot." Come on, admit it. We're on to you, pal!
*Erik Scalavino *

Hi, PFW. First of all, thanks for keeping us Patriot fans updated throughout the year. My question is: where are the best seats or places to stand when watching a game at Gillette Stadium? I'm thinking about coming up this fall for game. Thanks!
Kyle Friel

There's really not a bad seat in the house here at Gillette. We sit up in the press box during games, which is basically in the nosebleed section in the corner of the south end zone. It's a great view of the entire field, allows you to see the play develop. There's a small section of seats above us which offers essentially the same view. So, what I'm saying is, it doesn't really matter how high up you sit. There's also plenty of standing room area on the bridge to the lighthouse in the north end zone and on the rams where the Super Bowl banners hang in the south end zone, both of which provide full, unobstructed sight lines. The toughest part, for you, will be finding tickets.
Erik Scalavino

Dear Sirs, I read (on the NFL website) that Troy Aikman won 90 games (the most in a decade) and was wondering how many wins Brady has since his career started in 2000? PS … Keep up the good work, you provide a great insight for fans like me in the UK.
Lenny Ryan, England

You're very welcome … sir. Counting last year's 10-6 record, Brady has won 97 regular season games and lost 30. The Wild Card loss to Baltimore dropped his playoff record to 14-4, giving him a career total record of 111-34. So, looks like TB12 has overtaken Aikman, but he's not alone up there at the top. Peyton Manning had 115 regular season wins from 2000 through 2009.

Erik Scalavino

Hi guys, I'm a big numbers guy. Did you notice that when you sum the digits of every record, you will either get 7, or another number whose digits equal 7. Try it. Try this one, too. If you look at every Patriots schedule and award a point to every .500 team plus an additional point to each playoff team, this is what you get. 2001 11(.500) 7(Playoff) = 18 2002 9 8 = 17 2003 12 6 = 18 2004 8 5 = 13 2005 10 7 = 17 2006 8 5 =13 2007 10 8 = 18 2008 7 4 = 11 2009 4 4 = 8 18 = Patriots in the Super Bowl 13 = Patriots in the AFC Champ. It's almost as if they need an impossible schedule, or a respectable schedule to advance in the playoffs, whereas an easy schedule or a hard schedule means nothing. I know there is no real correlation here, but would you at least agree that the most intimidating schedule will keep a good team focused on being better?
Justin Marchant

Um, OK ... No, we didn't notice, but you're right, it has no real correlation here. Players at this level aren't "intimidated" by their schedule. Or at least, they shouldn't be. If they are, they don't deserve to be called pros. Good teams don't need that kind of motivation to stay focused. Their own competitive nature is, in most cases, more than sufficient for the task.

However, since you're a self-proclaimed and proven "numbers guy," Justin, here are a few numbers for you: (401) 455-4000, and 201 Charles Street, Providence, RI, 02904-2213. That's the telephone number and address for the American Mathematical Society. Give them a holler or pay them a visit. They would know better how to put your apparent gift to good use.
Erik Scalavino

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